Just got back From the World Tea Expo 2014. This year, it was held in Long Beach Ca., which was nice for me, as it is a short drive, and I have friends in the area to crash with, so I saved a lot of money I would otherwise had to spend on a hotel room. This was my second year attending. Last year the spouse and I attended the New Business Boot Camp, which included the World Tea Tasting Tour, which I discussed in two parts, here and here.
This year, I went alone. I focused on taking classes, but also did some networking, and talking to vendors. I'd like to have a small stock of teas to offer.
One of my goals at the Expo is to expand and educate my own palate. I mostly focused on tasting single source teas, rather than on blends, or flavored teas. Flavored blends, especially fruity, spicy, and floral teas, are hugely popular in the US. They are, however, kind of the wine coolers of the tea world. Everyone sells them, because that is what people buy, but what we want them to love are the subtle and complex teas, the equivalent of aged varietal wines. I find myself intrigued by the variation within tea, and want to have some ability to guide others.
One thing I love about the Expo is the energy. It has a positive energy unlike any other professional convention I've been to. I think this is because one does not casually become a tea professional. Running a tea business does not top the Forbes list of fast riches jobs. Everyone there is there because of passion. We can all geek out on tea together.
I also love the cosmopolitan nature of the Expo. Not only did I meet great people from all over the US, I talked to people from Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Thailand, Kenya, Malawi, and more. I love that you have people in every attire from three piece business suits to cargo shorts and tie-die t-shirts happily chatting.
I will write more on the classes I had the opportunity to take, and some of the products and companies.