Having a “World Tea Expo” in Las Vegas is a bit like having a vegetarian festival in Memphis. Yet for the past ten years, the organizers of the trade-only World Tea Expo have rented out some of the halls of the mega Las Vegas Convention Center, attracting participants from as far away as Asia, Africa, Latin America and, of course, all across the US. This year, the mood was, well, subdued. It’s easy to blame the economy, but with tea sneaking up on coffee and with fascination with the all things tea at an all time high, other factors might be at play. Could it be that the do-it-yourself the ethos — think self-publishing, sites like Etsy selling crafts directly to the public, or Kickstarter that does away with the middleman to fund projects — is making to-the-trade-only very 20th century?
Still, some of the classes offered were spot on exciting (and sold out): New Business Boot Camp, Food/wine pairing (taught by Kyle Stewart of the Cultured Cup in Dallas and by James Tidwell, master sommelier of the Four Seasons in Texas), Pur-erh tea taught by the famed writer/expert Jane Pettigrew, just to name a few. And the enthusiasm and commitment of new and seasoned exhibitors was impressive. In the next posts, LTR will be featuring a random — and biased — snapshot of companies selling teas and intriguing tea accessories who attended Expo this year.