After the seminar it was time to hit the show floor.
I still had my weighty luggage and found to my dismay there was no checking facility. It would be impossible to work carrying this appendage through the expo.
As fortune would have it I ran into an old friend Chris Cason, Co-Founder, Tea Sommelier, Editor & Chief, Tavalon teas. Chris was there to present the seminar, Tea and Cocktails-Flavor Infusion. We took some time to play catch-up and during the conversation he offered me a space to leave my bag. Thank you Chris.
The show was smaller than I anticipated 5 aisles of booths. I was somewhat relieved because I had not slept from the night before and was somewhat punchy. The size reminded me of World Tea Expo early days where, due to the size, you were able to spend quality time at each booth. For this I am grateful as many of the tea connections I have today were cemented at the smaller shows.
After attending so many of these I have a method, start at either end work each aisle taking time to sit and chat with vendors.
After a quick pur-eh, and forgive me I did not record what booth it was at, I headed to the far right of the show floor stopping first at World Tea News for a chat with publisher, Dan Bolton. I complimented Dan on his reporting and thanked him for keeping me in the loop on relevant issues as they occur in the industry. As we chatted another woman approached and what I found surprising, she had a very similar opening line. Well, what a coincidence, (and I don’t think there are any) this woman was someone whose blog read and enjoy Darlene, from The Tea Enthusiasts Scrapbook. We both sat chatting with Dan and he began referring to us as his cheerleaders. Darlene and I arranged to meet later at the MATBA (Mid Atlantic Tea Business Association)meeting.
Attending this expo I had several objectives with the purpose of furthering my vision:
Attend the edible flower workshop for my jewelry, art and food blog inspiration/education
Sample new teas for possible inclusion in my recipes or for my enjoyment
Speak to tea book authors regarding publishing
Find new products for my catering and holiday gift baskets
Meet the bloggers who I follow
As many of you know, those of you who have been to an expo, you do a lot of sampling but those teas that are memorable are the ones you record. I drank a lot of tea.
I visited most of the tea booths and the Tea Highlights were:
Sara’s Tea Caddie– Sara and I had met through a previous introduction by Beau from ITO EN Tea. I had purchased tea from her at the Coffee and Tea show which was held in New York last February. I asked her how things were going and found that since the disaster in Japan things have been getting much better (relief). She explained that she had brought with her some of her higher end teas and asked if I would like to sample the Tenyou Sencha Special she had just brewed, it was amazing. A much smoother, delicate Sencha than the one I had purchased from her previously. Ok, this one’s on my list for purchase somewhat costly but sooooo worth it. This one is NOT for cooking 🙂
AIYA Co. Ltd. I am not too fond of Matcha and usually when I drink it strange things happen to my digestive system. In addition I am always suspect of tea which is deemed easy, quick or pre-mixed. What I also know is if I go back for more of anything there must be something about it that works for me. Well, I had a sample at noon, went back at 3:00pm and went back on Saturday for another sample then made the purchase at 4:00pm. It was wonderful. It can be prepared hot or cold and is targeted to the fast paced food/beverage service market. The pre-mix consists of premium tea ground into a fine powder and mixed with natural white sugar. great for adding to my baking recipes. They also provided several recipes which I am anxious to try. Imagine Matcha Chocolate BonBons. I am not advocating this as a substitute for the true Matcha experience but every once in a while this quick fix will come in handy.
AJIRI TEA, Kenyan Black Tea, first thing I noticed about this offering is the packaging is beautiful, The brown paper boxes are accented with hand crafted labels using dried banana bark from the trees on their farms. They use recycled magazines to make the paper beads and twist banana bark to make the twine. These artistic creations are done by 5 different women’s groups (over 60 women participate) and gives the women an opportunity to help to feed their families. 100% of the profits from product sales after taxes, go back to the Kisii community earmarked for the education of children through the foundation. The tea is ground fine and packaged either bagged or loose. The flavor is mild without, what I call, the black tea afterbite. I have been hesitant to use black tea in my recipes, the mildness of this brew would do quite nicely.
At Rishi Tea, I started our conversation by asking the four people standing behind the display “Which one of you created the UNITY blend?” this question placed a smile on their faces and two persons gave credit to themselves then passed it on to the owner. I explained I had gotten a sample in a gift bag from an event they sponsored and it had now become my daughters favorite tea. I asked them to send compliments to the blender.
They were featuring a new iced herbal Mangosteen Hibiscus Fruit Tea. Part of my focus is catering tea parties for children. This Fruit/Herbal blend is perfect. It is fruity and not overly sweet. I have, in the past, used herbals which contained stevia and have been very unhappy. This blend has cane sugar which, although it is sugar, I prefer sugar to stevia. I look forward to trying the additional sample they were so kind to bestow called Thai Lime Fruit Tea.
Florapharms’ Tea specialist Gus was very helpful. I had also been looking for a Rooibos blend private label tea, bagged for inclusion in my Children’s Book with Tea package set. Earlier that day I found a container for the tea a brown paper cylinder perfect for labeling which could hold approximately 3-5 tea bags. He showed me several of his private label offerings encased in pyramid bags and bingo I scored a Rooibos blend that will make the kids smile. The minimums are by the unit or by the case so I have some flexibility to test market without making a major commitment.
After a full morning of tea sampling I met a friend for lunch. We dined at The Rouge, which had quaint outdoor seating and an eclectic artisan menu. I chose broiled scallops when I noticed that the sauce contained squash blossoms,which I had just learned about at the edible flower seminar. The company was wonderful and the food delicious.
Upon returning I ran into my dear friend, Beau from ITO EN. He was there as a company representative for the Cha Jing Lifetime Achievement Award being bestowed on John Harney later that evening. ITO EN was the champion sponsor of the event. When I think of the people I know in the tea world Beau is one of the best.
Back on the floor it was time for me to go to the MATBA, www.matba.org. This organization features tea rooms and businesses in the Mid-Atlantic region. I was greeted by Darlene, and a host of supportive welcoming women. This lively group meet quarterly at various locations. Their purpose is to promote an increased awareness of the many tea-related businesses in the region and help each other grow their business. They have training and seminars and search out products which they buy in bulk to share. While there they had just received a shipment of a beautiful travel gong fu cha set from China I was impressed. Angelia, one of the members, whose company is called Mrs Tea, made such an impression on me with her gracious offering to help me in my endeavors. These ladies are awesome.
As a side note I had been tweeting and texting LittleMewBrew all afternoon and we kept missing each other.
After the MATBA I got another surprise. Darlene and Angelia began speaking with another woman I did not know. When I was introduced I almost fell over. It was none other than VL Hamilton. I have been tweeting since 2009 but only began in earnest this year. In so many tweets and retweets I would see her name. Her tweet voice strong with encouraging messages and the passion she holds for tea abounds. I told her of her legend (which I am sure she already knew) and how happy I was able to connect with her on this trip. We found we had something else in common we are both “city women” and only live a few miles away from each other.
Next up was getting my bag and going back to the hotel to get ready for the evenings events. I was also awaiting arrival of another friend who was driving in that evening. I got to the storage room only to find my bag had been locked in and only the event coordinator had the key (ok, stop laughing, I had to laugh or would start crying as I was sooo tired) The security guard and I waited about an hour before they located the event coordinator who came down to open the door. Bag in hand I was off to the event.
By the way I still cannot find LittleMewBrew. LittleMewBrew where are you…
To be continued tomorrow…
The Awards: John Harney, Master Blender, Harney & Sons presented by Norwood Pratt, Author and Tea Expert
The Products/Presentation: Tracy Stern Salon Tea, Harshita Designs, Zojirushi, TAKEYA, Reflections in Tea, Woodford Wicks
The Meet-Ups: One and Two
The Voices: LittleMewBrew, AmazonV, The Teafields, Teaspoons and Petals, TeaPages, WrongFuCha, Chan Tea
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