- The Oolong Drunk
Overview of the 2022 World Tea Expo!
This year, from March 21st through March 23rd, and after nearly 6 and a half years of tea blogging, I finally attended my very-first World Tea Expo! However, this year, the World Tea Expo merged with the Bar & Restaurant Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada. After plans for the World Tea Expo being hosted in Denver Colorado being canceled, and moving to Vegas, how did it all go?
What was noteworthy, and what were some of the main takeaways?
Let's dive in!
Expo Hall, Day 1:
On the first day of the World Tea Expo, I met up with Nicole of Tea For Me Please and Neldon of Tea With Neldon at the entrance of the expo hall. There was a massive crowd of people waiting at the entrance, and while waiting for the ceremonial rope to be cut, I turned around and spotted Chase of ‘Davids Tea Share a Day’. Quickly thereafter, the four of us waited by the Expo Entrance for the expo to open. After standing by a DJ Booth for fifteen minutes, and after CNN filmed the ceremonial rope-cutting, the expo began!
After walking past 70% of the Restaurant portion of the expo, we quickly arrived at two massive spinning pillars that displayed the ‘World Tea Expo’ logos. And after another row, we made our way to the tea bar — which provided ceremonial ‘World Tea Expo’ cups… Except, stating ‘Denver Colorado’ and a sponsor that wasn’t there. It was quirky, but it made it more memorable!
After traveling through the first row, which was dedicated to new up-and-coming tea shops, I happily met Nepal Tea — a tea company from New York, New York. We also continued our way through Flowerhead Tea, as well as other tea start-ups. We even got to meet the Chai Box!
However, the most intresting booth on this row was a booth by Matche — who made a matcha-powder tea by using the leaves of olive-tree leaves…
Yes, this tisane of a drink is exclusively made with olive leaves. To add, this intriguing drink was herby, and also tasted like olive oil…
Throughout varying rows of the expo, we also got to meet SugiMoto Tea, who was impressively providing demonstrations of a tea ceremony using their sencha and matcha, as well as Marumatsu Tea Co. doing matcha demonstrations as well as proving intricate Iced-Brewed Japanese teas!
We even got to see a ‘boba robot’ — a fully-automated boba-making robot! After exploring the expo, we ended the day by attending ‘Tea Tycoons’ — an event that was the tea industry’s version of Shark Tank! This was especially interesting because across from the stage, the Fireball booth (alcohol) had actual fire reformers breathe fire in contingent with 'Tea Tycoons'.
Expo Hall, Day 2:
On day two, Nicole, Neldon, Chase, and I started our day at the expo by joining some of the talks. Given that I was running around Vegas like a mad man trying to return my rent-car, I missed the talks I wanted to attend (Nicole of Tea For Me Please’s talk, as well as a talk by Key to Teas on the downfall of Teavana). However, I barely arrived on time for the blogger’s-round table!
While on the round-table, famous New York Model JoAni Johnson facilitated a conversation between Nicole of Tea for Me Please, Babette of T-Ching, and I.
After talking about varying topics regarding the world of blogging and the tea industry itself, we went back to the Expo Hall to make our final stops around the expo.
While going back through the Expo Hall, we stopped at the Harney & Sons booth where I met Mike Harney! While meeting Mike Harney, we spotted a celebrity in the wild — James Norwood Pratt! James Norwood Pratt is a US-Author and a pioneer in tea culture in the US. While talking to James Norwood Pratt with Mike Harney, Nicole of Tea for Me Please, Neldon of Tea With Neldon, and Chase of Davids Tea Share a Day, I realized that this trip was something special, and something I would remember for a very long time to come…
When reflecting on the 2022 World Tea Expo, I noticed that the world of tea is in the middle of a massive transition. Attending the expo made it very evident that the world of tea had been heavily and negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. This was evident by the massive amount of regular Tea Expo Vendors who couldn’t attend this year due to their own countries' Covid-19 travel restrictions, as well as the absence of massive US-based tea companies — some of which no longer exist.
Another thing I noticed in reflection was, when initially getting into tea, there was a massive amount of tea bloggers and tea writers spread across the board. However, now, that umbrella doesn't really exist anymore. Outside of Nicole, Neldon, Chase, and I, there wasnt a large presence of tea bloggers and writer present. However, despite that the pandemic has hit the industry particularly hard, I noticed that the majority of exhibitors at the expo were relatively new in age. Or, brand-new to be exact. There’s a massive absence of veteran tea pioneers, which thankfully, there were so many new and up and passionate people there trying to fill the gap that was created by the pandemic.
Another thing I noticed across tea people (especially at the Expo), in the general sense, is that many of them were upset/angry that the World Tea Expo merged with the Bar & Restaurant Expo. While I do understand that the world of tea is special to us, I also understand that if the world of tea does not continue to grow, it will cease to exist as we know it. Now is not the time to gate-keep our own experiences with tea and restrict it, and now is not the time to restrict how people enjoy and discover tea. It is absolutely detrimental to the survival of tea culture in the United States that we continue to expand and grow, and continue to share the love of tea.
I think the Bar and Restaurant Expo merging with the World Tea Expo was a success, and this became evident when flying back home to Denver from Las Vegas. On my flight back home, a woman sitting in front of me was explaining to the woman beside her how she didn’t realize tea was as big as it was and felt inspired to incorporate tea into a chain of restaurants back at her home. Seeing so many bar and restaurant owners, as well as massive food and beverage entities, discovering tea for the very first time was exhilarating!
Overall, I will certainly attend World Tea Expo in 2023! I’d say that this was an excellent experience overall and believe the industry is headed in the right direction.
My main takeaway from this year's expo is: We all need a wake-up call about gatekeeping tea. It is imperative that we invite all sorts of people into tea with open arms, and do our absolute best to support the small tea shops that are currently filling the gaps that were left by tea-industry giants.
I was just a gay kid from Texas battling depression, who was introduced to tea.
And Nicole from Tea for Me Please was just a woman from New Jersey who enjoyed tea.
Neldon is a college kid from Utah who got into tea for just the love of it….
And we’re all connected and celebrate a shared passion for the world of tea.
If it wasn’t for someone introducing us to tea, all of our lives would be very different.
Maybe the next time you invite a cup of tea to someone new to it, it could inspire them to move the world of tea further into the future…
~ The Oolong Drunk
"Blissfully Tea Drunk With"