Signing up for The World tea Expo in January 2014, May couldn’t come round fast enough for me. This was my first time attending so I decided to take advantage of the educational classes on offer and enrolled on the Tea Business Boot Camp.
Fast forward to May and I find myself in sunny LA, checking into the Renaissance Hotel. I HIGHLY recommend this hotel if you are attending the expo, as it is literally a stone’s throw from the convention center. Not only that, but the rooms are immaculate and the staff incredibly helpful and friendly, in the typical American style us Brits have come to love. It is right on Pine Ave, where you will find an abundance of restaurants, cafes and shops, making it the ideal location to base yourself.
The Boot Camp was two days of intense learning with some of the world’s leading experts, such as the lovely Jane Pettigrew, leading the classes. Lessons ranged from the basics of tea business to marketing to the world origin tasting tour; a huge amount to absorb but made so fun and memorable by the delivery and passion of the speakers.
My personal favourite was the world origin tasting tour; a look at teas from China, Sri Lanka, South Korea, India, Kenya, Japan, Nepal and Tawain. I lost count of the amount of teas we sampled that day, but it must have been close to 40! We were taught to examine the dry leaf, wet leaf and the liquor, as well as to learn the correct terminology to describe the taste and smell. Fascinating stuff…..
Having completed the Bootcamp, all graduates were presented with a certificate of completion, a glass of prosecco and the chance to mingle with our classmates (and sign the board for a bit of shameless self-promotion)….
With a head exploding with information and uncontainable excitement at the prospect of starting my own tea business, I headed off to the first day of the actual tea expo, which lasted for 3 days. The size of the convention center and the sheer number of stands was a little overwhelming, so my first day was spent wandering from exhibitor to exhibitor, tasting exotic teas, learning about production methods, meeting tea authors and farmers, taking part in tea ceremonies and generally absorbing the atmosphere. You will see everything from tea bag packing machines to teapots and glassware for retail to tea packaging. It’s all there… That evening, armed with a detailed exhibitors floor plan, I set about highlighting the stalls that I wanted to visit the next day. This is a must if you want to make the most out of your time there. Seriously, there is so much to see and do that you must choose as you can’t see it all! You will be given the WTE guide which will list times of events such as Korean tea ceremonies, North American Tea Championships Winners Tasting Circles and oolong rolling demonstrations.
On the last evening of the expo, the organisers threw a party on the terrace, with live music and street food. A great opportunity to unwind and meet fellow tea lovers from all over the world!
Tip: There are so many freebies such as magazines, tea samples, literature etc that you should should make sure you save a good amount of space in your luggage to accommodate for this.
While staying in Long Beach, I visited, among other things, the infamous Queen Mary, which many say has a very eerie atmosphere on board the ship. A photo from the outside was enough for me, although there are guided tours available and accommodation if you so wish. I hear afternoon tea is well worth taking here..
The beach. Only a 10 minute walk from the convention centre. As you can see, it was virtually empty even though the weather was a balmy 26C. I guess everyone was at the expo....
Along the promenade. Clear blue skies and sunshine every day provided the perfect climate for exploring the local area.
A trip to Beverly Hills to check out the newly opened Teavana store and for a spot of window shopping.
As registration has opened this month to enroll for this year’s World Tea Expo in Long Beach, May 6-8, there may be many of you deciding on whether or not to attend. My advice- do it! Without hesitation. Whether you are new to the world of tea and have dreams of one day entering the industry or you are already a seasoned tea professional, this is the place to go to meet up with the industry’s leading experts and network, network, network. I met so many fascinating people, learnt a great deal, tasted some extraordinary tea and sealed deals with farmers who I met there. It was an unforgettable experience and helped immensely with the planning of my business. Plus, it’s a fantastic location and you can make a holiday out of it- there’s so much to see in the spectacular state of California!
Sadly I am unable to make the expo this year as I will be on a tea sourcing trip of my own to Asia, but who knows, Baraka Teas may be exhibiting in 2016- I hope to see you there!
Among some of the lovely friends I made at the World Tea Expo is the talented Elizabeth McGinnis, Founder of the online tea subscription service Chahoney. Less than 6 months after attending the Boot Camp and she has a fully fledged business! See her site here: www.chahoney.com