World Tea Expo 2015 – Day 1


Yesterday started out with the return of the bloggers to Tea Expo (it’s kind of like the return of the swallows to Capistrano, except noisier).

wte2015 Bloggers

Jen Piccotti, Jo Johnson, Tony Gebely, Geoff Norman, Chris Giddings

I was very pleased to find that The Tea Spot and Teas, Etc. were in the lobby to keep us all adequately caffeinated. I enjoyed cups of their tea before, during, and after the seminars. Interestingly, both companies had chocolate pu-erh blends, and both recommended steeping them for 4-5 minutes. That’s an awfully long time for a shu pu-erh. I went for 3 minutes, and quite liked both of them (sorry, purists).

My first seminar of the day was an absolutely fantastic start to Tea Expo: Jane Pettigrew and Bruce Richardson talked about “A Social History of Tea in the UK and USA.”

wte2015 Jane and Bruce

Bruce Richardson and Jane Pettigrew

They walked us through the history of tea in the western hemisphere from the 1600s to modern times, covering everything from Catherine of Braganza to A&P (originally the Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company). A few of my favorite factoids from their seminar:

  • “Monkey-picked oolong” isn’t picked by monkeys. That would be cost-prohibitive. It is just a term for the highest-grade oolong in the house.
  • The “Queen’s closet” wasn’t a place to store clothes. It’s where she brewed tea and shared it with family & friends.
  • “High Tea” isn’t the fancy thing many Americans think it is. It’s a casual family meal. The elegant tea you’re thinking of is “Afternoon Tea.”
  • I’ve mentioned this one before, but there were no tea bricks dumped in Boston Harbor in in 1773. The Boston Tea Party tea was all loose-leaf — and quite a bit of it was green tea.

WTE2015-Matcha stone

Every year I take another picture of this matcha stone at AOI. It just intrigues me. Last year I described it and even posted video of it, but I just can’t stay away from it.

One of the things I look for at Tea Expo every year is new and different tea. I do love the teas from the big tea-producing countries like China, India, and Kenya, but it’s fun to explore some of the varieties you don’t run into every day, from countries that aren’t represented in every single tea shop. We had a very pleasant tasting of Indonesian teas at three adjacent booths and found some great surprises.

WTE2015-Java tea

Trying successive steepings of a green tea from Java.

The afternoon session “Amplifying Your Business Voice Through Tea Bloggers” was informative, even for tea bloggers. All of us look at things differently and run our blogs differently. I update this blog every Friday (most of the time, unless I’m late) with bursts of activity during events like World Tea Expo. Nicole Martin has been updating hers every weekday for the last six years. One of the blogs nominated for a World Tea Award this year hasn’t been updated since early 2014.

WTE2015-Blogger panel 1

Some tea blogs are all about reviewing individual teas. Some are about teaware. Some are about stories. Mine is whatever happens to be either exciting me or annoying me at the moment. The big message from this session was, if you wish to work with tea bloggers, do your research first. Read the blogs. If you are selling flavored chamomile blends, don’t pick a tea blogger that’s a single-origin Camellia sinensis specialist. Geoff Norman told us that he didn’t know the difference between Yixing and Wedgewood, so don’t waste your time and money sending him a teapot to review!

Something else I’ll be writing about in more detail later is “Coffee leaf tea.”

WTE2015-Coffee leaf

The name may be a bit confusing, as this product contains no coffee beans and no tea. It’s a tisane (“herbal tea”) made from the leaves of coffee plants. I can’t stand coffee, but I found the flavor of this drink quite pleasant. The company’s focus is on extending the season (picking leaves when you can’t pick beans) and creating more jobs, but there will be more on that in a future post.

We all have our taste preferences, and mine tend to run towards pure (unflavored) tea. I’m not a big fan of ginger, either, but my wife, Kathy, and I couldn’t resist having our picture taken with this gigantic (and slightly creepy) Korean red ginseng root:

WTE2015-Ginseng

And, just as a close, my birthday is coming up and this automated pyramid satchel tea bagging machine is only $70,000. It would be an easy way to take some of my whole-leaf teas on the road with me. Hint, hint…

WTE2015-tea bagging machine

About Gary D. Robson

Gary Robson: Author, tea guy, and general manager of the Billings Bookstore Cooperative. I've written books and articles on a zillion different subjects, but everyone knows me for my "Who Pooped in the Park?" books.

Posted on 7 May 2015, in Tea Biz and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Nice round up of day one, Gary! Thanks for tweeting throughout the tea blogger seminar for those of us who couldn’t attend. It’s really neat to see how different each blog can be.

    I agree – I can’t stand coffee either but I’ve sampled the coffee leaf tea many times from Wize Monkey and found it to be quite enjoyable. Love what they’re doing!

  2. Chocolate pu-erh you say…that’s a new one on me. I agree with you, that DOES seem like a long time to steep a pu-erh. I started my morning with a sticky rice tuo cha from Upton and they suggested 6 minutes! I went with 2 and it was perfect. Thank you for the write-ups/tweets. It’s been a pleasure reading them and feeling like I was walking the floor with you. Perhaps one day!

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