New Ideas, Old Friends & Some Sticker Shock at World Tea Expo

I woke up at 6:30 Sunday to catch an early flight to Las Vegas to attend the World Tea Expo. I have never attended since the beginning of this show a few years ago; this is my first time! I am making a point to attend more of these shows to remind myself that you're never too comfortable with your place in the pecking order. The only way to feel a bit more secure is to keep learning, and what better way to learn than to hook up with old friends and meet new ones, to look at established tea companies' products as well as learn about new ideas from newcomers?

Unfortunately, I find this show rather disappointing. I was told that it lost about 20% of its exhibitors and attendance is down compared to last year, however, looking at the number of vendors it seems that they may have lost more than that!

Although I didn't feel great energy from most of the displays I did find a bunch of folks that I haven't seen for a long time. We got together to chit chat and talk shop: my friend Norwood Pratt (author of The Tea Lovers Treasury), John Harney of Harney and Sons, Margaret Martin from Texas, and Devan Shah from L.A. all caught up with me and we had a great time talking tea. I ran into some folks who went on one of my previous tea tours. They found out about last year's Yunnan Tour and are now anxiously waiting for the next one! I told them I need to recover from my recent trip first, but not too many took this as a no!

I also met up with some Chinese tea exhibitors. We caught up a bit and talked much about possibly working together. As always, I am coming home with a big bagful of samples and literature. Although the small-sized show is easy on the feet, I still feel that I am too old for this now!

This morning, I have a breakfast meeting with a vendor from Guangdong, China. Later I will go to the show for one more look before going home. You know, the days when you come to the casino and eat practically for free are over. I had a bowl of noodles at the Mandalay Bay and it cost sixteen bucks! I would be the first to argue when someone complains about Chinese food being expensive. I always say, why is it that because you eat in a Chinese restaurant you expect the food to be cheap? Well I may have to change that; this food is very close to nasty and it ain't cheap. Makes me long for the comfortable confines of a friendly San Francisco Chinatown noodle shop!

Devan Shah of Indian Tea Importers

Margaret Martin and James Norwood Pratt

John Harney of Harney and Sons