news from world tea expo 2009

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Norwood Pratt orates at the 2009 World Tea Expo  Image ©2009 Jennifer Leigh Sauer

You would never know our economy was ailing by the way the World Tea Expo was kicked off today with great energy, optimism, and enthusiasm. It began with an 8 a.m. Tea Trends Report presented by Lynn Domblaser, Director of CPG, who brought some interesting insights and suggestions to the tea trade and the way it is blossoming in the new American tea culture.

Here are some salient features of Ms. Domblaser's talk:
  • "Beauty Drinks" made with tea and medicinal herbs are now a hot item, found not in tea shops or grocery stores but in the cosmetics section of upscale department stores.  It is thought that tea drinks benefiting immunity and stress reduction might be found in other unfamiliar places in the near future as well.
  • Consumers are focused on recycling and re-usable packaging and products, and tea companies are responding.  She mentioned other (non-tea) products to emulate, such as a lip balm that comes in a cardboard container, which is imbedded with flower seeds.  Once you are ready to "dispose" of the carton, you simply wet it to soften it, then plant it in your garden.  Soon you will have lovely flowers to match your healthy, soft lips.
And speaking of recycling, shortly after this talk, I attended a fabulous presentation by Nigel Melican, Managing Director of Teacraft, Limited, who has done quite extensive research on the carbon footprint of tea.  In a nutshell, the way tea is grown, processed, packaged, shipped, prepared and disposed of determines the carbon footprint, which can actually favor the environment.  Each of these variables plays a role, and the role of the consumer is no small matter, from tea selection to preparation to disposal.  You will hear much more about this in future posts.

Shortly after this talk (which was one of many being presented simultaneously in different conference rooms), the Expo floor was opened and heralded by a rare opportunity to see a presentation by Master Sen So'Oku (Sen Masayoshi, Zuiensai, 15th generation heir to the sushakoji-Senke School of Tea.  Sen So'Oku was joined in the presentation by his son who is the next heir to the lineage. 

The modesty and soulful simplicity of the tea master was evident in his answers to audience questions. When asked for words of wisdom to new students of Japanese tea ceremony, Sen So'Oku said: "The most important thing is to try to give your guest a delicious bowl of tea.  There are many schools of tea but in the end, entertaining your guests and giving them a good bowl of tea is most important. Think about what makes your guests happy.  At the end [of the ceremony] ask the guest if they enjoyed the tea.  If they say yes, it was a success."

Later in the afternoon, the Expo stage was enlivened with an oolong rolling demonstration.  The energy and strength of tea master Fang was impressive, as the audience cheered and looked on with admiration and curiosity as he twirled cotton draped teas into tight balls and kneaded them with all his might.

And no one could miss the entertaining tea lore giant James Norwood Pratt, who occupied a good portion of the ITI booth which included a grand scale image of Sir Pratt himself.

The day ended with the announcement of the winners of the tea competition, which was entered primarily by large commercial tea manufacturers like Rishi, Peli Teas, Ito En, and Tea Gschwendner.  You can see all the results on the World Tea Expo site.

More news and in depth interviews coming soon!
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A wonderful report even for those of us in attendance. When participating in a trade show it is often times hard to enjoy the educational sessions around us. I'm glad to catch up on some of the events.

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