CENTER STORE PRODUCTS: World Tea Expo to Provide Unique Features

The upcoming World Tea Expo in Las Vegas next month enables attendees to experience such once-in-a-lifetime events as drinking tea with a Japanese tea master, witnessing a real Chinese tea ceremony, observing how Taiwanese artisans roll oolong or looking in on the ancient art of matcha (green tea powder) making. Additionally, this year, visitors can participate in the show’s first-ever live tea cocktail-mixing competition.

On Saturday, May 2, there will be an opening tea ceremony by Japanese tea master Sen So-oku, a 15th-generation descendant of Sen-No-Rikyu, founder of chanoyu (“the Way of Tea”). Five additional, intimate versions of the rite will be held on Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday afternoon, Ting Chaponis of the Green Teahouse will perform an authentic Chinese tea ceremony, marking just the second time the feature has been offered at the expo. The ceremony emphasizes what the tea tastes like, smells like and how one tea tastes compared with the previous tea, or in successive rounds of drinking.

On the same day, without even leaving the show floor, attendees will have the chance to see a live oolong-rolling demonstration. This process, rarely seen by foreigners, involves tightly packing leaves into large canvas cloths that are rolled by hand, foot or machine, and then briefly firing the leaves to dry and separate them.

On Sunday, visitors to the expo will be able to observe how matcha is made. The process, begun in the 16th century, involves precisely grinding tencha leaves on an intricately carved granite wheel. The grinding wheel itself is a rare artwork, since only 50 carvers who know how to make them are believed to remain in Japan.

Finally, online voting before the expo will determine the 15 finalists who will participate in a Sunday afternoon cocktail-mixing and -tasting competition held live on the show floor. A panel of industry experts will choose the best cocktail, which will be featured in Food & Beverage and Imbibe magazines.

As an added attraction, attendees in town for the expo can find out the results of the 2009 World Tea Championship (WTC), an independent competition judged by professional cuppers and major retail buyers of tea, to distinguish the highest-quality and best-tasting teas commercially available in the North American marketplace. The WTC is made up of two classes, Hot Tea and Iced Tea, each with its own categories and judging panel. The Hot Tea class will be evaluated April 30 and May 1, while the Iced Tea class will be evaluated the morning of May 2, at the expo. All submissions are evaluated blind and through organoleptic analysis.

New products to be displayed at the show include Taylors of Harrogate/Brands of Britain Organic Lemon Rooibos, Jadience Herbal Formulas Total Body Detox Bath, DoMatcha Japanese Green Tea Organic Tencha Teabags with Matcha Blend, and Octavia Tea Raspberry Champagne White Tea.

The World Tea Expo annually attracts thousands of retailers, tearoom owners, spa managers, specialty grocery store owners and other business professionals to visit with over 300 specialty tea wholesale suppliers and related vendors exhibiting new products and innovations.

Produced by SFG Group, LLC, the 2009 World Tea Expo will take place at Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas on May 2 through May 4. For more information, visit
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