World Tea East Makes its Debut in Philadelphia

Last weekend I worked as a photographer with my journalist husband at World Tea East, a trade show for tea industry pros and media that took place September 9th and 10th in Philadelphia PA. This was the first time for the event which is an off-shoot of the World Tea Expo that meets annually in Las Vegas.

The event was impressive, from the diverse line-up of vendors, guest speakers and seminars, to the knowledge that was freely shared, to the clean lines and open layout of the show floor. There was a blend of established tea companies and new brands, but there was no sense of ego or competition; at World Tea East everyone was equal in their passion for tea. It was exciting.

I sampled so many teas and tisanes I was giddy. I also amassed two huge bags of tea to review, some from companies I was familiar with like Adagio Tea and Rishi Tea, and some that were new to me, such as wholesalers Dethelefsen & Balk and Florapharm Tea. I'll be talking about all of them on this blog over the next few months. For now, I want to share some of my photos and observations:

I met John Harney. Those four words are enough on their own, but I am compelled to expand. Mr. Harney was approachable and funny, and when I told him how much of a fan I was (I have enough Harney & Sons Fine Teas to open my own store), he reached into his pocket and handed me an HT Tagalong with five sachets of Hot Cinnamon Sunset tea. It was such a nice surprise! On the first day of the conference, World Tea East presented Mr. Harney with the Cha Jing Lifetime Achievement Award.

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I was also thrilled to meet James Norwood Pratt, world-renowned tea authority and author of many tea “bibles” including James Norwood Pratt’s Tea Dictionary, which was named Best New Publication by the World Tea Expo in 2010. I didn’t know he’d be at the show, but I have read his books so I recognized him right away. I ran into Mr. Pratt just as he was preparing to leave, but he was extremely charming and willing to pose for a photo with one stipulation: “Don’t make me look too serious”. So, here he is with a wonderful smile.

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This is Fumi Sugita from Aiya America whisking a bowl of matcha. Aiya has been the leading supplier of the powdered green tea since 1880, but only for wholesale clients. Now they are moving into retail, and Mr. Sugita was at World Tea East showing this new product. I am a huge matcha fan – I have a bowl every day – and I will tell you that after tasting Aiya, I am definitely going to buy it. It was vegetal and mildly earthy with an interesting sweet/savory quality, and it had a lightness that sets it apart from other brands I've had.

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For Ajiri Tea, a Kenyan company launched in 2009, tea leads to empowerment. Ajiri means “to employ” in Swahili. The name was chosen because the company’s goal is to support farmers, employ women and pay school fees for orphans (many children in Kenya have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS). There was a digital frame in their booth that showed the women making labels from banana tree bark, and one that showed the gentleman in my photo, Nick Miyogo, shopping for school supplies with the students. The tea is full-bodied and aromatic, and can be served hot or iced. In 2011 Ajiri won the World Tea Expo's Buyers Choice Award for black tea.

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This is Cindy Sebrell from a new company called The Foreign Office. Their teas are named after major cities like Cairo and Curacao and come in round bags stacked in a can “like Pringles”. The packaging is geared toward making it easy for people who work in offices to enjoy upscale tea. I had the Vienna, and it was very good – smooth and naturally sweet. For those of you who purchase it, it was brewed at 185 for 4.5 minutes in a Breville One-Touch Tea Maker. I've been obsessed with these tea makers since they came out, and seeing it at this show just confirmed what I already knew - I must have one.

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  • World Tea East was my first tea convention, and I had an amazing time. I will post dates for next year's event when they are released.

All photos by Glamorosi except photo of Glamorosi and John Harney by A.D. Amorosi

To read more posts about food, tea, fashion, gardening and events: http://Glamorosi.blogspot.com

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