Sunday, June 13, 2010

World Tea Expo in Las Vegas, Baby!

Tea by day, wine by night. This past weekend, the Tea Drinker and I attended the World Tea Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Tea and Vegas—a sordid combination. To balance out all this craziness, we added wine, dining and The Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil to the mix. The World Tea Expo brings tea retailers, importers, distributors, specialists, and enthusiasts from as far away as India. Its a three day event packed with educational seminars, a vast trade show, and plenty of opportunities to taste tea from all over the world.

Each morning, we attended educational seminars ranging from exploring various tea regions, brand merchandising and packaging, obtaining organic certification, and tips on tea photography. Filled with knowledge, we headed into the trade show and tackled each row with a vengeance. This expo was our third, and we were much more prepared than in years past. With just over three years of experience as an on-line retailer, we were able to communicate more effectively with the distributors, and importers.

After a long day of slurping down too many teas to be counted, and live to talk about, I found myself with a caffeine buzz unlike any other. The Tea Drinker had to drag me away from some poor unassuming soul who listened patiently as I loudly compared tea tastings to wine tastings. Try drinking wine all day. Tea is a piece of cake. My victim looked at me unconvincingly as my voice was at a high pitch, my sentences were scrambled, and my eyes fluttered nervously back and forth. Like I said, tea and Vegas is a dangerous combination.

Drink the Leaf’s Top Five Highlights:

1) The History of Pu-er- After sitting through an early morning Pu'er seminar, I have a new found appreciation for this tea from the Yunnan province of China. The history behind this tea is rich with culture, folk lore, and tribute. There are two basic types of Pu’er tea: Sheng(raw) or Shou(cooked). Both unique in flavor and aroma. We sampled teas in both forms from a range of harvests dating back to 2004. Each year of aging brings on complexity and depth. Pu'er is also claimed to be loaded with medicinal value. In upcoming months, Drink the Leaf will add additional types of Pu’ers to the website. Have you ever had Pu’er that was wrapped in a tangerine shell or a bamboo stick? Simply amazing. Pu’er is pronounced POO- ARGH. It’s the Pirate’s tea.
2) Two Eggs in A Hole- As we sipped on chilled Sauvignon Blanc at Sage restaurant located in the Aria hotel at City Center, the Tea Drinker inquired out loud, “Did we really just spend $30 dollars on two eggs?”. The bartender overheard, and rushed over to assure us that they were really special eggs. And, they were. Slow poached organic eggs nestled on top of perfectly whipped mashed potatoes served with fried country bread. Two versions were offered: Shaved Black Truffle and Guanciale (Italian bacon). We had one of each. As egg yolk dripped off our chins, we proclaimed these the best damn eggs we ever had. If you go to Sage, and order this, be sure to drink down a Vegas-style glass of wine beforehand, it really does help your psyche when the bill arrives.
3) Learning Mandarin- We were delighted to take part in an impromptu teaching session during the trade show. We huddled around our brilliant instructor as he took us through the basic pronunciation of Mandarin. We learned various tea terms such as suan, tian, ku, la, zian, shou, dan, cun, yan, dao xiang, he xiang, shan cha, and you ji zheng ming shu. Any questions? Our instructor beamed as we bellowed out each word precisely. We mimicked him like good little parrots, feeling confident as spectators wandered by, envious of our knowledge. Then, the instructor pointed us in the direction of the Chinese tea farmers booths, and gave us homework. Go to them, converse with them. The Tea Drinker and I took one look at each other and ran the other way!
4) Dinner at Michael Mina- The first course set the tone: Caviar Parfait. Smoked salmon and Osetra caviar set on top of a potato cake. And, not just your ordinary potato cake. We were doomed, as course after course was brought to us. Check out the menu and the highlighted wine for the evening. Nothing short of spectacular. Work, work, work.
5) Shizuoka Tea Growing Region- We were able to meet the owners of two highly regarded Japanese tea estates, Maru Matu and Sugimoto. We scheduled tours of their farms for our upcoming trip to Japan. How exciting! We hope to bring you loose leaf tea from these two estates in the near future.

**If you head to Vegas, remember to hydrate with tea and water. Have fun, and be safe.


Alexa Bond said...

Sounds like a fun weekend. Though you're sure to top it this weekend!

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