World Tea Expo’s opening night reception goers packed the ballroom, warmed by greetings and good food and drinks. “Haven’t seen you in a while,” was one of the most common exchanges overheard. The typical response: “It’s been a couple of years hasn’t it?” is revealing. Wednesday marked not only World Tea Expo’s return to Las Vegas, but the return of many tea professionals to World Tea Expo. The event convened in Long Beach, Calif. the past two years after a 10-year run in Las Vegas where it began. Early events drew a few hundred attendees but in time World Tea Expo was named one of the fastest growing tradeshows in America. Attendance this year has returned to peak-year levels. Attendees pulled extra chairs to the tables to seat their friends. Handshakes and hugs and excited shouts of recognition signaled that the tea gang was back together again. Familiar faces from afar such as Tea Craft founder Nigel Melican, who traveled from Bedford, England and El Club del Té founder and president Victoria Bisogno from Buenos Aires, joined a growing contingent of newcomers from the U.S. and Canada. The event continues to bring together tea retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers and exhibitors from the major tea-producing regions. Government officials and regional exporters from China, Japan, Sri Lanka, India, Kenya and Indonesia mingled, some in traditional garb. Show director Samantha Hammer expressed her delight. The Awards Ceremony that followed elicited boisterous cheers and two standing ovations. Long after the hors d’oeuvre stations were cleared, the conversations continued.