Many of you know my wife, Kim Jage, who has been both the face and the voice of the World Tea Media since 2005. Today, October 15th, marks her final day with World Tea Media. We have planned for this day for well over a year as it was Kim’s decision to focus more of her time and energy on our children and family moving forward, and will set up shop to providing marketing consulting services. A decision for which I am humbly grateful, but in the same stroke, today, I lose my business partner of the past 9 years. I can sincerely say that there is no one, including myself, that has brought more innovation, drive, and passion to our company, our customers, and our community than Kim. Those closest to us know that is was the World Tea Expo itself that brought us together in the first place. Although, I am convinced it was destiny. In 2005, Kim joined the team and postponed her plans to open a tea retail business in Princeton, NJ as I was realigning the business and phasing out the two other original founding partners. It was the same year that we rebranded the event as World Tea Expo and Kim’s marketing savvy became immediately apparent. It was shortly thereafter that our small little event became internationally recognized. Since Kim’s joining the company, World Tea Expo was recognized three times as one of the fifty fastest growing events in North America. Stop and think about that for a moment at how many events are held each year. It still amazes me. Also under Kim’s tenure, we successfully launched the World Tea News, North American Tea Championship, World Tea East, and World Tea Academy. It was Kim’s vision and tenacity that lead to our launch of our latest improvement, the Healthy Beverage Expo. We also held the first ever tea auction in the U.S. resulting in the highest price ever paid for an Indian black tea to date; hosted world-class chefs to our event to cook with tea such as Hugh Acheson, Rick Moonen, and Richard Chen; held the Top Tea Cocktail competition on our show floor, held countless tea ceremonies and most recently, introduced the wu-wo tea ceremony to hundreds at the Expo. We have also delivered more hours of tea education to the industry than any other organization ever. Kim was critical to each and every one of these innovations. The North American Tea Championship in particular was truly Kim’s baby. When she came up with the idea of having a tea competition, it seemed easy enough. However, we soon discovered that no one in the industry could not agree what constituted a specialty tea, not to mention what defined each category! At its inception, she literally spent hundreds of hours talking to dozens of tea experts gathering information, building consensus, and formulating the competition. She would be pacing the office daily, confounded and bewildered by a new opinion or description just as she thought she had it nailed down. It literally became comical. Over the years, she spent even more hours cupping teas alongside the judges who have all recognized her exceptional talents as a tea taster. Her recognition by these esteemed and rare breed of individuals has been one of the most humbling and gratifying experiences for Kim over her years of service. Very few will ever truly know the sacrifices Kim has made and the challenges she has endured in driving our community forward. She was the voice of our messaging, the stalwart of our integrity, and the compassion behind our brand for nearly a decade. She is the reason that when you call our offices, you will always be asked “How can we make your day better?” Yet, today is an exceptionally difficult day with many mixed emotions from me. Kim has been a true partner to the business, keeping it focused, and reinventing and repositioning our community for the better each and every year. But starting tomorrow, she remains what I love about her most. My best friend, my life partner, and an amazing mother to our children. So today I say to Kim, with the entire tea community as my witness, very simply….. Thank you. You have lifted us all a little higher. For those who wish to email Kim, she can be reached at [email protected]. And she is truly excited to be able to come and attend the next World Tea Expo and not have to work the show!