Tea and Herbal Association of Canada Wraps-Up 11th Annual North American Tea Conference

The Tea and Herbal Association of Canada (THAC) and the Tea Association of the USA, Inc. held their annual North American Tea Conference (NATC) at Niagara on the Lake, Canada. The conference ran Sept. 27-29 with 130 attendees representing 10 different countries.

This was the first in-person event hosted by the associations since 2019, and it was a big success.

This year’s conference agenda – organized by THAC – addressed some of the issues currently facing the industry, including important conversations on supply chain, sustainability and an understanding of the various sales channels – traditional, specialty and e-commerce.

THAC president Shabnam Weber noted, “This event is an important one for the tea industry. It allows an opportunity to meet with colleagues – old and new – but, more importantly, it allows for conversations to be held on issues which we are all facing within our supply chain. The past two years have not allowed for this kind of connection, which is why hosting this year’s conference felt like an extra responsibility. It was an excellent reminder for all who attended that we are all part of the same supply chain with our interests deeply intertwined, sharing the same responsibilities; and it is only when we gather, connect and speak to one another that we truly appreciate that.”

Shabnam Weber - North American Tea Conference
Shabnam Weber at the North American Tea Conference
  (Photo: Courtesy of the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada)

The two-and-a-half-day event was kicked off by a robust fireside chat with Canadian researcher Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, where the groundwork for the days ahead was laid out. The discussion covered the changes in consumer behavior post-COVID, and the very real food security challenges Canadians are facing.

Day Two

Day two started with three important speakers, each addressing the issue of data and its importance. Ian Gibbs, chair of the International Tea Committee, presented production and consumption numbers over the past years, as well as suggested ways for the industry to increase consumption in non-traditional markets. Jem McDowall, vice president, Universal Commodities (Tea) Trading Inc., provided a data-based outline of current global, black tea supply, highlighting some of the pressures that tea is battling and vulnerabilities inherent within the supply chain. His presentation included thoughts on future and potential developments. Industry expert John Snell of NM Tea B Consulting, who’s also a World Tea News contributor, challenged the audience to look at data from the lens of creating market success. That means evaluating teas consumers’ wants and producing to meet that demand.

The morning also saw Robbie Hogervorst, strategic account manager, Rainforest Alliance, provide an important update on the many changes taking place within the organization. He also provided an excellent snapshot of how that applies to the tea industry. THAC will be hosting a follow-up webinar with Hogervorst in November, so that the subject can be explored more thoroughly.

From supply chain and data, the day shifted to sustainability. Liam Brody, Committee on Sustainability Assessment, started things off by providing a conversation on sustainability as a solution. He addressed the reality that recessionary fears, shipping delays, climate shocks, regulatory and reporting changes, and savvy consumers are giving businesses a run for the money and presented the group with a lens on how sustainability represents a solution to those challenges.

The conversation continued with Alison Taylor, executive director, Ethical Systems, and adjunct professor, NYU Stern School of Business. Taylor addressed the pressures faced by companies by investors, consumers and employees, and she discussed what the limits of these should be, and how companies can build trust while operating effectively in a turbulent and transparent world.

This year’s conference added two breakout discussions, allowing attendees to sit together and brainstorm on the issues which were discussed. The aim of these sessions was to provide a voice for everyone, as well as a platform for different perspectives to be heard.

North American Tea Conference 2022 - Canada
At the North American Tea Conference 2022 in Canada
  (Photo: Courtesy of the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada)

Gold Medal Tea Competition and the Sustainability Awards

Two important competitions are held annually at NATC, the Gold Medal Tea Competition and the Sustainability Awards.

The Gold Medal Tea Competition assesses original teas, submitted for tasting and evaluation. The number of teas vary from year to year, with this year having brought in more than 100 samples from nine countries. Judges represent all parts of the industry – importers, packers and specialty, and evaluate teas based on leaf dry, leaf wet, appearance, flavor and overall impact.

The Sustainability Awards were initiated by the industry five years ago and highlight the important work being done in tea. Fifteen entries were received this year and were evaluated by an independent adjudicator. Submissions included work being done to address all areas of sustainability – environmental protection, economic viability and social equity. The tea industry is proud of the work that’s initiated and carried on each year, not for the sake of recognition but simply because it’s the right thing to do, noted THAC.

To see the Gold Medal Tea Competition winners, click here.

To see the Sustainability Awards winners and runners up, as well as descriptions of their initiatives, click here.

North American Tea Conference 2022 - Canada
Gala at the North American Tea Conference 2022 in Canada
  (Photo: Courtesy of the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada)

Day Three

Day three of the conference shifted to commerce with three speakers addressing how consumers shop from three distinct perspectives. Carman Allison, vice president of thought leadership for North America, NielsenIQ, looked at how the past two years have landed consumers in a divergent economic reality as inflation becomes the new strain on consumer wallets. Ran Ravitz, ECommerce Pathways, exposed the audience to the behemoth in ecommerce, Amazon. He provided steps on how to strategically succeed within the Amazon arena and explained the different business models available. Kevin Gascoyne, Camellia Sinensis, wrapped up the sessions with a look behind the curtain of specialty – how it evolved, what we’ve learned, and what it has become in its current iteration.

Founded in 1954, The Tea & Herbal Association of Canada is the leading authority and industry voice on all things tea in Canada, and the organization represents members from bush to cup.

For more information about The Tea and Herbal Association of Canada, visit Tea.ca.

North American Tea Conference 2022 - Canada
Blind tasting at the North American Tea Conference 2022 in Canada
  (Photo: Courtesy of the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada)

Plan to Attend or Participate in the
World Tea Conference + Expo, March 27-29, 2023

To learn about other key developments, trends, issues, hot topics and products within the global tea community, plan to attend the World Tea Conference + Expo, March 27-29, 2023 in Las Vegas, co-located with Bar & Restaurant Expo. Visit WorldTeaExpo.com.

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