Judges Declare Winners at 2022 Devan Shah Tea Tycoons Competition

Questex’s Devan Shah Tea Tycoons competition and awards program took place at the World Tea Conference + Expo on March 22 in Las Vegas, and judges named three winners – Littorary, Cured Leaves Tea Company and CLARKEsTEA – after pitches (or presentations, similar to Shark Tank) took place on the event’s NxT Stage in the expo hall.

Tea Tycoons Audience 2022
The audience at the Devan Shah Tea Tycoons competition (Photo by: Questex / World Tea Conference + Expo)

In early March, World Tea Conference + Expo named eight finalists for the competition in three categories, which included:


-Littorary – WINNER
-Uproot Teas – Finalist
-The Karma Tea Company – Finalist

Unique Customer Relations:

-Cured Leaves Tea Company – WINNER
-Flowerhead Tea – Finalist


-Kubo Tea – Finalist
-TEABUD Inc. – Finalist

Sustainability Category Winner

Zack Kamen, design director at Littorary, said, “Winning the Devan Shah Tea Tycoons Award for Sustainability is a bit surreal. We have been working on our first product in a vacuum for over two years. To win this award on the same day that we publicly revealed our first product is the best kind of confirmation that we could imagine; it validates our philosophy around sustainability and all the hard work that went into developing the VITRI Tumbler."

Kamed added, “The contest ran smoothly, the judges asked smart questions, the contestants presented strongly, and the audience was engaged. We had a great time and appreciated everyone that took part in the event with us.”

Tea Tycoons Awards - Littorary
Zack Kamen, design director, and Patrick McCluskey, founder, Littorary (Photo by: Questex / World Tea Conference + Expo)

Littorary was founded in 2020 with the mission to enhance the experience of eating and drinking, while limiting the use of plastics wherever possible, to benefit the environment and human health. Littorary’s first product, the VITRI Tumbler, is an on-the-go mug that eliminates synthetic materials like plastic, rubber and silicone from the drinking experience, by employing a patent-pending glass seal. The company believes thoughtful product engineering and design can improve the tea drinking experience, in concert with sustainability and wellbeing.

“After the amazing reception of the VITRI Tumbler at the World Tea Conference + Expo, we are hoping to build on the momentum at the Specialty Coffee Expo in Boston next month,” said Kamen. “We will be reaching out to potential customers from both gatherings to reserve pre-orders for our first production. Then the next steps are to focus on the execution of production and delivery. And of course, we need to continue designing and developing innovative product to show at the World Tea Conference + Expo 2023. It seems there will be plenty to keep us busy until we see everyone again next year!”

Unique Customer Relations Category Winner

After the competition, Paula Shaw, founder and CEO of Cured Leaves Tea Company, said, “Winning the Devan Shah Tea Tycoons contest for unique customer engagement is an honor, especially in connection with the legacy of the incomparable Devan Shah, who has had an impact on this industry as the founder of ITI [International Tea Importers] who consistently created markets for tea where there were none previously.”

Shaw added, “My passion and why I started my business aligns with everything the World Tea Conference + Expo stands for – bringing people together, social responsibility and sustainability. These are things that are associated with the legacy of the late Mr. Devan Shah. I had the privilege of meeting Mrs. Devan Shah, a majestic presence and powerhouse with a wealth of knowledge and passion for tea, life, wellness and social responsibility. This brief interaction inspired me more than words can express.”

Tea Tycoons - Cured Leaves Tea Company
Paula and Lawrence Shaw, Cured Leaves Tea Company (Photo by: Questex / World Tea Conference + Expo)

Cured Leaves Tea Co. is a socially conscious tea business that promotes wellness, mindfulness and community through tea drinking. Their partnerships with farms and estates across the continent of Africa allow them to provide premium, top-quality African Orthodox teas while promoting sustainability in various regions.

Through business, social and environmental initiatives, Cured Leaves Tea focuses on improving equity and driving value in local and international communities. The company's initiatives and partnerships aim to empower women through entrepreneurship, give access to education, reduce environmental impact, provide and ensure fair wage, equitable conditions and overall sustainable communities. The company also sees tea as a habit and resource rather than a commodity.

Taking on a unique approach of combining tea with yoga and meditation, Cured Leaves Tea is also focused on creating an experience centered around moving and focused-based meditative practice.

“I am extremely passionate about giving back and paying it forward,” said Shaw. “However, I know it can’t be done alone. I am determined to assist in carrying the torch and moving the industry forward, while growing the enthusiasm and love of and sharing the purity and artistry of tea. Cured Leaves Tea will be working on a couple new growth opportunities, which include further research and development of African Orthodox Teas, a collaborative project to plant fruit trees in Malawi, authoring the first of our upcoming series of blogs and informationals, as well as enhancing our physical and virtual presence. We will make an impact – social, environmental and economic – over the course of the company’s future."

Innovation Category Winner

Val Clarke, founder and CEO of CLARKEsTEA, based in Toronto, Ontario,  noted, “I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to introduce a new tea category at the 2022 World Tea Conference + Expo for Innovation. I am especially pleased to be selected for the Devan Shah Tea Tycoons Award. Knowing that my work and passion resonates with other tea lovers is worth all the effort and late nights. We look forward to bringing more flavorful veggie teas to market.”

Clarke added that the Devan Shah Tea Tycoons competition was an “opportunity of a lifetime.”

Tea Tycoons - Clarke's Tea 2022
Val Clarke of CLARKEsTEA (Photo by: Questex / World Tea Conference + Expo)

CLARKEsTEA makes single-ingredient vegetable teas – such as asparagus, beetroot and celery – with more coming soon. Each sachet is filled with just one simple ingredient: organically grown vegetables dried at low heat so, as to preserve the full spectrum of nutrients and minerals. The result is great taste and a long list of possible health benefits.

“The ABCs of veggie tea have proved super popular,” said Clarke. “It’s hard to believe that this is new – that nobody had thought of this before.”

Clarke first concocted the idea of single-vegetable tea after being diagnosed with MGUS, a condition in which abnormal protein is formed in the blood, and later Crohn’s disease.

Overall, the goal of the Devan Shah Tea Tycoons program is to celebrate and honor emerging small businesses that are producing innovative products for the global tea industry.

The winners in each of three categories (Unique Customer Relations, Sustainability and Innovation) will receive numerous benefits to support the growth of their venture.

Congratulations to the 2022 Winners

“I’m so thrilled with the 2022 Devan Shah Tea Tycoons competition,” said FaithAnn Bailes, conference and content manager for the World Tea Conference + Expo. “It was wonderful to watch all the finalists compete in-person – live on stage – with a fully engaged audience that was eager to see who won. In fact, the audience members all had discussions amongst themselves on who should be the winners in each category, while the judges deliberated. Everyone was on the edge of their seat to see who won, and we are so grateful to everyone who participated and helped to make this a big success.”

Gail Gastelu, one of the judges of the Devan Shah Tea Tycoons and owner and publisher of The Tea House Times, said, “Excitement, pleasure, pride, and commitment is what we witnessed… each participant a winner to have entered the final round to present to us on stage. While only one could win each category, each contestant had star products sure to please. Congratulations to all finalists and winners – well done!”

Bailes shared, “Congratulations to all of the winners and the finalists – you’re truly an inspiration to the tea industry and to other up-and-coming tea-preneurs. We’re already looking forward to who will compete next year at the 2023 World Tea Conference + Expo. Stay tuned!” 

To learn more about why the Tea Tycoons are called the Devan Shah Tea Tycoons, read this World Tea News article.

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, co-located with Bar & Restaurant Expo. Visit WorldTeaExpo.com.

To book your sponsorship or exhibit space at the World Tea Conference + Expo, contact:

Veronica Gonnello
​(for companies A to G)​
e: [email protected]
​p: 212-895-8244

​Tim Schultz
​(for companies H to Q)
​e: [email protected]
​p: (917) 258-8589

Fadi Alsayegh​
(for companies R to Z)
​e: [email protected]
p: 917-258-5174

​Also, be sure to stay connected with the World Tea Conference + Expo on social media, for details and insights about the event. Follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagram and LinkedIn.