Report & Photos: ‘World Tea’ 2021 Is a Resounding Success

Next Year’s Event Returns to Las Vegas, March 21-23, 2022

Questex’s World Tea Conference + Expo, the leading specialty tea event, held in Las Vegas June 28-30, was a major success. The event was co-located with Nightclub & Bar Show [which is evolving to Bar & Restaurant Expo], and the combined events attracted more than 8,700 attendees. The program featured in-depth educational sessions, workshops, tastings, new products and networking opportunities. Next year’s co-located events will take place March 21-23 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Tim McLucas, vice president of Bar & Restaurant Group, Questex, said, “We’re delighted that we were able to gather and welcome the global tea industry to Las Vegas after a challenging year. It was exciting to see the tea community reunite face-to-face. Their eagerness for being back to business – and their enthusiasm for seeing industry friends and colleagues – was profound. We look forward to evolving the World Tea Conference + Expo for next year’s event, where there will be more unique opportunities and experiences to engage, interact and conduct business. Thank you to everyone who made this year’s program a resounding success.”

World Tea Las Vegas
(Photo: World Tea Conference + Expo 2021)

Attendees Share Thoughts on ‘World Tea’

Attendee and speaker Kevin Christiansen, owner of Café Barnabas, said, “As a tea shop owner, I believe that the World Tea Conference + Expo once again provided me with all the tools necessary to maintain our competitive advantage. The more focused nature of the show floor helped me spend quality time with each vendor. In fact, I discovered an exciting new product I cannot wait to introduce in my café. The harmonious merger with the Bar & Restaurant Expo [formerly the Nightclub & Bar Show] provided rich collaboration opportunities that sparked more creative ideas than I have time to follow up on. Workshops and sessions led by trend-setting tea and bar experts provided a broad, well-rounded educational offering that I’ve not seen before. I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to be in two or more places at once during the event. I eagerly wait to catch-up with anyone who had the misfortune of missing the show, and I hope to see them at next year’s World Tea Conference + Expo.”

Rob Freeman, vice president, revenue operations, Label Solutions, Inc., an attendee and speaker, noted, “There was a lot of excitement at the World Tea Conference + Expo this year. What a fantastic event! Business owners and suppliers alike were there to do some serious networking. I was impressed with the audience’s high-caliber questions that were asked during my presentation. Given the latest trends, the tea Industry still has the potential for serious future growth. I definitely want to be part of this show next year.”

World Tea Las Vegas 2021
(Photo: World Tea Conference + Expo 2021)

Rona Tison, executive vice president of corporate relations for ITO EN (North America) INC – sponsor of the event’s Tea Bar – commented, “As incongruous as it initially appeared to some, co-locating the World Tea Conference + Expo 2021 with the newly named Bar & Restaurant Expo [formerly the Nightclub & Bar Show] brought new exposure and a collaborative spirit for tea in the hospitality and foodservice world – particularly valuable at a time when businesses are reopening after a very difficult year. It was great to see increased attendance for the Tea Boot Camp and conference sessions, confirming that there is definite interest to integrate tea into new channels. Having both the tea-tenders and mixologists at the expo’s Tea Bar – a highlight of the event – showcased the versatility and opportunities for our teas. There was so much enthusiasm from attendees for our matcha LOVE and Oi Ocha brands – whether on its own for a healthy clean boost or a natural mixer for a mocktail or cocktail. This year’s event just confirmed that there are no boundaries for tea, and that there are endless opportunities for our industry to continue this collaborative spirit.”

World Tea Las Vegas 2021
(Photo: World Tea Conf. + Expo / Bar & Restaurant Expo)

Amy Dubin-Nath, owner of Janam Tea, as well as a speaker and attendee, said, “The World Tea Conference + Expo, happening in conjunction with the Bar & Restaurant Expo [formerly the Nightclub & Bar Show] in Las Vegas at the end of June was a truly brilliant idea, as it raised justifiable questions of why we tend to keep to our respective sides, how we can create profitable alliances, and in what ways business truths ring universal – regardless of the context. My intent was to both give and gain educational value, so I am grateful for the insight I attained from the shows happening simultaneously. Hoping for greater inter-industry advocacy and dialogue in the future.”

'The Sri Lanka Tea Board Pavilion Was Buzzing'

Pavithri Peiris, director of promotion for the Sri Lanka Tea Board, said, “World Tea Conference + Expo 2021 was one of the most important and unique events, which brought tea specialists together, presenting tea related equipment and services for the specialty tea industry around the world. This show was vital to the Sri Lanka Tea Board in finding clients, strengthening existing relationships and entering new sales markets.”

According to Peiris, the Sri Lanka Tea Board pavilion showcased a wide range of value-added and specialty Ceylon Teas, and it carried out a number of tea tasting sessions that created a better understanding of the different characteristics of Ceylon teas that are grown across seven agro-climatic regions. Visitors also had an opportunity to enjoy freshly brewed teas, which represented the respective agro-climatic regions.

“The Sri Lanka Tea Board pavilion was buzzing with a number of potential customers – even during the pandemic situation – and on day one, two and three at the World Tea Conference + Expo 2021, a number of inquiries were received by tea shops, spas, restaurants, hotels and gourmet retail outlets. We would like to thank the organizers and the other supportive parties of the World Tea Conference + Expo 2021 for organizing such a phenomenal trade exhibition in a crucial juncture with lots of success stories.”

World Tea Conference and Expo Las Vegas
(Photo: World Tea Conference + Expo 2021)

'I was Blown Away'

Babette Donaldson, owner and publisher of T Ching and founder of the International Tea Sippers Society, said, “World Tea Conference + Expo 2021 was like no other – it’s safe to say. I booked my flight and hotel at the last minute, not expecting much since we are slowly coming back from a pandemic. I also expected to feel very disconnected with our partners and allies from the Bar & Restaurant Expo [formerly the Nightclub & Bar Show]. Wrong! There were some great connections. I was blown away. What blew me away was the opportunity that I saw on the show floor and in the conference sessions. What excited me was the potential for collaborations and growth for specialty tea in 2022 for industry vendors and professionals. I left convinced that we have endless opportunities to reach a thrilling new marketplace with the bar and restaurant community – an enormous blank canvas for tea.”

Attendee Jill Rheinheimer, TeaHaus, shared, “Kudos to the coordinators of the World Tea Conference + Expo for pulling together this in-person event during a – hopefully abating – pandemic. The conference itself was rather a study in contrasts with the co-located Bar & Restaurant Expo [formerly the Nightclub & Bar Show]. Speakers and workshops highlighted many excellent ways to increase tea consumption and to elevate its status – such as its use in cocktail and culinary applications, treating it akin to fine wine in the restaurant business, and improving marketing and education… Today it is more important than ever to work together, globally, to ensure that the tea industry remains robust, and events such as this expo help attain that goal.”

World Tea Las Vegas 2021
(Photo: World Tea Conference + Expo 2021)

For first-time attendee Ashley Ferma, owner and blend crafter at Tranquili-Tea Organic, the event was valuable. “I thought the World Tea Conference + Expo was amazing! This was my first year attending, and I'm so glad I did. I attended all three days and was able to listen to many speakers. Everything that I learned about branding and running a successful tea shop are strategies that I can apply to my organic tea lounge. My favorite speakers were Staci Brinkman, Brandi Shelton, Kristy Jennings and Jason Walker. They each had so much value to offer, and I'm so excited to attend next year’s World Tea Conference + Expo.”

Tea expert Lisa Boalt Richardson, director of World Tea Academy (WTA), explained, “The conference sessions that were offered at the World Tea Conference + Expo were well received. The feedback about the educational content has been so positive, and many people have made comments about how much they enjoyed the topics. There was something for everyone from an educational standpoint.”

World Tea and Bar and Restaurant Expo
(Photo: World Tea Conf. + Expo / Bar & Restaurant Expo 2021)

World Tea Academy Honors Graduates at ‘World Tea’

Also of note: During the World Tea Conference + Expo, Questex’s World Tea Academy recognized its recent graduates and those who became certified. A total of 148 were honored, and some were on-hand during a special ceremony at the event.

“We at World Tea Academy are so proud of our students,” said Richardson. “This was a combined 2020 and 2021 graduation ceremony since there wasn’t an expo last year. And 2020 brought a record number of students to World Tea Academy. Our students come from all over the world and worked tirelessly through very trying times. We had 93 total graduates with a total of 148 certifications. Of those 148 certifications, 23 of our students earned more than one certification. I love to watch our students grow and learn about tea to achieve their career and personal goals. Since so many could not travel this year – especially many of our international students – World Tea Academy is also going have a first-ever virtual graduation in early August 2021.”

The breakdown of recent certifications include: Certified Tea Specialist (73 total); Certified Tea Professional (16); Certified Tea Sommelier (21); Certified Tea Health Expert (16) Certified Tea Blender (15); and Certified Tea Aroma Expert (7).

The Bright Future & Growth of Specialty Tea in North America

During her presentation at the World Tea Conference + Expo – titled “Specialty Tea's Growing Popularity” – Sara Delaney, founder and CEO of 3 Mountains / Sarilla Sparkling and Tima Tea, proposed that specialty tea in North America was heading into its third wave, much like coffee did more than 20 years ago.

“Consumers are becoming more concerned than ever with their health – they want to feel good and have a better quality of life as they age,” said Delaney “They have access to more information and can self-educate about tea and wellness. They understand that premium loose-leaf tea is better than tea dust in a bag made from micro-plastics. I believe the tea industry is where coffee was when consumers started paying more for whole bean coffee that they could grind at home. Beyond the quality and health issues, consumers want to feel connected to the communities that grow what they consume, and brands must show a commitment to social and environmental justice. These topics are generally part of the specialty tea story right now, as well as specialty tea’s story as it grows through this next wave.”

World Tea Conference Expo
(Photo: World Tea Conf. + Expo / Bar & Restaurant Expo 2021)

Plan to Attend ‘World Tea’ 2022

To learn more about tea – or to discover how your business can profit from tea’s growing popularity in North America – plan to attend the World Tea Conference + Expo next year, co-located with Bar & Restaurant Expo. The events take place March 21-23, 2022, in Las Vegas at the Las Vegas Convention Center.


For World Tea Conference + Expo 2022 sponsorship opportunities, contact Jamie Schroeder (U.S. and Canadian Companies) at [email protected], or connect with Veronica Gonnello (International Companies) at [email protected].