Finalists in the Devan Shah Tea Tycoons to Compete at 'World Tea' in Las Vegas

Questex and the World Tea Conference + Expo named eight finalists in three categories for the upcoming Devan Shah Tea Tycoons competition and awards program, which will take place at the World Tea Conference + Expo in Las Vegas on Tuesday, March 22 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The overall conference and expo takes place March 21-23.

If you're an attendee of the World Tea Conference + Expo, don't miss this exciting, live competition on the NxT Stage in the Expo hall!

The Devan Shah Tea Tycoons finalists in each category include:

-Uproot Teas
-The Karma Tea Co.

Unique Customer Relations:
-Cured Leaves Tea Co.

-Flowerhead Tea

-Kubo Tea

The Devan Shah Tea Tycoons is an exciting, entrepreneurial-focused competition and awards program for the tea industry, first held during the World Tea Virtual Summit in March 2021. This year, the program will be live at the 2022 World Tea Conference + Expo in Las Vegas.

The Tea Tycoons program is an opportunity for new tea businesses to receive the ultimate in marketing exposure, as finalists pitch judges – similar to television programs where entrepreneurs pitch their groundbreaking businesses – live on the World Tea Conference + Expo’s NxT stage, co-located with Bar & Restaurant Expo.

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. Winners – one in each category (Unique Customer Relations, Sustainability and Innovation) – will receive numerous benefits to support the growth of their venture.


Uproot Teas

Uproot Teas is “rooted in taste and transparency.” The company partners with sustainable family farms to bring artisan, loose-leaf teas and flowers to the cups of tea lovers. The company is a proud, 100 percent zero-waste business, and all its packaging is compostable and transparent so that customers can see the beauty of the real leaves and botanicals. As an Asian American woman-owned business, Uproot Teas is also excited to add its voice to the U.S. tea narrative, with the goal to bring nuance and thoughtfulness to build an elevated tea culture in the United States.

Cindy Li, founder and “Tea-EO” of Uproot Teas, shared, “Although I've been a lifelong tea lover, I am a newbie to working in the industry. For me, tea has always been about comfort and connection. As the first in my family to be born outside of China, I always sought out ways to bond with my relatives and bridge cultures. During summer visits to rural China, I'd sit with my aunties outside for hours and chitchat over hot cups of tea. After working in corporate consulting in my career, I'm excited to be working on something that is so personally and culturally significant to me. Being a part of the Tea Tycoons is an exciting part of this journey, to connect with others who have their own unique experiences with tea to share, and I look forward to mutually learning from each other.”


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.

Zack Kamen, design director at Littorary, said, “Being a finalist for the sustainability award in the Devan Shah Tea Tycoons contest is huge for Littorary. Sustainability is part of our founding mission, so we are thankful to be recognized for our work and excited to share our perspective at the World Tea Conference + Expo. We love the community that tea creates and hope Littorary and the VITRI Tumbler can help bring more people together.”

The Karma Tea Co.

The Karma Tea Co. is a specialty tea company based in London that sources and supplies loose-leaf teas directly from socially responsible and planet friendly tea gardens in India, Sri Lanka and Nepal. The company’s mission is to champion producers of artisanal teas that not only make great tasting tea, but who also actively support equality, sustainability and biodiversity through their tea making. Alison Tran, founder of The Karma Tea Co., explained, “The Karma Tea Co. is about a return to authenticity when it comes to tea from South Asia. For such a long time, most tea produced in this region has been sold as a commodity for the greatest volume and lowest price, which has meant producers don't always get the recognition or the prices for their teas that they deserve. Clearly, this has got to change, and we believe this ultimately has to be driven by the market and consumers. And so, The Karma Tea Co was created to shine a light on quality orthodox teas from this region and challenge the perception that tea from this part of the world is mostly mass produced and destined for our supermarket tea bags.”

Tran added, “It means a lot to be recognized by the Devan Shah Tea Tycoons program, and to be able to present our brand and mission on an international stage and increase exposure beyond the U.K. market. As a young start-up, it is also a great opportunity to attend the show and learn from other tea business owners and make great connections within the industry.”

Cured Leaves Tea Co.

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, the company focuses on improving equity and driving value in local and international communities. Cured Leaves 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, the company is also focused on creating an experience centered around moving and focused-based meditative practice.

Paula Shaw, founder and CEO of Cured Leaves Tea Co., said, “I am extremely excited to be part of the Devan Shah Tea Tycoons program as it celebrates and honors the authenticity, artistry and brilliance of emerging small businesses that are producing products for the global tea industry. The mission of the World Tea Conference + Expo directly aligns with my mission and vision of enhancing the lives and promoting the whole healthy being through education, inspiration and engagement with tea at the center of the human experience. This program is an opportunity to participate in the innovation and sustainability of the global tea industry while connecting deeper with the tea community and promoting longer, healthier, more fulfilling lives.”

Flowerhead Tea

Flowerhead Tea is a “direct connection to natural wellness through full flavored teas, floral tisanes, spicy chai and potent powders.” Woman-owned and operated out of Oakland, Calif., Flowerhead is on a mission to encourage consumers to slow down, listen to their bodies, and change their life through the daily ritual of drinking tea.

Kendall Brinkley, head of operations for Flowerhead Tea, said, “We couldn't be more stoked to be a part of the Tea Tycoons program. Like most small women-owned businesses, it's just us two doing pretty much everything for our company. So being a Tea Tycoons finalist makes all the challenging and harder days worth it. These are the moments that keep the fire lit and remind us how cool it is to be in this industry. As the days to the event are approaching, we can't stop smiling and screaming, ‘Tea Tycoons 2022, Baby!!!’ Not only is the expo a great opportunity to share our products, have fun and meet new friends, but we are also excited to network with new businesses and utilize all there is to offer.”

Kubo Tea

Kubo Tea produces “high-energy tea blends.” Their tea is sourced directly from certified organic growers and infused with caffeine derived from green tea leaves. With the added caffeine, the tea has three times the caffeine levels of traditional tea and more than your average cup of coffee, according to the company. As 100 percent of the caffeine is derived from tea, Kubo’s blends allow a natural rise without the coffee jitters or crash. The company said its products are a natural, healthy, low-calorie alternative to other caffeinated drinks, and that Kubo's process “reimagines tea and becomes the first organic high-energy tea on the market.”

Jack Hartmann, owner of Kubo Tea, said, “We're extremely excited to be a part of the Devan Shah Tea Tycoons program. There are so many great products developed by smaller companies that just can't get the same exposure vs. the larger brands. It's amazing this program sheds light on these innovative new products. We're inspired to be a part of this group and to get the chance to be compared. I've been involved in the nutritional and beverage industry for years. The World Tea Conference + Expo is the way to discover new ideas and stay in touch with the heartbeat of the industry. Tea Tycoons being a prime example – showcasing what's new coming around the corner, and we're thrilled Kubo Tea gets to be included.”


TEABUD Inc. is a producer of herbal tea blends, offering distinctive flavors and CBD infusions to deliver a calm and soothing experience when that need arises. According to the company, TEABUD offers a customer-centric approach that focuses on creating the best experience for the consumer before the sale of its products even takes place. By this, they mean that care is taken in developing a quality product to help address health needs while being pleasing to the taste. For its line of products, TEABUD has created four versions of teas to help with various needs and tastes, and it has also developed a line of CBD-infused honey, which complements the teas.

Kelly Simms, CEO of TEABUD Inc., noted, “Being selected to participate in the Devan Shah Tea Tycoons program at the World Tea Conference + Expo has strengthened my resolve to serve the world a much needed cup of calm.”


CLARKEsTEA is a wellness-infused line of veggie teas with carefully sourced ingredients made from organic vegetables. The company noted that it brings tea back to basics by promoting purity, nutrition and convenience. CLARKEsTEA teas are made from the highest quality organic ingredients, free of preservatives and additives. Their dehydration process maintains mineral profiles within each vegetable, and they support simplicity and transparency by offering only one ingredient in each sachet. CLARKEsTEA consciously chose earth-friendly packaging solutions to help reduce waste and contribute to the health of our environment, and their teas are packaged in biodegradable tea sachets free of wrappers, tags or strings (flexible pouch packaging is 100 percent recyclable). When customers choose CLARKEsTEA, they’re investing in themselves and the environment, while supporting small-scale farmers, their families and the people they employ, according to the company.

Val Clarke, owner of CLARKEsTea, said, “I am thrilled to be a finalist for the Devan Shah Tea Tycoons Award at the World Tea Conference + Expo, and I am grateful for the chance to introduce a new tea category to the tea industry. This summit has been created for business owners like myself and has allotted me an opportunity of a lifetime. Entrepreneurship is a journey that begins with a thought and ends with a tangible product or service, ideally benefitting the end-user while fulfilling your own personal and professional goals.”


"To say that I am excited about the Devan Shah Tea Tycoons is an understatement," said FaithAnn Bailes, conference and content manager for the World Tea Conference + Expo. “The launch of the Tea Tycoons program in 2021 was virtual, so it is exciting to have our first live competition in 2022. The judges are ready to get the pitches from each contestant and award winners in each category.”

Bailes said she believes the Devan Shah Tea Tycoons program is perfect for the World Tea Conference + Expo because its New Business Launch Pad has always been so popular – “So, why not a competition for new startups,” she said. “Let’s see what the entrepreneurs have in store for us, let their passions fire our passion, and move the tea industry forward. Everyone is welcome to attend and give support to our new pioneers in the tea industry.”

The Devan Shah Tea Tycoons competition will take place March 22 from 4 to 5 p.m. on the Nxt Stage in the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center at the World Tea Conference + Expo. To register or to see the conference and expo agenda, visit

The Tea Tycoons program was named after the founder of International Tea Importers, Devan Shah, who passed away in 2016. Over his career, Shah made considerable contributions to the growth, innovation and education of the specialty tea industry. See related story here.

Plan to Attend or Participate in the
World Tea Conference + Expo, March 21-23, 2022

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 21-23, 2022. The event will be celebrating its 20th anniversary, in addition to being co-located with Bar & Restaurant Expo. Visit

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.