Here's Why the ‘Tea Tycoons’ Competition Became the ‘Devan Shah Tea Tycoons’

Devan Shah, who passed away in 2016, falls into an elite class of those who have made considerable contributions to the growth, innovation and education of the specialty tea industry throughout their lifetime.

Shah was an inspirational educator and advocate for American tea culture, with a taste for quality tea and a nose for opportunity. Thus, it’s only fitting that World Tea re-names its Tea Tycoons program to Devan Shah Tea Tycoons, which will take place at the World Tea Conference + Expo this year in Las Vegas.

The Devan Shah Tea Tycoons finalists will compete on Tuesday, March 22 from 4 to 5 p.m. on the NxT Stage in the expo hall (all attendees are encouraged to attend). The overall conference and expo takes place March 21-23 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

International Tea Importers Devan Shah
Devan Shah (Photo: Courtesy of International Tea Importers)

“Devan Shah himself was always on the lookout for new opportunities, which was probably the reason he loved working with startups and up-and-coming tea professionals and entrepreneurs,” said FaithAnn Bailes, conference and content manager for the World Tea Conference + Expo. “He was just a wonderful guy who loved to help the tea community however he could. So, who better to become the namesake for the Tea Tycoons than Devan Shah?”

Supporting Tea Professionals at All Levels

As an industry leader, Shah spearheaded countless educational tastings, supported many tea professionals at every level, sponsored numerous events, and always ranked among the foremost supporters of the World Tea Conference + Expo.

“Devan was the first tea importer to embrace the Take Me 2 Tea Expo, which later became the World Tea Conference + Expo,” said Bailes. “He exhibited with the largest space on the show floor, and he was a constant among the exhibitors and a must stop for all the newcomers to the show. He didn’t require a minimum or large order from attendees, and he would always stop and listen to all the dreams of the new folks who wanted to get into the tea business. That is what made him so special, and why he encompasses the spirt of the Tea Tycoons program – now called Devan Shah Tea Tycoons.”

Devan Shah International Tea Importers
Devan Shah at the World Tea Conference + Expo (Photo by: Questex / World Tea Conference + Expo)

Born a tea man, Shah’s life-long love affair with tea can be traced to his childhood summers in India, in a Nilgiri tea garden, where he gradually became intimately familiar with the workers and the work involved in growing, harvesting and manufacturing tea. In college, he took a degree in business and then swiftly climbed the rungs of the tea profession, starting as an assistant to a south Indian tea broker. In 1990 – a “sleepy” time in the tea industry – Shah immigrated to the United States to start a new life. That same year he married his wife Reena and founded International Tea Importers (called India Tea Importers at the time), one of America’s leading importers and distributors of specialty teas from around the world.

Shah’s Chado Tea Room business – which Shah acquired in 1994 as a single operation – now ranks among the country’s foremost tea shops. Shah was also known as the founder of the Los Angeles International Tea Festival, publisher of James Norwood Pratt’s Tea Dictionary, and an international juror of the Golden Leaf India Awards tea competition.

Devan Shah of ITI
Devan Shah (Photo: Courtesy of International Tea Importers)

Overall, as a tireless champion for the industry, Shah extended his love of tea to thousands and helped spearhead America’s tea renaissance and its greater place in the North American marketplace today.

About the ‘Devan Shah Tea Tycoons’ Competition

The Devan Shah Tea Tycoons is an exciting awards program – 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 program is an opportunity for new tea businesses to receive the ultimate in marketing exposure, as finalists pitch judges on the expo’s NxT stage – similar to television programs where entrepreneurs pitch their groundbreaking businesses.

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.

Nominations closed in January 2022 and were open to new tea business that met the competition's criteria.

Winners will be based on three categories – Unique Customer Relations, Sustainability and Innovation.

Honorees will receive recognition through the World Tea Conference & Expo, among other benefits, to support the growth of their venture.

In addition to having the Tea Tycoons program re-named after it founder, International Tea Importers is also a 2022 sponsor of the World Tea Conference + Expo, as well as an exhibitor.

Questions about the program or future competitions? Email FaithAnn Bailes, conference and content manager for the World Tea Conference + Expo, at [email protected].

Don't Miss 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, celebrating its 20th anniversary. The event will be co-located with Bar & Restaurant Expo, creating unique opportunities and synergy. Visit

To book your sponsorship or exhibit space at a future World Tea Conference + Expo, co-located with Bar & Restaurant Expo, contact:

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

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

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

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