LAS VEGAS, Nev.
Late at night in a Las Vegas hotel room at the height of World Tea Expo, the essence of tea is evident.
This gathering includes some of the most refined pallets in the world, explorers and passionate tea drinkers whose books, retail operations and opinions shape the American and Canadian consumer experience.
The mood is joyful. The room littered with tea-making apparatus, kilo sacks of green tea fresh from China with gaiwans on gongfu trays and kettles at the boil. Everyone has brought a favorite. Something new and exciting, exotic and exquisite. The teas vary widely and are expertly served in tiny porcelain cups. Slurping is expected followed by extemporaneous outbursts of beautiful prose describing every nuance from color and aroma to the lingering aftertaste. This real-time narration is honed by decades of traveling to every tea land on the globe, acquiring piles and piles of dried leaves for others to enjoy.
At most conventions corporate policy and competitive pressures would deny this pleasure.
Consider how unlikely it would be to find top-level automobile executives, aerospace engineers, oil men or Hollywood directors crowded together on the bed, sharing chairs and leaning against the dresser at 12 minutes after midnight extolling the best work of their fiercest competitors, openly revealing their sources of inspiration and supply.
Transparency in business does not come naturally. It is cultivated by enlightened executives whose success more closely mirrors the Tao than the Dow.
Tonight’s glimpse into the world of specialty tea is not unique. I experienced similar gatherings late nights in Dubai and Kolkata, in the high mountains of Darjeeling and the jungles of Assam.
Tea benefits from a global culture of sharing influenced since antiquity by the view that it is the greatest of gifts. Tonight our host sets the example as the most generous and transparent of all.
Dan Bolton is pictured against a background of tea gardens in the town of Coonoor, located in the foothills of the Nilgiri Mountains in Tamil Nadu, India.
Recent articles by Dan Bolton
The Wait is Over; Tea’s Time is Now
Specialty Coffee Retailer, November 14, 2013
Investors placed a $1 billion bet on tea retail in the past year, acquiring brands like Teavana (Starbucks) and Australia’s T2 (Unilever) following a 2012 round of venture capital investment in Canada’s DAVIDsTEA (Highland Consumer Fund) and private investment in Chicago-based Argo Tea (Terzian Enterprises).
The Whole Leaf: From Tea Garden to Consumer, in a Click
Fresh Cup, July 1, 2013
Just as independent outlets have been able to compete with international behemoths in the brick-and-mortar cafe world, a number of small, unique tea marketplaces are developing a presence online– and their main point of advantage is connecting buyers directly to tea growers
Tea Bar Success Leads to More Stores
Specialty Coffee Retailer, June 12, 2013
Twenty-five years ago every shop with an expensive European espresso machine, a friendly barista and a good location could count on lines of customers stretching out the door most mornings. Great tasting coffee drinks that could not be replicated at home combined with quick, friendly service to make specialty coffee special.
World Tea News, December 20, 2012
Standing on the steps of his state-of-the-art tea blending facility – with dignitaries, clients and well-wishers, his son and wife at his side – Manickarajah “Manik” Jayakumar embodies the American Dream. Since establishing QTrade Tea & Herbs as an in-home trader in 1994, Jayakumar has elevated the company to the largest supplier of organic teas in North America. His new 70,000 sq. ft. factory…more
Specialty Coffee Retailer, November 15, 2012
Starbucks Coffee Co. had many good reasons and enough cash to buy Peet’s Coffee & Tea this year. Instead, in its largest acquisition to date, the coffee company spent $620 million on Teavana Holdings, a 300-store, mall-based rival to its $1.4 billion Tazo Tea division.
Specialty Coffee Retailer, October 25, 2012
Convinced of tea’s health benefits and willing to experiment with different varieties in seeking superior taste, tea drinkers are visiting an expanding number of retail locations serving and selling packaged specialty tea. Rising affluence and the desire for convenience drive sales of hot and iced teas and have prompted Starbucks, DavidsTea, Argo Tea, Teavana and Unilever to open hundreds of new…more
Specialty Coffee Retailer, February 7, 2012
Well financed and newly energized competition is heating beverage retail to a boil. Remember when there were only three Starbucks in town? It was not that long ago. In January 2000 there were only 1,996 Starbucks in the entire country.
Specialty Coffee Retailer, November 11, 2010
Retailing tea was for generations as predictable as the gently rolling surf. Sales of tea bags rose and fell seasonally, with crests in the colder months and troughs in July and August. Predictable seas, that is, until five years ago when consumer interest in quality loose leaf teas surged due to media attention and a growing awareness of tea’s health benefits. The swell had been building since…more
Specialty Coffee Retailer, May 16, 2011
One sure fire way to minimize the impact of record high coffee prices is to sell more tea. Profits per cup top 85 percent at a time when coffee margins are falling. When considering a tea program recognize that customers entering the shop are looking for a hot caffeinated beverage.
World Tea News, May 17, 2011
Authorities halted the ichibancha (first flush) harvest in the vicinity of Minamiashigara last week after tests at five municipalities in Kanagawa Prefecture showed cesium readings greater than 500 Bq/kg (becquerels per kilogram). No contaminated tea is shipping from Japan but agricultural and commerce ministers now question the current radioactivity threshold. Additional tests this week are…more
Specialty Coffee Retailer, May 13, 2011
Get summer sales brewing with refreshing iced tea. Whether from concentrate or freshly brewed, iced tea is a refreshing addition to a summer menu. In its annual Foodservice Brief, market researchers at The NPD Group in Port Washington, N.Y., identified iced tea as “one of the top growth beverages” of 2011.
Specialty Coffee Retailer, November 6, 2009
The very second you step into a tea bar your body and mind find themselves at ease. The setting can be traditional Chinese, ultra-hip urban or homey. Ironically, what sets modern teahouses apart is a philosophy of quiet reflection that is ageless.