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The booths at the World Tea Expo/Healthy Beverage Expo, co-located at the Las Vegas Convention Center June 7-9, are overflowing with a wide variety of their newest products, including loose teas, tea bags, teaware, tea-making and -dispensing machines, and even accessories and apparel to complement the tea drinker’s lifestyle, among them T-shirts from Las Vegas-based purveyor boutique company Indie Tea (or is it a tea shirt?).
Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Runa Tea, which sells Ecaudorian guayusa (a native Amazonian tree leaf brewed like tea for millennia), described by Sales Manager-Rocky Mountains Sean Makau as having a “super-earthy” but smooth flavor, now offers bottled ice tea in such flavors as Mint, Hibiscus-Berry and Lemon-Lemongrass, and energy drinks, in addition to its lines of loose tea and tea bags.
Bunn-O-Matic Corp., based in Springfield, Ill., was showing off its latest “slimline” tea dispensers for foodservice, which VP of Sales Ric Martin said were gaining popularity at restaurants, c-stores and even at grocers like Whole Foods Market. The reason for this surge in interest in ice tea in a range of varieties and flavors, according to Martin, is consumers’ shift from carbonated soft drinks toward beverages they perceive as healthier. Not present at the company’s booth, but currently in the works, are prototype multi-temperature machines that can brew three cups of hot tea at once, he added.
For Lisa Brown, principal of Richmond Hill, Ga.-based Hale Tea Co., rooibos from her native South Africa is a big focus. The company, more than half of whose business is private label, now offers tea cocktail mixes that consumers can sweeten however they like. Used to the naturally sweet beverages of her home country, Brown said she had converted many people from heavily sugar-sweetened drinks – quite a feat in the Southeast, with its long tradition of sweet tea. An unsweetened iced rooibos flavored with vanilla and sunflower petals proved her point to this taster.
Over at the Adagio Tea booth, Wholesale Sales Manager and Tea Taster Cynthia Fazekas, sporting a “Tea Deviant” tattoo on her arm, was unsurprisingly enthusiastic about the company’s newest offering, Zodiac tea blends designed to align with the personality profile associated with each astrological sign. The collaboration with artist Inguna Trepsa went so well, in fact, the company is currently working with her on developing another set, according to Fazekas. Adagio plans to position the product line as a lifestyle beverage rather than a wellness tea, she added, noting that Zodiac is fun and makes a great gift, as well as offering a great way to capture that needed “me moment.”
Marilyn Matsuba, marketing manager for Gardena, Calif.-based Zojirushi America Corp. described the company’s water boiler and warmer, long on the market in Asia, as being a convenient method of boiling water and then keeping it at a desired temperature for tea-making until unplugged – a must for certain teas that are optimally steeped at temperatures below boiling. Ruminating on the rise of interest in specialty teas among American consumers, Matsuba noted, “As they drink more tea, they realize what good tea is.”
Alina Segura, account manager at Alhambra, Calif.-based Sungarden Tea, was happy to demonstrate the company’s Hario Filter-n Bottle, which is filled with room-temperature water that’s then refrigerated for five to six hours. A sample of Cactus Nectar tea brewed in this manner served as an effective selling tool.
At Huntington Beach, Calif.-based Takeya’s booth, Tea Specialist Alexis Siemons touted Flash Chill Iced Teas in such flavors as Coconut Lime Rooibos and Tropical Black. The all-natural, pre-measured whole-leaf line features easy instructions and currently consists of two green, two black and two herbal varieties, but more are on the way, according to Siemons, who noted that the beverages were a snap to prepare in the company’s new Flash Chill Iced Tea Maker, which enables consumers to fresh-brew iced tea in mere minutes.
Corona, Calif.-based LongRun Tea, billed as the No. 1 tea brand in China, is one of the first to introduce a line of flavored pu-erh teas, including strawberry, noted CEO Luke L. Lee. Pu-erh, a dark fermented tea from the Yunnan province of China, is gradually gaining visibility in the United States, where it’s sold by such high-profile players as Teavana.
Hamburg, Germany-based Finum displayed its paper filters, which, according to Laura Brumbagh of The Tea Spot, in Boulder, Colo.,allowed tea drinkers to reap the advantages of loose-leaf tea but avail themselves of the convenience of tea bags. She also directed attention to the company’s steepers, including a travel model, which considerably slow the steeping process to prevent teas from becoming bitter.
Octavia Tea, a specialty tea wholesaler in Batavia, Ill., tantalized with a Caramel Toffee-flavored tea, part of a forthcoming line that the company said was about two months away from debuting, while at Chicago-based Tea Gschwender’s booth, President Agnieszka Rapacz spotlighted her company’s stainless steel filters, which feature a fine mesh and fit on any size teapot.
In response to requests from customers of its bulk teas, Brookfield, Conn.-based Simpson & Vail has introduced retail packaging of such items as its dessert rooibos teas, available in such mouthwatering flavors as Red Velvet Cupcake and Almond Sugar Cookie, the company’s Cyndi Harron explained. In other new packaging news, Calistoga, Calif.-based Tejava,whose unsweetened product, handpicked in Java, has won the North American Tea Championships in 2011, 2012 and 2013, now comes in a new18-ounce tea leaf-accented PET bottle, and Alvita Teas, a brand of American Fork, Utah-based Twinlab, has launched earth-friendly packaging made from 100 percent paperboard, as well as adding Turmeric and Passionflower varieties to its extensive herbal tea lineup. The company is also in the process of transitioning its entire 53-SKU line to organic, a process it expects to be complete by the end of this year.
Omega Infusion, a brand of Paramus, N.J.-based Mycell Technologies that currently offers a four-SKU line of omega-3-infused flavored waters, is due to roll out its new Omega Infusion Shot product in five fruit-flavored varieties, at Kmart – and maybe Walmart – in the coming months.
Occupying pride of place at the Alpha Dominche booth was the Salt Lake City, Utah-based company’s SteamPunk 4.0, which according to the company, can brew four cups of coffee or tea at the same time, improving employee efficiency and workflow while delivering a high-quality, custom-brewed beverage in less time.
To close this tour of new and emerging offerings at the World Tea Expo/Healthy Beverage Expo on a hopeful and philanthropic note, Maggie Le Beau, founder of Nepali Tea Traders, was passionate about the mission of the 6-month-old company: Every purchase of its products helps Nepali tea farmers receive fair prices for their crops and a fair share of the profits, enabling them to better support their families and aiding the impoverished country’s overall economy. Additionally, the Denver-based company shares a portion of its proceeds with the Nepali Youth Foundation. Available items include white tea, spiced black tea and organic black tea, which Le Beau describes as having a taste similar to that of Darjeeling.