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  • Writer's pictureNeldon Hamblin

From the Strip to the Sip: Inside the 2024 World Tea Expo in Vegas

Hey, friends!! I was recently in Las Vegas, Nevada, for the 2024 World Tea Expo! I was lucky to be able to attend again this year and in my opinion, this was the greatest year yet.

My experience this year was leaps and bounds better than any previous year and honestly, I'm excited for next year, as I've heard some amazing rumors for next year’s expo. If last year were any indication of a thriving tea industry, this year's expo not only proved that, but also showed me that the tea market is exploding rapidly as more and more discover the wonderful world of tea.

As with last year, due to the larger amount of vendors, I was unable to visit or take photos of every booth- I took as many as I could, but unfortunately not every amazing piece of the expo is recorded here. I also attended the expo sessions, which were insightful, but as the wrap-up post here is just over 3,000 words, I decided to omit that and focus on the expo itself.

So, without further ado, let's get into this recap.

Day 0- the Bellagio Conservatory and the Opening Night Reception:

Today, I met up with Chase, Ana, Nicole, and Kelly for a bit of pre-expo fun. We decided to get breakfast together before heading to the Bellagio Conservatory to see their new tea-themed spring display, Tea and Tulips. Being the tea nerd I am, I had to get pictures there. Meeting Kelly for the first time was also honestly amazing and years in the making, as Kelly has long been one of the biggest supporters of my blog. Plus, connecting with friends is always such a fun time, so enjoying this morning was lovely.

The Gang (Nicole, Chase, Ana, myself, and Kelly)

We all decided to head to the Opening Night Reception at the Resorts World Hotel, specifically at the Fuhu Bar. The party was phenomenally fun, with great pre-expo networking going on. At times, it was shoulder-to-shoulder, but honestly it was more fun than I've had in a long time. Meeting other tea people, like Megan of Felicity Loft tea and Helen of Inoki Bathhouse, while partying and drinking outdoors, was such an amazing experience. I also ran into Faith, the content manager for Questex, James Norwood Pratt, Jeff Fuchs, and others at the event.

After the party, Chase, Nicole, Ana and I had a lovely dinner at Resorts World and enjoyed hitting the roulette tables and slots. It was a lovely night and a great way to “pre-game” the World Tea Expo.

Day 1: March 19th, 2024

Today was the official first day of the expo, and boy was it exciting. There are probably close to double the amount of vendors in the expo hall compared to last year! Ana, Chase, Nicole, and I made our way to the Tea Bar to get our tasting cups, and we decided to sample some of the teas there.

This year, the focus was on primarily international teas, including teas from Myanmar and South Korea at the Tea Bar. I tasted a delicious Korean green tea, an oolong from Myanmar, a tippy black tea from Myanmar, and a green tea from Myanmar at the booth. Also sampled was the Piña Colada blended tea from Dethlefsen & Balk. I'll be entirely honest with you, I didn't realize Myanmar grew tea, with all of the unfortunate conflicts occurring there- so, as I'll get into it more later, it was an amazing surprise to sample Myanmar teas. Those, along with the Korean teas, were some of the best I've ever had.

After mingling at the tea bar and saying “hi” to familiar faces, like Phil Holmans of World Tea House or Sharyn Johnston of the Australian Tea Masters, we made our way to the rest of the expo floor. I went straight for the Chinese Tea section, as that's where my specialty lies, and it was quite impressive. My favorite booth in the Chinese Tea section was probably Lapsang Store (ZhengShanTang), as I've long had a lovely relationship with them. They were actually the first Chinese tea company, and tea company in general, to send me free samples for review back in 2020 and I was one of their first international customers, so they hold a special place in my heart. Meeting Sang and tasting their jasmine green tea, their lapsang souchong, and their famed jin jun mei was a real treat, especially being able to share it with close tea friends.

After them, we visited Seven Teahouse, a favorite from last year. They had an absolutely phenomenal jasmine black tea as well as a deliciously sweet red date shou puerh. We sampled their different teas, including the above mentioned as well as a Yunnan white tea and a rose black tea. If I had to pick a favorite from this booth, it'd be the red date puerh or the rose black tea- the rose flavor came through nicely and wasn't overpowering or Avon-perfume-like. It was lovely!

We then headed down the line, stopping at booths like Huangshan SongLuo tea company, ORTea, Tea Tell Truth (a favorite of mine, where Jia generously sampled some of her teas, like her new Mandarin white tea), and JingWei Fu Cha, which was absolutely amazing. We eventually made our way to the Japanese Tea Section.

The Japanese Tea section was larger than in years past as well, with more vendors from Shizuoka attending than in years past. We started with an old favorite, the specialty tea tasting with Noli Ergas of Sugimoto Teas. While there, we sampled tencha, sencha, matcha, and sobacha. We also sampled the new purple tea from Sugimoto Tea, their Sencha Sun Rouge, which Julia (such an amazing person) demonstrated its color-changing abilities by adding a few drops of lemon juice to our cups, causing the PH to change and a color shift to a deliciously vibrant purple-pink. After Sugimoto, we decided to take tomorrow to explore the Japanese section more in-depth, and set our sights on seeing the other booths.

We stopped by Shining Seas Ingredients, seeing their wide variety of herbs and ingredients for blending teas, and then ran into Nepal Tea's booth. Nishchal is such an amazing person and it was great seeing him again and catching up. We sampled their kumari gold, white Prakash, and an exclusive upcoming tea: a true oolong from Nepal, the first of its kind. It was so special. We also tasted their high mountain, Himalaya black tea (grown at 2,678m!), which was impressively smooth and sweet, lacking astringency but being bold at the same time. After Nepal Tea, we saw Teavilla and sampled their mango black tea, which was quite a refreshing and tasty blend. Next was LimpidTea, who offer more luxury-oriented teas. Their teas, while tasty, are higher in price than most brands. I enjoyed their stuff, and their Ma Tou Yan was quite delicious.

Silk & Jade Teahouse had some lovely oolongs we sampled- their Taiwanese amber oolong is one of the better examples I've ever tasted, plus their packaging was gorgeous. After them, we made our way to the Myanmar teas.

So, for context, Myanmar is a beautiful country with a rich and storied culture, but there have been several conflicts in the past few decades. Myanmar, formerly called “Burma” by the west, has been in an ongoing and oft brutal civil war since 1948, with renewed fighting occurring In 2021 and remaining ever since. I won't get too into that here, but I felt some context behind Myanmar's history was necessary to understand how amazing and spectacular it is to have the Myanmar tea industry represented (I actually have an upcoming post on this, possibly even more, so keep your eyes peeled).

That being said, the booths for Myanmar were amazing. The Myanmar green sticky rice tea (hlaw-thin nant) was mind-blowing. The flavor of the sticky rice herb comes through amazingly, but the green tea itself is so impressively sweet and floral that I ended up purchasing a small bag for myself. Myanmar also produces some stellar black teas- the ancient tree hongcha, made from tea trees 300-800 years old, was phenomenal. It had a lovely, sweet date and honey flavor with a nice, malty undertone- yet it was also impressively smooth. The astringency was there, but balanced to make the sweetness of the tea not too cloying. What most impressed me, however, was the revelation that Myanmar does puerh. I had not considered it at all, but geographically it makes total sense. Seeing puerh cakes, both sheng and shou, from Myanmar, was quite a shock- but a welcomed one. From my impressions at the booths, Myanmar seems to be a sort-of hidden gem in the tea world, and one I fully expect to explore more.

After Myanmar, I went to the Vietnamese tea booths. One was extremely pleasant and exciting, and they had some absolutely delicious Vietnamese oolongs.

Next came my favorite part of the day: the Korean tea booth, Dojae Tea. I have long maintained that Korean teas are the best out there and will always make that claim- I've never had a bad or even mediocre experience with a Korean tea, especially not from Hadong. Dojae tea had an amazing assortment of Korean teas and tisanes, including my all-time favorite tea, yuja hongcha. They had a yuja hongcha, hongcha, nokcha, mistletoe tea, wildpear tea, hojicha, and a plain yuja tisane. Reader, I'm not kidding when I say this- I broke down and bought $40 worth of the yuja hongcha alone. It's just that tasty- the slightly peppery flavor of a Korean black tea pairs quite well with the uplifting citrus of the yuja. They were such kind people at the booth, too, and were genuinely excited to be there and to showcase their products. Dojae tea is definitely on my list of companies to watch and order more from.

After Dojae, we explored and stopped by Brewix Tea’s booth. Brewix offers amazing blended teas and tisanes, and their blends were impressive. Even after 7hrs of exhibiting, their blends still smelled incredibly potent. Their chocolate elixir was amazing.

Next up, I ran into Brook37, a luxury-oriented brand that aims to provide an affordable luxury experience with their teas, sourcing single-origin and small batch teas from India. In the words of Mou, their founder, they aim to be like the “Chanel of teas,” and boy does their packaging reflect that. Their tisanes were delicious, and later that evening, I attended an exclusive invite-only after party hosted by Brook37 at the Venetian (more on that later).

After them, as it was approaching 6pm, I hit up 2 more booths- Eastern Elm Teaware, to see their amazing teawares, and Aroma Tea House, based in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Their selection of puerh and other teas is quite impressive, but what really stood out was their lychee black tea and their Yunnan white tea- both of which they cold brewed. These were both insanely delicious, especially that lychee black- the lychee paired well with the maltier notes of the black tea, but didn't overpower the flavor.

After the expo, we were invited to Brook37's after party- they served us tea and tea cocktails and mocktails. It was a lovely way to connect and network with fellow tea lovers as well as learn more about Brook37's mission in a more intimate setting. Ana, Chase, Nicole and myself all then went and had a fun night out on the town, exploring the Venetian, the Horseshoe, the Mirage, and the lovely vintage-Vegas-feeling Casino Royale.

Here is the obligatory Day 1 haul photo:

Day 1 Tea Haul

Day 2: March 20th, 2024

It's day 2 of the World Tea Expo, or the final day. For today, we decided to hit the Japanese Tea section more closely as well as explore any of the other booths we’d missed, plus a bit of the bar and restaurant expo side.

To start, we went to Osada Tea Japan's booth. Osada was quite impressive- they had Nadeshiko (a fermented tea, see my post on Nadeshiko here)!! Their nadeshiko was lovely, nice and smooth with a nice honey base note. Their matcha latte and matchas both were delicious, as well.

Next up was Maruzen Tea Co, Ltd., also from Shizuoka. Their display was eye-catching, as they had arranged the gyokuro and sencha leaves to look like a heart. Their Hajimarino Mori green tea is the greatest sencha I've yet tasted- no joke. It had a lovely mango juiciness to it that made it almost feel flavored. Their other sencha had a lovely nuttiness to it, almost almond and dancong-like, and the third was pleasantly umami-bomby.

What was most impressive with them, however, was the bottled tea selection from Ibuki Tea. They had a smoked wakoucha (Japanese black tea), a Koushun bottled tea, and a 2022 vintage green tea which was a straight umami punch to the tongue- pleasantly salty and sweet. Their smoked wakoucha was phenomenal, lacking bitterness that Japanese wakoucha can have, as well as having a pleasant cherry wood undertone from the smoking. Seriously, these bottled drinks were impressive, and the smoked wakoucha could be an amazing alternative to a smoky alcohol.

After them, we hit Kagoshima Seicha, sampling their genmaicha and sencha. They also had delicious teas. We also spoke with the Shizuoka Tea Association, which was lovely. Networking with them and learning more about Shizuoka's tea culture was very exciting and a highlight of the expo for sure.

Chikiriya Tea House had a lovely hojicha and matcha milk jam to sample, as well as a matcha cake, matcha and hojicha coated almonds, and genmaicha matcha to sample. Their selection was lovely and fun.

The final Japanese booth we went to was Marumatsu Seicha, a company I'd previously met and loved at the 2022 World Tea Expo. They had a lovely hojicha and coconut milk drink, and were promoting their line of Japanese teas with healthy ingredients, like miso and Japanese ginger. Their teas are so delicious and honestly that hojicha coconut milk drink is something I see becoming massively popular in the US as an alternative to a morning Chai latte.

Being thoroughly caffeinated by the Japanese green teas, we took a brief detour through the Bar and Restaurant Expo, looking for snacks and booze. Aphrodise's rosé was honestly the best I've had, wonderfully crisp yet sweet and refreshing. We found a booth offering bison burger quarters, as well as a favorite booth of ours, TaterKegs, and got a tater to taste. We also stopped by El Yucateco Hot Sauce, which had an absolutely delicious pineapple habanero margarita, sampling their sauces with chips. After them, Tajín was the next booth. They had their chamoy, hot sauces, and seasoning for testing, including a hummus with tajín, tajín chamoy and nuts and seeds, and a tajíin fruit blend. Feeling refreshed, we returned to the tea side for the final few hours of the expo.

Harney And Sons is always a favorite and this year, I sampled their Raspberry Lemonade juice drink. This was very refreshing, having a nice lemony tartness to it, but a pleasant floral tea flavor behind it. The raspberry came through, too, but it was overall more floral than fruity, in my opinion- still deliciously refreshing though!

Seven Senses organic Greek teas was the next stop. They gave everyone samples of their oregano tea last year, and talking with them this year was amazing. Their Greek Mountain Tea, which was sampled as a cold brew, was phenomenal- I'd never had Greek mountain tea before, so they loaded me up with some samples to take and try at home in various different ways.

After them, we headed to Shen Xian Tea, a favorite from last year as well. Their Taiwanese oolongs are delicious, and this year they had a slightly larger selection, including bug-bitten oolongs (in 2023, their 2022 harvest hadn't been visited by the tea jassids, so they didn't have bug-bitten that year; however, the 2023 harvest was graced by the bugs) and a lovely charcoal roasted oolong.

SerendipiTEA was there this year, too. I sampled some of their Buccaneer Black Tea, a blend of toasted coconut, chocolate, vanilla, and black tea- this was a nice pick-me-up towards the end of the day. Also visited was Portal Tea Company, who had an absolutely phenomenal coconut Chai concentrate. They served me some of their coconut Chai with coconut milk and my goodness was it decadent.

At the end of the expo, I picked up some new teaware from Eastern Elm, including this gorgeous side handled teapot set and an absolutely adorable mini celadon gaiwan. I also purchased some fu cha (I'll have a separate post there as I'm now the owner of the only one of this fu cha in America) and another box of the Yuja hongcha.

My day two haul is too large to post, but here's a picture of some of the spread as well as the bag full of tea I ended up purchasing or receiving samples of and flying home with. All-in-all, it was about 10lbs of tea (about 4.5kg!).

Final Thoughts:

World Tea Expo 2024 was definitely one for the books! Everything went extremely smoothly and there were no issues at all. As I had mentioned last year, to me, World Tea Expo represents this aspect in a way that is difficult to describe in words- my favorite part of the expo is networking and enjoying qualit-Tea time with friends in the industry. I am a firm believer that the tea industry thrives with a strong sense of community and open arms to all those interested in joining, and this year's expo really cemented that. Community, fostering life-long friendships and relationships with others who share a similar interest will always be a massive draw to the world of tea and really make the World Tea Expo a special place to be. I look forward to seeing you again at the World Tea Expo 2025, which will be held March 24th-26th, 2025 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Cheers, friends, and thank you all for the epic adventure that was World Tea Expo 2024!

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