gail gastelu, the tea house times, samantha hammer mitchell, world tea expo, fw media
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March, 2015
SAMANTHA HAMMER MITCHELL, Event Director, World Tea Expo

GAIL GASTELU, THE TEA HOUSE TIMES: Hello everyone! It is my pleasure to introduce you to the new event director for World Tea Expo, Samantha Hammer Mitchell (photo below).

Sam is an event management professional with more than 20 years of experience producing global trade shows and conferences. She is committed to creating business- and community-enhancing opportunities for F+W, the parent company of World Tea Expo. In her role as event director, she assumes responsibility to connect the tea community to industry suppliers and resources, education, news, competitions, awards, and essential networking to drive the industry forward.

Thank you, Sam, for taking time for this interview as we all prepare for the biggest event in tea for the year; the 2015 World Tea Expo! 

SAM: Thank you, Gail. It’s my pleasure!

GAIL: I had the opportunity of meeting Sam for dinner last year during the 2014 World Tea Expo in Long Beach, California. When we first met, I learned that Sam is based out of New Jersey. A Jersey girl myself, we instantly connected and recently reunited on the east coast to chat about tea! So, Sam, before we go any further, I am sure everyone would like to know about your personal tea habits. Do you have a favorite tea? How do you like your tea in cooler months and warmer months?

SAM: It’s been a lot of fun diving into tea in this new role, and learning and experiencing so many different types of tea. Green tea is probably my favorite, and I’ve gotten in the habit of having a cup every day. I’ve also caught onto tea and chocolate, which Donna Fellman [the online education director for World Tea Academy] introduced me to – and now I am hooked. Spending time at the beach, I also plan on discovering some of the new RTDs this summer that look refreshing and delicious, and that will be great to throw in the cooler.

GAIL: That’s great, you fit right in! Tell us about the location and dates for the 2015 World Tea Expo.

SAM: World Tea Expo is taking place once again in Long Beach, California at the Long Beach Convention Center, May 6 – 8, 2015.

Long Beach was an ideal location last year with the wonderful weather and attractions. Plus, the Southern California region in general is comprised of a variety of specialty tea companies and business opportunities. We’re definitely looking forward to being in Long Beach and at the Long Beach Convention Center again – both are beautiful venues and great places to conduct business and meet new people from the global tea community.

And the agenda and info for registering or becoming an exhibitor is online at We also have advance registration pricing, which ends April 16, so we encourage everyone to register early.

GAIL: Long Beach was a great location last year. (For anyone interested in reading more about the show’s success, click here to read my post-show coverage from 2014.)  I personally enjoyed the warm, beautiful location and welcoming, vibrant atmosphere tea people always enjoy together. There was definitely an increase in attendance and increase in business for all exhibitors and attendees.

Outside of the normal show floor business and education, how will the event support networking?

SAM: World Tea Expo is all about opportunities for networking, in addition to the product-filled expo and the education. There are dozens of exciting events and networking opportunities throughout the conference – many activities and chances to meet people in the tea community, as well as in vertical markets like grocery, gourmet retail, c-stores, and more. And there are also many Affiliate Events throughout the week too, all of which are geared around creating business opportunities and profits through tea.

World Tea Expo Show Floor

GAIL: I must say that the U.S. tea community has grown up together thanks to the support of World Tea Expo as an important and respected driving force for the tea industry. 

Being new to our community, Sam, I feel it is important to let everyone know that you and the entire World Tea team are dedicated to advancing our industry through the next stage of growth, which will be sustained by many of the leaders who have supported World Tea Expo for so many years.

Please tell us what to expect at World Tea Expo this year. In general, has anything changed?

SAM: The World Tea Expo community can expect a dynamic and ever expanding program covering business-building strategies, “what’s next” in tea, new products and distribution channels, and how to capitalize on tea’s massive growth in the marketplace.

One new highlight is “Tea Up for Health,” an exciting, education track and Expo pavilion dedicated to health and wellness opportunities. The track will include informative sessions on the latest research and consumer trends, types of teas and their health benefits, as well as “how to” information about product development and RTDs, issues with labeling, and using the health message to sell tea and tea-based products. A dedicated area on the Expo floor will feature tea products of all kinds that have been designed, developed or marketed to highlight the health advantages of tea.

In addition to “Tea Up for Health,” World Tea Expo offers a jam-packed agenda. Some of the highlights include: Focused Tea Tastings; Skill Building Workshops; The North American Tea Championship Winners Tasting Circle; the World Origin Tasting Tour; the Tea Business Boot Camp; and World Tea Academy LIVE!.

Each year, World Tea Expo also reviews and selects the very best new tea and related products from among the many exhibitors for the Best New Product Awards. And the winners are typically announced before the show.

GAIL: This is great because the tea community looks forward to these core events and educational offerings, and recognizes their importance and contribution to successful business overall. Tell me more about this year’s “Tea Up for Health.”

SAM: With "Tea Up for Health,” we’re essentially building on World Tea Expo’s long tradition of exploring wellness and driving the marketplace in fresh news ways. It’s an opportunity for attendees to explore and discuss tea and health business opportunities, new products and related industry issues. And it’s just one program of World Tea Expo 2015, which will be of interest to those that want to target the health-minded consumer through tea products.

GAIL: The health aspects of tea are definitely a contributing factor and driving force for our industry. Thanks to the vast amount of positive media in all forms and the ever-growing pool of scientific studies, evidence, and support, the health benefits of tea will continue to fuel the growth of tea not only as a beverage but as an ingredient in more and more products for nutritional support and beauty as well. Tell us about some of the educational sessions that will help attendees to learn more about the health benefits of tea.

SAM: There are many great sessions focused on health through the “Tea Up for Health” education track. For example, Melinda Hemmelgarn, M.S., R.D., a registered dietitian, consumer advocate and educator, better known as The Food Sleuth, will present a session called “UncertainTEA: Helping Consumers Navigate Tea Choices for Optimum Health and SustainabiliTEA.”

Melinda’s presentation is one of many must-attend sessions in the “Teas Up for Health” education track, which also includes topics like: Herbal and Medicinal “Tea”; Real Functional Benefits of Tea; Caffeine and Theanine, and many more.

In a session called “The Healing Power of Tea: Ancient Roots, Scientific Branches,” Ken Cohen, founder of the Qigong Research & Practice Center, will translate the unknown health benefits of tea described in the 16th century classic of Chinese herbal medicine, Ben Cao Gang Mu, the Roots and Herbs Compendium. Cohen will then examine how modern science confirms this ancient wisdom. The session will also include a survey of the key concepts and supportive research – in easy to understand terms – with a special emphasis on heart disease and cancer.

Another example of one of the tea and health sessions is “Wellness Teas: What You Need to Know to Safely, Effectively, Legally Blend and Market Tea and Herbs.” This class will be presented by Toffler Niemuth, the founder and developer of Belight Tea, World Vitae, who says wellness teas and herbs are often overlooked by Camellia Sinensis devotees. However, wellness teas and herbs are central to what many consumers think of as “tea.”

These are just a few examples, and we’re excited about the complete “Tea Up for Health” line-up.

GAIL: Excellent! I know many tea shop owners struggle with the right words to help their customers understand the health benefits of tea since the scientific terminology can be confusing. But, the basic message that tea is indeed healthy is sometimes enough for the customer to know – when it is explained in simple terms that are understandable – or in comparison to other foods and good nutrients for the body.

Soooo, let’s talk about something else now. What about the World Tea Awards? Will this continue?

SAM: Yes! The highly successful World Tea Awards is returning this May to celebrate the best and the brightest in the tea industry, recognizing a broad range of key categories. The dinner and ceremony will be held again on the historic Queen Mary ship, and the event is expected to sell out to a room of 300+ tea industry influencers from around the globe. It’s a night of glamour and industry-recognition for the tea community, and we could not be more pleased to present this event again, helping drive the industry forward.

Sponsors from 2014 World Tea Awards + George Jage & Gail Gastelu, far right.

GAIL: I am incredibly proud to have played a role in creating and co-hosting the inaugural World Tea Awards in 2014. It was a fun and incredibly rewarding night as leaders in the tea industry were recognized for their outstanding work through an “Oscars/Academy Award” style night aboard the opulent Queen Mary in Long Beach. 

  The 2015 World Tea Awards will again take place aboard the Queen Mary.

SAM: Yes, it was one of the highlights of World Tea Expo 2014, and we truly appreciate your help last year and the support of the industry, who really embraced the World Tea Awards. We can’t wait for this year’s program!

GAIL: Thank you for your time, Sam. Before we close out this interview, I will ask if there is anything else you would like to add or share about World Tea Expo 2015.

SAM: Yes, World Tea Expo is so grateful to the tea community for making this event what it is today. It’s a convergence of 4,000 people all focused 100 percent on premium teas and related products, enhancing and building the industry further, defining and exploring standards, launching new products, discussing tea retail strategies, finding new ways to succeed, recognizing achievements, and so much more. We are honored to serve the tea community and allied vertical markets, and we can’t wait to see everyone at the upcoming event, May 6 – 8 in Long Beach at the Long Beach Convention Center.

GAIL: Thank you, Sam.

Please join me by extending a warm welcome to Sam in person at the 2015 World Tea Expo. Let’s join hands to keep to the amazing path of growth and huge benefits expected for the tea industry in the coming years. 

Welcome Sam! You have my support as an exhibitor, media sponsor, and fellow Jersey-girl! 

And….I look forward to seeing you and everyone else at the 2015 Word Tea Expo in Long Beach, California, May 6 - 8!



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