george jage, kim jage, world tea media, world tea expo, f&w media
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Tea House Times Interview with
George Jage, Founder & Director
& Kim Jage, Marketing & Sales Director
World Tea Media – organizers of World Tea Expo, World Tea East, the North American Tea Championship & World Tea News

 

World Tea Expo celebrated its 10 year anniversary this year.  In the last 10 years, more than 33,000 people have attended the Expo, to meet with more than 1,700 tea and related product suppliers in more than 206,000 net square feet of space.

In fact, to recognize the milestone 10-year anniversary of World Tea Expo, as well as leadership and dedication for tea, George and Kim Jage were presented with a special World Tea Award, presented by the global tea community and the exhibitors of World Tea Expo at the recent event.  The award was presented during a special reception for attendees on the evening of June 2, and it was organized and presented by Gail Gastelu, publisher of The Tea House Times, who worked with exhibitors and key leaders to coordinate the award.  FaithAnn Bailes, part of the original SFG Group that organized World Tea Expo; tea industry author James Norwood Pratt; and World Tea Expo Advisory Board, Beth Johnston of Teas Etc., helped present the crystal globe statuette that featured an etching of the World Tea Expo 10-year anniversary logo.

 

(Photo LtoR: Gail, Beth, FaithAnn, Norwood, Kim, George)

For more on the award presentation and exhibitor commentary, click here.

For more 2012 post show coverage, click here.

 

We chat with George and Kim to learn more about this 10-year milestone.

GAIL GASTELU/THE TEA HOUSE TIMES:  In my last interview with you George, we chatted about World Tea Media’s acquisition by F&W Media, Inc. and the positive growth and other benefits this will bring.  Today, I would like for us to focus more on the 10-year anniversary of World Tea Expo.  This is a very exciting year, and tea industry peers were eager to share in the excitement of the anniversary celebration on June 2 during the networking reception at World Tea Expo in Las Vegas, Nev.  How are you two feeling right now?



GEORGE JAGE/WORLD TEA MEDIA:  I feel like I’m on a rollercoaster that never stops!  I was truly humbled by the kindness and generosity of the people involved in honoring Kim and I, and the community as a whole at the 10-year celebration.  It has never been about us, and I have truly been grateful that we have found ourselves in a position to be of service to so many wonderful and amazing people.  There were and are way too many people to thank, and the success of the show can only fractionally be attributed to Kim and I.  It has been the support, loyalty and passion of those in the industry that made the Expo what it has become.


GAIL:  By the numbers, we know how nicely this show has grown over the years.  But so many people count you as friends, including me.  So, I would like to make this interview a little more personal for a change.  On a more personal note, how have you grown as a team?

GEORGE:  And we consider you more than just a friend, Gail, you are part of our extended tea family!  Running trade shows is an evolutionary thing.  Each year we need to get better, more innovative, more entertaining and more compelling.  In the trade show industry, we often say we are only as good as our last movie, and have always raised the bar every year we did the show.  It was really a big challenge we set for ourselves, to create 100 percent all new educational content for the 10 year anniversary, but it clearly was a success with a record number of attendees taking classes. 

KIM:
As a collective and small team, it’s imperative that each member understand the industry we serve as well as understand how each of us contributes to the whole.  For many years, it was George and me directing every aspect of the business.  We were the ones that knew the market best.  Now, however, we’re a well oiled machine.  Each member directs and contributes to the ideation, formulation and success of our events equally.  No one just does their job. Instead, everyone is committed to the vision of the company because they too love the industry and have learned from it.  We’re lucky.

GAIL:
  I remember listening to an interview, years ago; someone interviewed George and he said he is in the “trade show industry.”  I think it is pretty safe to say you are now in the tea industry, but of course you do excel in trade shows!  With so many successful events, including World Tea Expo, World Tea East, the North American Tea Championship, and the addition of World Tea News, tell us now about your own tea passion and/or your passion for making this such an impressive show.


GEORGE:  I still am not sure I can answer that question definitely, but I would say today we are an integrated media company focused on delivering exceptional content and being the trusted leader for the specialty tea industry.  From World Tea Expo, we built World Tea News and then the World Tea Championship (now the North American Tea Championship), and we rebranded the whole as World Tea Media.  Now that we are part of the F+W Media family, we have more access to the resources we have longed for, to continue to offer more products and services to catalyze growth for the companies we serve.

KIM: Our job is to drive business and fuel growth for the specialty tea market. Each product, service, and event supports that mission.  My underlying passion is simpler. I had my first cup of real tea in China years ago.  Since then, everything I do is in attempt to re-experience that cup and share it with others. 

GAIL:
  The agendas for this year’s World Tea Expo and World Tea East are quite impressive.  Tell us about something that particularly excites you, personally.


GEORGE:  I realized what excites me doesn’t always excite the community this year as I engineered the development of three classes I felt critical to put in the forefront of people’s minds.  The first was a three-panel session on sustainability and transparency with the panels comprised of the growers, importers and certifiers.  This ended up being a great session, but had a low attendance.  The second was a panel to discuss whether there is a need to regulate our establish guidelines for the amount of tea in RTD teas.  The last, I took on personally to moderate a panel and discuss “Will Tea Be as Big as Coffee?”  The short answer to that question is yes, and sooner than you think.  The long answer is that we as an industry need to be focusing on gaining throat share of consumers who are desperately looking for healthy beverages, opening new channels for consumers to experience quality tea (note emphasis on quality), and making tea the beverage of choice for Americans.

KIM: Wu-Wo excited me.  I wanted to do it so badly at World Tea Expo and, frankly, argued for it.  The Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony is a ceremony of Taiwanese origin that encourages all people regardless of tea expertise, age, sex, nationality or wealth to participate.  It is a ceremony wherein participants simultaneously serve and receive tea – silently.  Everyone that wanted to participate had to bring their own accoutrements and favorite tea.  About 100 delegates signed-up to participate but only about 80 actually did.  Nevertheless, it was powerful – a circle of strangers sharing tea silently.  People were crying, it was beautiful.  I was crying and so happy to witness the exchange.

World Tea East excites me in its totality.  It’s a new show.  As such, it embodies a thrilling, palpable energy as exhibitors and attendees alike can actually feel they are creating something.  And it’s small.  It reminds me of the beginnings of World Tea Expo – when everyone knew everyone else, and when everyone worked toward a common goal, to grow.

GAIL:  World Tea Expo instated a “No Repeat” policy for the 40+ in-depth, hands-on educational seminars, skill-building workshops, technical sessions and focused tastings. The Expo’s entire 2012 curriculum covered new ground and the hottest topics facing the industry.  Name a few topics that you feel are the most important or trending topics of the moment.  And, what would you say are the must attend sessions for the upcoming World Tea East, Oct. 2-3, in Philadelphia.

GEORGE:  I think I am either answering the questions ahead of you asking, or you are really good at leading the witness!  I am really excited that we will be offering the full New Business Boot Camp and the World Origin Tasting Tour at East.  We originally wanted to keep this as an exclusive part of the Expo, but because of high demand, it sold out quickly.  This is one of our most engaging, entertaining and valuable programs.  They are held prior to the actual main conference and exhibition start.

KIM: The Forum on the Future of Traditional/Victorian Tea Rooms will be a hot topic. We now know Starbucks is opening a dedicated tea retail store.  Over recent years, we’ve witnessed the numerous openings of contemporary and Asian tea lounges.  So what is the future of Victorian tea rooms?  I hope it is a bright one.  Ms. Annelise Pitt, Thistledown Cozies, is moderating and actually created that session.  Her panelists are impressive.  I look forward to attending it.

GAIL:  Approximately 6,120,000 samples of tea have been tasted  – that’s nearly three gallons per person – at World Tea Expo.  I am frequently asked about my personal favorite tea (not such a short story), so now I ask you, do you have a favorite type of tea or favorites?

GEORGE:  I tend to go in spurts, sometime puerhs, sometimes Bai Haos.   The office favorite is green oolongs, so that is always on hand.  But my go-to is Kukicha.

KIM: Bai Hao. Hands-down, it’s my favorite type of tea. Yummy.

GAIL:  World Tea Expo has experienced many firsts.  Share some with us.

KIM:  The first tea auction on U.S. soil was held at World Tea Expo.  The first professional tea competition in the United States was conducted.  The first tea brewing competition was created.  The first cooking with tea demonstration by a professional chef was offered.  The first authentic Gong Fu, Korean and Japanese tea ceremony demonstrations were held at a U.S. show. World Tea, itself was a first.  It was the first tea only trade-show.

GAIL:  Impressive, and . . . more than 60 languages have been spoken.  This is truly a worldly event! Comments?

GEORGE:  It is truly a global event, but that is because tea is truly a global beverage.  It really is one of the amazing things we cherish is to bring so many cultures, religions, nationalities and ethnicities together under one roof to celebrate one thing: tea. 

GAIL: On behalf of the entire tea community, I would like to congratulate you on 10 years and extend to you the thanks and appreciation of all of your peers.



World Tea East will be held Oct. 2-3, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pa. Visit
www.WorldTeaEast.com for details. The objective of the exposition is to support and fuel the expanding demand for specialty tea and related products in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and Southeast United States, and to provide solid tea education for the category's ever-growing popularity.

The next World Tea Expo will take place June 7-9, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nev. Visit www.WorldTeaExpo.com to learn more. As the most comprehensive exhibition and educational event in the world of tea, World Tea Expo’s exhibit floor, lectures, tastings and workshops can assist established tea room owners, coffeehouse proprietors, retailers, foodservice and beverage professionals, spa managers, hoteliers and grocers, in making key business decisions.
 

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