China is not only the origin of tea but is the largest tea producer, consumer, and marketer in the world. Where the Western, tea-consuming countries like the US have one or maybe two dedicated tea trade shows, China has dozens. Some are regional, some are national, and some are targeted to the international market. Some have dozens of exhibitors with hundreds of attendees while others have more than 1000 vendors with tens of thousands of visitors spanning a full week’s time or more. The Shenzhen-based Huajuchen Industrial Co. produces 18 different tea-related trade shows around China.
One of the fastest growing international tea fairs is in the coastal city of Xiamen, Fujian province. Xiamen Jinhongxin Exhibition Co. puts on the China Xiamen International Tea Fair. Since its inception seven years ago, the show has expanded from four days to five; from two halls and 16,000 square meters to eight halls and 63,000 square meters; from 221 exhibitors to over 1,000 and from 43,656 attendees to 86,000 (not including thousands on the last day which was open to the general public). In fact, the event has grown so large that this year they are adding a second show in the spring in addition to the original one in October.
The Hong Kong International Tea Fair and concurrent Tea Competition has been attracting tea producers, buyers, and experts for the past 9 years. For over 100 years, Hong Kong has served as a hub for tea trading between China and the rest of the world, and it remains a vital trading port. In 2017 there were more than 15,000 visitors and 225 exhibitors from around the world.
The International Tea Cuppers Club participated in both of the Xiamen and Hong Kong fairs and hosted its annual international Cup Warming tea tasting presentation for the 5th year in Hong Kong and 6th year in Xiamen. As in the past, producers and experts from many origin countries were invited to introduce their land’s tea culture and allow the attendees to taste examples of either teas that are exemplary of their kind or teas that are unusual and not easily available without deep connections. The events at both fairs were very well attended as usual and we welcomed several special presenters, many of which were winners of various tea competitions.
For both events, ITCC Director Dan Robertson MC’ed the Cup Warmings. In Hong Kong, represented regions included several areas within China, Sri Lanka, India, USA, and Japan. The selection of teas that were sampled was very diverse. The China speakers were introduced by Huang Shuwei who set the stage for a fermented tea from Ya An in Sichuan province, a green tea from Emerail tea company in Guizhou, and a new green tea by Jacky Mingyue Xiu of Xingguo Yixingyuan Tea Co. called Fang Tai Mei – White Jade (first place green tea winner in the HK competition). Another competition 1st place winner was also presented, a specially made black tea by Lumbini tea estate in Sri Lanka. From India was a tasty example of the ubiquitous Masala Chai. From the US, Stacy Robertson introduced a green tea from the Great Mississippi Tea Company. All attendees were surprised to learn that there was tea production in the US and were eager to taste the tea which was specially made for the presentation. Asuka Inc.–a producer from Japan–introduced an especially nice Gyokuro which was thick and rich with umami flavor. Special thanks to QZ Zhang who did a magnificent job of translating.
In Xiamen, an equally broad group of presenters and teas were to be found. With translations provided by Hydron Gao, ITCC Vice-Director for China, attendees were treated to a number of first-time experiences, not the least of which was an introduction to Argentina teas and a tasting of a benchmark black tea brought by tea farmer and ITCC member Roberto Swier. Another first was a chance to taste freshly made Japanese Mat Cha. Dan and a representative of a Japanese tea company were furiously whipping up bowls of Mat Cha as the presenter spoke about the different kinds of teas and their origins. A wonderful white tea from Nepal was also featured along with information about Nepal tea production and regions. We were very fortunate to again have a chance to sample Jacky Xiu’s Fang Tai Mei – White Jade (which had also taken 2nd place in the Global Tea Championship). Mr. Anshuman Kanoria from Balaji Agro International Tea Company in India introduced teas from his country and we tasted a smooth but flavorful tea from Sikkim’s Temi tea estate. For a change of pace, Dan introduced Himalayan Ice, a special tea which was infused in cold water for ten hours prior to serving. He also brought along a black tea that was made by the Great Mississippi Tea Co so the US was represented as well. While not Camelia Sinensis, one of the most popular “teas” in Russia is Ivan Cha and it was a pleasure to learn about this historic beverage from Alexander Khlynov. Audience members asked many questions and seemed quite interested in all the regions. The entire program just fit within the 90-minute time slot but easily could have lasted for another hour. Thanks again to all the presenters and the organizers of the tea fairs. We look forward to connecting with many of our members again this year and are pleased to announce plans to attend the tea fair in Shenzhen. Any tea lovers who are in the area, please plan to stop in and enjoy learning and tasting. Contact ITCC for a current schedule of the tea fairs we will be at as well as tea tasting programs and events hosted by our members worldwide.
Images provided by author