The Road Trip Sextet, Part 2 – “Nicole Sandwiches, Blogger Roundtables, and World Tea Expo”
For Part 1, go HERE.
Trying to plan for this year’s World Tea Expo was a nightmare personified. Even more so than last year. At least with 2013, I had a plan (sorta) set in motion by December of 2012! This year, though? I wasn’t even sure I was going until two months prior to the actual event.
As some of you might have read in an oft-changed article, I originally set out to e-publish a book, get a press pass, then use the meager profits of said e-book to fund Expo. Those plans fell flat nearly as soon as I announced them. Plan B was to use my tax return to fund the trip. This was also curbed when the need to pay off some back-debt reared its ugly head.
There was no Plan C. Instead, I skipped ahead all the way to Plan W. After three trips to the same brewery with a friend, a miracle happened…and months later, I was off to California with my mother in tow.
For the first couple of days, I hung out in San Diego with family. All the while, I received texts , tweets, and taunts from fellow tea friends wondering why I wasn’t at the World Tea Expo, yet. My plan was to attend that Friday – the day of the Tea Bloggers Roundtable. Everything else was a bit of a crapshoot. However, I did have a basic plan in mind:
Step 1: Hand off tea gifts to people I promised things to (but never mailed).
Step 2: Visit new and old booths and try certain teas I researched prior.
Step 3: Nicole Sandwich.
Step 4: PROFIT!!!
(No, that South Park reference never gets old.)
The morning of Friday the 30th, I got up, donned my “uniform”, took an obligatory selfie…
…And announced I was on my way to Long Beach. It was a mere two-hour drive from San Diego, and I scheduled the trek so that I’d miss the majority of California’s infamous traffic.
By 11:30-ish, I was inside the press room – basking in the glow of the trade show below.
This was way bigger a space than the year prior. Last year’s press box was a cubicle; this was a penthouse. Just like last year, Aaron Kiel – World Tea Media’s press guru – was there to greet me and hand off my press pass. I waited a moment in the room, gorging on candy, using the restroom, and quizzing Aaron on the etiquette this time around.
As I was on candy number…five?…my first bloggeriffic encounter appeared – Naomi (Joy’s Teaspoon).
We yacked for a moment or seven, and then it was off to the Expo floor proper. I had no rhyme or reason as to how I was going to encounter other folks, so I went about enacting Step 2 of my Expo Plan – booth-hunting.
However, that plan got sidetracked frequently. In the best of friendly ways.
Further down the line, I encountered father-‘n-son team Gary “Tea With Gary” Robson and Doug Robson. One was in a cowboy hat, the other in a utilikilt. They weren’t difficult to spot. Sadly, I forgot to photograph said encounter. Yet gifts of un-Yunnan-ish “pu-erhs” were bestowed upon the duo.
Also – regrettably not photographed – was my chance encounter with the couple team from The Jasmine Pearl in the company of Zhi Tea’s Doctor Oolong – Jeff Lorien – Chris “Teaity/Tea-Guy” Giddings, Linda “The Tea Stylist” Gaylard, and everyone with Team Tealet. There were likely others that I’m forgetting to mention, but it’s all a blur. I was a wee bit tea drunk by that point, sue me.
Once my booth errands were finally completed (I’ll get to that in another blog), I tried to keep an eye out for another Nicole – Tea For Me Please. In my wanderings, I had yet to encounter her. I even tweeted as such.
Around the same time, the League of U.S. Tea Growers meeting was convening. Per Naomi’s mention, I wanted to sit in on that, and see how things were coming along.
Several growers were there, and Jason “Great Mississippi Tea Company” McDonald did the opening remarks. Bylaws were discussed, presentations were given, and slideshows about tea growth efforts were plenty. I envied everything they were doing.
After said meeting, I finally caught up with Tea For Me Please. She was – without peer – the oldest of my original tea contacts. Not in age, but duration. We both used to contribute to Teaviews.com. She went independent around 2008; I didn’t follow that example until the latter part of 2011. Aside from Google Hangouts, I’d never met her in person. We were like fast friends.
That was when I declared that I had one more mission to accomplish. We found the other Nicole at the Teas Etc. booth. I commissioned Chambre De Sucre’s Lisa to take a photo of myself between the two Nicoles.
Nicole Sandwich mission: Accomplished. (Not to be confused with a “knuckle sandwich”, which is far more unpleasant.)
Following the U.S. Growers meet-up, and the sandwich, there was the main event I wanted to attend: The Tea Bloggers Roundtable.
Back in January, I himmed-and-hawed, complained-and-crawled to get on the panel. But my dubious chances of attending the Expo curbed such ambitions. In my place, Tea For Me Please took the chair. Frankly, she was the better choice because she actually worked in the industry. Joy’s Teaspoon’s Naomi presided over the panel like a pro.
I was overjoyed at the fact that among those in the audience were Ricardo of My Japanese Green Tea and Alex from AdventureTea. I had wondered if I was going to encounter either of them. That left only one more person I had to meet.
Dinner plans were made after the Roundtable concluded. Half the group went off to grab Ethiopian food, while the rest of us settled on an Irish pub across the street from the Long Beach Convention Center.
Beers were had, jokes were made (sometimes at my expense), and a good time with good company (and food) were had all around. Members of Team Tealet also joined our merry band. It was then that I found out the whereabouts of the final person I had to meet. The Snooty Tea Person, herself.
Rie (Oolong City) and Tea For Me Please discussed how they were going to pick her up at the LBC airport, and I forced myself along. Sure, I was pushy, but then I wouldn’t have gotten this:
And she was the final person I had to bestow a tea gift bag on.
Final mission: Accomplished.
Whoah, I haven’t even gotten to all the teas I tried yet.
Oh well…tune in next time. As they say.
For Part 3, go HERE.