Attending the World Tea Conference + Expo had been on my bucket list since the days when I retailed tea and jam at Enchanted Gardens. Over the last decade, tea has morphed from a drink for Chinese scholars to one of the hottest beverage trends — or coldest, in the case of iced tea.
At the 2021 World Tea Conference + Expo in Las Vegas, the beverage show had been combined with the tea expo, so there were all kinds of liquor and other bar beverages alongside tea, which turned out to be an interesting combination.
Alongside booths presenting classic teas, elegant teapots, and fragile cups were booths promoting bar games and food. So, in addition to sniffing and sampling teas from Kenya, India, China, Japan, and other countries that I had no idea grew the tea plant, I could stroll the aisles in which distilleries for rum, vodka, whiskey, and other beverages were being promoted. Again, I sniffed and sampled! I even tasted pickle juice samples, sometimes used in a Bloody Mary.
Of course, trade shows also provide educational classes for retailers, which in this case ranged from instruction on tea ceremonies, varieties of teas, and tea preparation as well as reports on industry trends. Not all the workshops were about tea and liquor: Many focused on marketing and management.
Leaving the clamor of the trade show floor, I attended a three-hour class on mixology, which emphasized combining the two beverage worlds by mixing tea and liquor into creative cocktails. This workshop explored ways to integrate tea that went beyond the usual glass of Champagne or sherry that often accompanies a formal tea experience.
The keynote speaker for the expo, Colleen McClellan of Datassential, highlighted some of the upcoming trends for the tea and beverage industries. Her research established that consumers regularly order their menu favorites, want good service and hospitality, and crave over-the-top entertainment. She noted iced tea in a wide range of combinations is trending upward rapidly, along with alcoholic tea drinks and cocktails in general. She also observed tea enthusiasts were particularly interested in the health benefits attributed to tea and the various ingredients added to tea.
To bring the topic to our area, consider Old Barrel Tea Company’s stores in Ruidoso, Albuquerque, Cloudcroft, Mesilla, Colorado, and Arizona, with the newest location in Red River. I spoke to Morgan Switzer, the owner of the Mesilla store. I was interested in comparing my trade show notes on the trends emphasized by Colleen to Morgan’s more local experience.
Morgan certainly is aware of the current trends and has been exploring them with local partners. She has twice worked with Hacienda de Mesilla to introduce tea and alcohol pairings in creative cocktails. Check Facebook.com/MesillaOldBarrelTea for upcoming events pairing teas, alcohol, and local foods during the holidays.
In her Mesilla store she also sells honey, including raw and unfiltered mesquite, sage, and alfalfa varieties from local honey farmers. She notes that her customers are “benefit driven,” seeking the healthful effects of local honey.
“I enjoy matching local honey with specific tea blends,” Morgan said. She explains that Paola Huffmon, Old Barrel Tea Company’s master blender, often creates a tea blend to accommodate a customer’s request for a specific ingredient, such as turmeric.
In addition to honey, Old Barrel Tea Company highlights many other local and New Mexico products. Morgan also owns NM Vintage Wines and NM Vintage Market. These two locations provide the opportunity to create perfect gift baskets. From craft beers and wines to New Mexico-made food products such as pecans and salsa (plus anything from the tea shop), they can meet any price point. They also will ship your gifts for you!
It was great fun to check the World Tea Conference + Expo off my bucket list, explore the Las Vegas strip, and sample teas from around the world and liquors from around the United States. I am even more excited to discover tea cocktails and other tea specialties available locally.
Combine tea and gin for a sensational beverage
Recipe provided by Morgan Switzer, Old Barrel Tea Company in Mesilla
1 ounce Lock Pick Gin
.25 ounce simple syrup
.25 ounce grenadine
4 ounces Lavender Sage Lemonade
Old Barrel Tea Company tea
Dr. RimRunner Magic Mix rim
Prep: Steep the tea at a 212 F water temperature for 5 – 10 minutes, then chill in the refrigerator without ice to prevent diluting the flavors of the tea.
Make: Per serving, mix approximately 4 ounces of tea with a quarter-ounce each of simple syrup and grenadine, and 1 ounce of gin. Rim your glasses with Dr. RimRunner’s Magic Mix and pour in your cocktails.
We chose Safe House Distilling’s Lock Pick Gin mixed with the Old Barrel Tea Company’s Lavender Sage Lemonade herbal loose-leaf tisane. Lock Pick is distilled in Albuquerque with 14 different botanicals that complement the tea in a way most gins might fall short.
Dr. RimRunner’s Magic Mix cocktail topper makes the perfectly paired partner, with its lavender flowers, citrus zests, sugar, and salt. Dr. RimRunner is available at Old Barrel Tea Company in Mesilla and at NM Vintage Market.
Designated driver option
Steep the tea as described above. Pass on the booze but keep the tea, syrup, and grenadine. Don’t forget the same fun rim! It’s made in New Mexico, so you keep that “enchanted” magic!
Written by Jackye Meinecke • Photos courtesy Old Barrel Tea Company
Originally published in Neighbors magazine
Posted by LasCruces.com