Brewing in Vegas

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LAS VEGAS, Nev.

Late at night in a Las Vegas hotel room at the height of World Tea Expo, the essence of tea is evident.

This gathering includes some of the most refined pallets in the world, explorers and passionate tea drinkers whose books, retail operations and opinions shape the American and Canadian consumer experience.

The mood is joyful. The room littered with tea-making apparatus, kilo sacks of green tea fresh from China with gaiwans on gongfu trays and kettles at the boil. Everyone has brought a favorite. Something new and exciting, exotic and exquisite. The teas vary widely and are expertly served in tiny porcelain cups. Slurping is expected followed by extemporaneous outbursts of beautiful prose describing every nuance from color and aroma to the lingering aftertaste. This real-time narration is honed by decades of traveling to every tea land on the globe, acquiring piles and piles of dried leaves for others to enjoy.

At most conventions corporate policy and competitive pressures would deny this pleasure.

Consider how unlikely it would be to find top-level automobile executives, aerospace engineers, oil men or Hollywood directors crowded together on the bed, sharing chairs and leaning against the dresser at 12 minutes after midnight extolling the  best work of their fiercest competitors, openly revealing their sources of inspiration and supply.

Transparency in business does not come naturally. It is cultivated by enlightened executives whose success more closely mirrors the Tao than the Dow.

Tonight’s glimpse into the world of specialty tea is not unique. I experienced similar gatherings late nights in Dubai and Kolkata, in the high mountains of Darjeeling and the jungles of Assam.

Tea benefits from a global culture of sharing influenced since antiquity by the view that it is the greatest of gifts. Tonight our host sets the example as the most generous and transparent of all.

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