Australia’s First Specialty Tea Trade Show and Conference – Need to Know

Australia’s First Specialty Tea Trade Show and Conference – Need to Know

Cunningham Pier, Geelong, Victoria

Cunningham Pier, Geelong, Victoria

The Australian International Tea Expo October 17-18 is Australia’s first specialty tea trade show and conference.

The resort town of Geelong, Victoria, about 45 miles from Melbourne, is the location of the inaugural trade show and conference which includes a tea education program and a black-tie Golden Leaf Awards dinner.

TEABIZ150824_AustralianTeaExpo_FINALTea classes will be held throughout the show from 10 am to 5 pm each day at the Geelong Boat House, according to Sharyn Johnston, founder of the Australian Tea Masters Association, which is organizing the event.

The event is destined to become the “epicenter for tea specialists and tea products in Australia,” according to Johnston. “Industry professionals and tea enthusiasts will connect face-to-face to unveil new products, optimize high quality merchandise, gain in-depth product knowledge, and network with their tea loving peers,” she said.

The Golden Leaf Awards is a new competition, judged by professional tea cuppers, to distinguish the highest-quality and best-tasting teas commercially available in the Australian marketplace. Several categories within each class of tea will be judged during October prior to the expo, and the winners will be notified the day before the event. Winning companies receive a formal announcement letter that includes the tea’s scores, as well as a print-ready seal that can be used for all promotional materials and packaging. For more information, click here.

The awards will be presented during a formal black tea dinner at the Novotel Geelong on Oct. 17. The dinner will feature a delicious menu with each course paired with the perfect tea. The banquet includes cultural entertainment. To reserve a seat click click here.

Johnston said the event will help Australians discover and experience specialty tea while celebrating the cultural diversity of teas from around the world.

Events include:

  • A “Frozen” themed tea party for kids (at the 100 year-old carousel on the bay)
  • High teas on the bay
  • Plus many forms of entertainment including traditional Japanese tea ceremony, Korean Tea ceremony on the main stage, in the middle of the Expo hall.
  • Help support the fight against ovarian cancer by attending our Frocktober morning tea. Find out more here.

To register to exhibit, click here.

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Synchronized Real Time Tea Blending


Motovotano Founder James J. Mackness, Seattle, Wash.

SEATTLE, Wash. — Mixing tea ingredients is easy. Keeping them stable and evenly dispersed is not.

“Inclusions” is the technical description for the flower petals and bits of fruits and nuts, rind shavings, spices, tiny peppers and candy added to modern tea blends. Sales of these specialty teas are brisk with marketing that invites consumers to constantly try new formulations.


Example of a large, difficult to blend inclusion.

Color and texture are critical to the appeal of these teas. New recipes increasingly call for odd shaped bits of botanicals of varying densities that make consistency a challenge.

Take for example maple sugar flavored black tea, a hit here in the Great White North that eluded blenders for decades. On exiting a commercial “V” blender the mix seems well dispersed but the sugar quickly settles during the packaging process and in transit separates into a sticky dense layer of maple underlying tea with no maple taste.

TEABIZ_NEWS_Equiplment_EpanieMachine_380pxSynchronizing combinations of precisely weighed ingredients during the bag-making process is a promising development by Epanie, a South Korean manufacturer of an innovative tea bagging machine. Motovotano, a Seattle firm founded by tea industry veteran James J. Mackness, is the first company to use the equipment in North America. The pyramid-style filling and bagging machine blends gourmet tea in real-time.

The pyramid has established itself as the go-to format for high quality blends. But large inclusions such as flower buds that delight the eye are difficult to apportion. Improvements in its design by Epanie over existing pyramid and traditional filter paper sachets allows for larger tea leaves and for those leaves to unfurl and brew properly for superior taste. Bags can be made of nylon, non-woven commercially compostable or certified biodegradable materials.

TEABIZ_NEWS_Equiplment_EpanieBin_380pxMotovotano’s Epanie Pyramid Teabag machine utilizes eight servo-motor controlled weigh bins holding either a single inclusion or pre-blended mix that can be flavored. In a recent demonstration Mackness first blended several ingredients with similar density and volume in a traditional V blender. He then placed this mix in the Epanie machine along with several difficult to handle inclusions such as Calendula flowers and a spice with an intense flavor profile. A control panel instructed scales to tip the precise weight into each bag before it was sealed.

Click here for a video demonstration.

Mackness showed how the machine lets formulators cup on the fly. Pausing production to drop a bag into a hot cup of water instantly revealed the color and infusion time and most important, the flavor imparted by the inclusions. After a sip, using a touch-screen panel he then adjusted the scales in the individual bins to deliver slightly more (or slightly less) of one or more ingredients.

Digital touch screen controls.

Digital touch screen controls.

“Traditional tea bag production pulls from single batch blends, which does not produce as consistent or flavorful a product,” said Mackness. “The Epanie delivers a consistent flavor profile and uniform appearance because each ingredient of the blend is apportioned by weight into the bag,” he said. The 1200 pound machine will bag up to 85 pyramids per minute, each containing up to 20 grams of inclusions.

Mackness said the machine is ideal for artisan tea blenders.

Flying Bird Botanicals founder Scout Urling agrees. The small family-run business in Bellingham, Wash., has developed recipes based on ancient herbal knowledge and wisdom. Organic ingredients, many of which are large and odd-shaped, are sourced in the Pacific Northwest. “Our intent is to provide products of comfort, therapy and efficacy all while creating a delicious cup of tea,” said Urling. “The new tea bags allow for the convenience of bags and the efficacy of loose tea,” she said.

Tasting formulation on the fly.

Full of goodness.

Motovotano promises to make the physics of blending tea less daunting and the process of creatively pairing tea and ingredients more fun. The company is seeking boutique teas, and restaurant, hospitality and grocery chains interested in private label product. Inland Packaging, Inc. is the manufacturer’s exclusive representative. To learn more about blending tea in real-time visit or email:

Friday Roundtable: Water, water everywhere

Welcome to the Friday Roundtable, where we want to hear about your tea experience. Each week we present a topic that affects us all as tea business owners and tea consumers. Let’s talk tea.

This week we’re thinking about water. The importance of water cannot be underestimated when it comes to tea preparation. Too hot and you’ve boiled your greens. Too cool and you’ve left the complex flavors sitting in your pile of tea leaves. Too many minerals in the water and you’ve dulled the taste. “Dead” water, that’s been boiled multiple times, is also said to ruin the taste.

There are many questions we could have asked about this topic. For example, we could have asked you to confess to your propensity to microwave your water (shame, shame). Instead, we wanted to ask about how you ensure you have the best quality water.

Some tea makers will only utilize bottled water, an expensive prospect for heavy tea drinkers. There are purifiers in pitcher form like Brita and PUR. There are advanced models that are plumbed into your pipes. Newer versions, like Brondell’s H20+ Cypress, aim to reduce the plumbing challenges by sitting on the countertop and connecting to the faucet.

I’ve tried all of these methods. How about you? What is your preferred way of obtaining high quality water for your tea?

Dueling Brewers

TWEET: Two sophisticated, quick-brewing, semi-automatic tea makers face off.


Calculating the number of tea lattes sold daily is a daunting task.

Millions upon millions and growing fast is my guess, based on conversations with Starbucks baristas and the management at Argo Tea.

Tea lattes (or more elegantly,  tea cambrics*) are one of the top ten sellers in the category with chai the most requested. Virtually every offering is created from concentrate despite the fact Baristas and tea drinkers alike prefer the flavor of fresh-brewed. Until now there was no quick way to brew a double-concentrated loose-leaf that would stand up to steamed milk.

Picture Mr. and Mrs. Customer in the most popular coffee shop’s drive-thru line at 7:35 a.m. He orders a caramel double espresso latte and she orders a latte made with tea. Chaos ensues.  A barista can brew the double and have it at the window in well under two minutes. The tea latte could easily take six minutes or more leading to incessant honking and late-to-work warnings for occupants of the 18 vehicles in line.

The Need for Speed

The Bkon® TX negative atmospheric brewer

The Bkon® TX negative atmospheric brewer

Two new highly sophisticated, semi-automated brewers introduced last week at World Tea Expo are built for speed. The Bkon® TX brewer and Steampunk brewer each debuted to a fascinated crowd of serious tea entrepreneurs, some with retail aspirations to be the first in town to introduce tea latte at drive-thru.  Selling for $9,000 and $15,000 respectively, these are not your typical tea pots.

The Bkon® TX brews tea in a negative-atmospheric (vacuum) chamber at variable temperatures between 160-210f, a process patented by Dean Vastardis. He and his brother Lou are co-founders, co-CEOs. Dean is the engineering and product lead and Lou is responsible for business development and marketing. Together they worked a deal with respected Swiss coffee equipment manufacturer FRANKE, a $2.5 billion company founded in 1911 with 10,500 employees in 70 countries. The firm provides exclusive manufacturing, distribution for the out-of-home market and global support.

Dean loves to tinker with equipment and by investigating how chefs speed-marinate proteins he came up with a way to convert an airtight food storage container with a tire valve and vacuum pump into a fast-brewing tea maker. Three years later his Reverse Atmospheric Infusion™ process gently coaxes the soluble elements, aromatics and natural sugars from tea. The technology applies to brewing coffee, infusing flavored spirits, it can be installed in vending machines, and used to make ready-to-drink beverages, said Lou Vastardis. “The reason we are here is to demonstrate a disruptive technology for the tea industry that allows every loose-leaf varietal to be delivered to consumers in a fast, consistent, and premium manner,” he said.

Vastardis describes the initial market for the equipment as foodservice. The infusion process is ideal for traditional teas and tisanes, herbals and fruit infusions. Operators can adjust temperature, time and the frequency and depth of vacuum, he explains. The Bkon® TX automatically pre-rinses and flushes the brew chamber to prevent cross-contamination. Dean brewed 16- to 20-ounce cups of tea in less than 90 seconds on the show floor and can brew 8- to 10-ounces in less than 60 seconds, yielding 90 to 110 cups per hour.

“The Bkon® TX allows an independent (or chain) to import, customize, and program over 90 tea recipes,” said Lou Vastardis. Independents would love to add a ‘specialty’ tea program if it allowed them to match the super-premium standards of their coffee program, he observes. “As you know, executing a tea beverage properly is much more complex than coffee,” he said.  The Bkon TX provides independents a turn-key ability to introduce a specialty tea program that is equal or above the standard of their specialty coffee program, he said.

Due to the control of the atmospheric brewing perimeters by our software’s algorithms, independents can deliver any super premium tea with unmatched simplicity and consistency (across multiple locations), he explained. “It does not make a difference who is operating the equipment,” he said.

Attendees by the hundreds stopped to taste the results with Dean manning the machine and the FRANKE team fielding service and support questions. The consensus was favorable across a range of challenging teas and the price is comparable to an espresso machine, said Lou Vastardis. “Conservative ROI calculations project that an average independent shop should be able to recoup its investment in about six months,” he added.  The Bkon® was named “Best New Product” at World Tea Expo.


Steampunk brewing chambers.

Siphon Strategy

Sam DuRegger is director of business development for Alpha Dominche, a coffee equipment maker in Salt Lake City, Utah. The name may sound foreign, but this two- and four-chamber siphon coffee and tea maker is American through and through. DuRegger said the company focus is creating technology to make world-class coffee and tea accessible to all.

The equipment was invented by Khristian Bombeck a coffee shop owner who founded the company. He built the first Steampunk in his garage, taking four years to perfect the design. The latest version, 4.0, is three feet wide by two feet deep and three feet high. It features orderly pipes and tubes and valves attached to an industrial boiler commanded by computers programmed to precisely and consistently make hot drinks from a wide range of coffee and tea recipes. Baristas can adjust agitation, water pressure and install three grades of metal filters to make up to 80 cups of coffee or tea per hour. The two-crucible model sells for $9,000 and the four-crucible model costs $15,000.


The Steampunk 4.0, four-crucible model.

In April Christa and Jeff Duggan installed the newest model at their Seventh Tea Bar in Costa Mesa, Calif.

It is the kind of shop that sells Feng Huang Gui  Fei oolong, Bai Mu Dan for $3 and Bai Hao Yin Zhen for $4 a cup along with Ti Kuan Yin and Tung Ting. Gongfu service is available but siphon brewing is a hundred times faster.

The Steampunk has a coffee heritage and was named the “Best New Product” at the Specialty Coffee of Association of America show in 2012. This is the national debut, said DuRegger.

One big advantage is the ability to make quality coffee and tea simultaneously. Seventh Tea Bar resists that efficiency as the coffee aroma would kill the pleasure of scented teas but baristas serving tea latte don’t rely on gaiwans.  There is a demand for treating light-roast Caribbean coffee with care and with expensive coffee, consistency is very important.  DuRegger correctly identifies the variables that must be mastered in making pour-over. It only looks easy, we agree. The machine cannot make espresso. The Steampunk is calibrated to produce everything else from French Press style to pour over-style. It appears ideal for installation in coffee shops like Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and Peet’s Coffee & Tea or a Starbucks where large quantities of latte are served on the go.

“We believe that by transforming quality brewing into a streamlined, interactive process, we can bring quality coffee and tea to a larger audience than previously imaginable,” said DuRegger.

“We believe that the balanced marriage of function and aesthetics is the key to our designs,” he said, explaining that the name translates as “first of its kind.”

Dan Bolton | ©Mystic Media 2013

*Cambric — Buchanan’s Coffee Pub On the Hill in Boulder, Colo., advertises a $3.25 Cambric (Tea Latte) as does the Coffeebar in Truckee, Calif., where they sell a Medio Vanilla Earl Cambric for $3.50. At Terra at the Isabel Rose in a Montclair, N.J., a small Cambric Tea, described as a black tea, heavy on the organic soy/grass-fed milk and fair trade organic sugar, sells for $2.50. At Infusion Coffee & Tea in Philadelphia the Tea Cambric is described as loose-leaf tea, infused with steamed milk and honey. It is listed alongside the Mate Latte and Chai. At Russian-inspired Dazbog Coffee locations in Colorado, Texas and Wyoming the Hot Tea Cambric contains an estimated 140 calories per 16 ounces with 12 grams of carbs and 5 grams saturated fat.

Linkedin: Fast brewing siphon or negative atmospheric tea maker, which would you choose for your high-traffic shop?

Poll: Bkon® TX Reverse Atmospheric Infusion Brewer or Steampunk Semi-automatic Siphon Brewer for making tea lattes in less than two minutes.