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Advisory Board

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CharlesCainCharles Cain, VP, Tazo Tea

Charles has been on the front lines of the Specialty Tea industry for the past eight years, and has played a leadership role in retail, wholesale and ecommerce operations for three leading Specialty Tea companies. He currently serves as Vice President of Tazo Merchant and Operations where he is working to elevate the $1.4 billion Tazo brand through expansion into premium, loose-leaf teas and the development of new channels. Charles is opening Starbucks' first Tazo Tea Store in Seattle in November, 2012.


JohnChaffeyJohn Chaffey, Director of Sales, Metropolitan Tea Company

John came into the Coffee &Tea trade in 1985, mentoring with Jim and Bill Scandrett at venerable trading firm Hayter and Scandrett. Since joining Metropolitan Tea Company in 1992, he has provided guidance to young entrepreneurs in growing their business. A background in working with origin producers and connecting with international buyers provides a broad market view whether dealing with small retailers or multinationals. Currently operating in over 50 countries, John keeps busy looking to cultivate and educate clients with fresh ideas and new tea items to support the expanding trade. Metropolitan Tea Company was recently designated with the Toronto Board of Trade "Sustainability Award" as a result of its efforts to become a carbon negative company.


MimEnckMim Enck, President, East Indies Coffee & Tea

Having a strong culinary background, Mim Enck discovered that tea blending was the perfect "next step". Tea blending is really learning to taste and as in the culinary world, tea blending is learning what works together to create a whole and the courage to follow the creative within. Ms. Enck was Vice-President of the American Premium Tea Institute and is presently a member of the Specialty Tea Institute Advisory Board. She is also a member of the World Tea Expo Advisory Board and an active member of the Mid-Atlantic Tea Business Association. Ms. Enck believes that this amazing beverage is a "connection to many people and their cultures" and is a healing element in today's world.


GailGasteluGail Gastelu, Publisher, The Tea House Times

Gail Gastelu is Publisher of The Tea House Times and produces several other beneficial products and services to the tea industry. Specializing in information management; Gail is a publisher, consultant, webmaster, educator, author, speaker, and graphic designer. Since 2003 she has been working to connect businesses and consumers to all facets of the tea industry. Her passion and drive is to help tea businesses grow. Services and programs produced by Gail include publication in print and online; continuing education; tea industry directory, news bureau;;;;;; and Having worked with consumers and businesses on all levels, Gail understands the ups and downs of the tea industry and works hard to build positive business and deeper consumer connections through tea.


Blank-Speaker-HeadshotManjiv Jayakumar, President, Qtrade Teas & Herbs

Bio Coming Soon


BethJohnstonBeth Johnston, CEO, Teas Etc.

Beth Johnston discovered her passion for tea while on her honeymoon in 1998. Shortly thereafter she founded Teas Etc., an industry recognized supplier of wholesale premium bulk, pre-packaged, private label teas and accessories. Her extensive travels have afforded her the opportunity to evaluate tea with some of the world’s masters. In a defining moment Teas Etc. became the ONLY female owned company to win World Tea Championship hot tea category in 2008 and 2009, continuing every year thereafter with numerous wins in multiple categories. The company’s success is driven by Beth’s creative, high-energy, no none-sense business style and an unwavering commitment to quality and customer experience.


Blank-Speaker-HeadshotSascha Karimpour, President, Dethlefsen & Balk

Bio Coming Soon


Brian KeatingBrian Keating, Founder, Sage Group®

Brian R. Keating is founder of Sage Group®, a specialty tea think tank, publisher and natural beverage products consultancy. For over thirty years Sage Group has assisted natural products ventures with an emphasis on tea business – in the realm of strategic planning, product formulation and technical support. Sage Group has published 9 specialty tea industry reports since 1993 including the Specialty Tea Is "Hot" Report®. Brian has been a top-rated speaker at the annual World Tea Expo, and his insights have been showcased in tea business media worldwide; Newsweek, The Economist, Nutrition Business Journal, NPR among many other outlets.


Marc KlugeMarc Kluge, VP and General Manager, Florapharm Tea USA LP

Marc was born into a true “tea family” in Hamburg Germany. With a Father who is a tea taster for over 50 years and a Mother who owned her own mail order tea business, tea was not only a drink but a way of life. The passion and knowledge that his family has for tea, has been instilled in Marc from the very beginning. In 2005 Marc joined Florapharm Germany, as sales manager of north Germany, and successfully grew that territory. Once he accomplished his goals with sales he has been asked to join to the tea tasting division at the Florapharm headquarters. In 2009 Marc was offered the position of Vice President of Florapharm Tea USA due to his exceptional organization and sales ability and knowledge of tea. He has been focused on growing the specialty tea market in North America ever since.


Holger LohsHolger Lohs, CEO, Haelssen & Lyon North America Corp.

Mr. Holger Lohs has an profound background in the international food industry, with the special expertise in tea products of all kinds. Mr. Lohs joined Haelssen and Lyon GmbH in Germany in 1996 as a regional Sales Director for North America and the UK. In 2005 he founded the New York City based subsidiary for one of the industry's leading tea company Haelssen and Lyon NA Corp., which he is managing as CEO and President to-date. He has more than 20 years of extensive experience in the food industry and a strong managing ability to improve sales profitability and operational efficiencies. His profound knowledge about specialty tea and the tea industry is highly appreciated amongst the leading tea authorities in this country. He is currently holding a position in the advisory board for the US Specialty Premium Tea Institute (STI) as well as for the World Tea Expo.


Devan ShahDevan Shah, President, International Tea Importers

Devan Shah has played a decisive role in developing America’s tastes in tea. He has consistently created markets for tea where there were no markets previously. Since its humble beginning in 1990, International Tea Importers or ITI has become a major importer of organic and fair trade teas as well as conventional teas from every producing country, There is simply nobody who has done more than Devan Shah and his company, ITI, to create the Tea Renaissance blossoming all around us today.


Fumi SugitaFumi Sugita, Executive General Manager, Aiya America

Fumi Sugita is Aiya America's current Executive General Manager. Second son of the president of Aiya Corporation, he was born and raised in Nishio City of Aichi prefecture, Japan where the purest Matcha is grown and produced.  Being raised at the source of Matcha and growing up around his family’s work and passion for Matcha green tea, he naturally derived a lot of experience and knowledge from both his family and the local Nishio farmers. He moved to US in 2001 for study and then joined Aiya America in 2003.  Since 2003 he has been running Aiya America, the US branch of Aiya Japan, as its Executive General Manager.  As Matcha is still relatively new to the US market, he is continuously organizing and presenting at many events and seminars to spread Matcha education.  Within the tea industry, Mr. Sugita is recognized as being responsible for a large portion of Matcha’s success in the Northern American market. He is also a long time student of Chano-yu, The Way of Tea.  Due to his extensive experience in both his native Japan and current home, America, Fumi has a deep understanding of both traditional Japanese and new North American ways of enjoying Matcha green tea.


Rona TisonRona Tison, Senior Vice President of Corporate Relations, ITO EN (North America) INC.

As sr. vice president of corporate relations for the world’s leading supplier of green tea, Rona Tison spearheaded the launch of ITO EN's first flagship store in New York City- voted TOP TEA STORE & BEST OVERALL in 2008 Zagat New York City Gourmet Shopping & Entertainment Guide. Fluent in Japanese and English and a heartfelt & longtime interest in tea, she has a refined approach to innovative marketing and developing the company's corporate image through branding, public relations and promotional events. With her ideal blend of experience in the hospitality and retail industries, she has been a guest speaker at the Smithsonian Institute, Carnegie Mellon University and World Tea Festival 2007 in Japan.


Maria UspenskiMaria Uspenski, CEO, The Tea Spot

Maria Uspenski's love of tea was fostered at an early age by her Russian family. Uspenski is now the Founder & CEO of The Tea Spot, where she works to innovate the tea industry through the Tea Spot’s award-winning Steepware® line, which promotes the ease of loose tea preparation. Drawing on her background as an MIT mechanical engineer, she is listed on three U.S. patents for Steepware® inventions, and looks to advance healthier living through the enjoyment of tea of loose leaf tea. Her message is simple and powerful - tea in its freshest form renders exceptional flavor, unmatched health benefits, and is eco-friendly. Uspenski has been featured in the Huffington Post and on television interviews for her success as a social entrepreneur and tea expert, and has been a regular contributor to blogs for The Denver Post, T-Ching, and The Tea Spot.