World Tea Leadership Council
My interest in the world of food and beverage began at an early age because my family was in the hospitality business and encouraged me to experiment in all phases of food and beverage.
Feeling frustrated with corporate life, I decided to jump in the car and travel throughout the United States. After traveling for 5 months in all regions of the US and Canada, I was enthralled with the tastes, sights, and sounds encountered on this wonderful journey. Realizing there was life beyond the US, I traveled to Europe visiting coffeehouse and tea salons to better understand the culture of tea. This trip then lead to spending time with Julia Child and Simone Beck in southern France. Their influence imbued the love of food and preparing food with fresh ingredients and integrity. This journey also sparked ideas of using tea as an ingredient in cooking. After experimenting, tasting and developing recipes it continues to be a delightful experience.
Today, I am president of East Indies Coffee and Tea Company, specializing in the tea division of our company. Thanks to my husband's belief that evolved women have a naturally developed palate, he has become the "wind beneath my wings". Tea is a great connector to many peoples throughout the world. In today's world, tea calm's and lifts the spirit as well.
Holger Lohs has a profound background in the international food industry, with the special expertise in tea products of all kinds. He 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 companies, Haelssen and Lyon NA Corp., which he is managing as CEO and President. 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 currently serves on the advisory board for the US Specialty Tea Institute (STI), as well as for the World Tea Expo.
Silvia Rettore joined Dethlefsen & Balk GmbH, established 1836 in Hamburg, Germany, as International Sales Manager in 2006. Her profound knowledge of business gained from an international career experience in London, Montpellier, Hamburg and over 10 years in the world of high fashion has given her a discerning eye and appreciation of quality which was a perfect background for the tea & tea accessories industry. Numerous trips to fascinating plantations inspired her to continue her path in the world of tea. Her journey continued in 2016 when she came to manage the U.S. subsidiary of Dethlefsen & Balk in Illinois. In 2017 she proudly took over the role as President of Dethlefsen & Balk, Inc. where her experience and accomplished management skills are continuing to grow the business.
Bhavin Shah is Chief Sommelier at the Waterfall Tea Company. He is a well-rounded senior professional with proven leadership capability to run organizations and teams both large and small, including during times of significant industry change. Bhavin’s background includes a unique blend of finance, communications, sales and strategy expertise with a proven track record of executing strategic initiatives across a multitude of industries including Technology and Telecom, Banking as well as the Tea Trade.
Bhavin has had three separate stints working in the tea industry across his 25-year professional career. He started in the tea industry in 1991 when he was a teenager working as an intern for his late Uncle Devan Shah, considered one of the pioneers of the US Tea Trade. During these formidable years, he learned firsthand from his uncle the hard work and effort required to starting a tea business in the US. Years later after completing his undergraduate studies, Bhavin rejoined the tea industry working for the established India Tea Importers (ITI). During his time at India Tea Importers, he ran a successful sales and re-branding campaign renaming ITI to International Tea Importers and helping to establish the company as one of the preeminent importers of specialty tea in the United States. During this time he also worked at the award- winning Chado Tea Room, learning the ins and outs of managing a successful retail tea shop and also led the development of chadotea.com, one of the first direct to consumer online retail tea websites in the US.
Most recently Bhavin, along with his cousin Bianca Shah, has led the restructuring of International Tea Importers following the untimely passing of company founder Devan Shah. After spending 15 months leading the successful restructuring of ITI, Bhavin was named the head of Waterfall Tea Company where he will lead the company in all areas from sales to finance and operations.
Bhavin graduated with honors from The College of New Jersey with a dual degree in Business Management and Industrial and Organizational Psychology and earned his MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. He is also a graduate of AT&T’s Financial Leadership Program, one of the premier finance and accounting rotational training programs in the country. Bhavin has successfully completed the Tea Sommelier class as well as STI’s Level I and II courses. Bhavin resides in Jacksonville Florida with his wife and three kids.
A tea industry connoisseur with a refined approach to the U.S. Japanese culture and innovative marketing, Rona Tison currently serves as the Senior Vice President of Corporate Relations at ITO EN(North America) INC., Japan's #1 green tea brand and the world's leading purveyor of award-winning, premium, and sustainably-grown green tea. Tison is responsible for maintaining and developing the company's corporate image through branding, public relations, and promotional events.
In addition to her role at ITO EN, Tison serves on the Tea & Health Committee of the U.S. Tea Council, and is a member of the U.S. Tea Association, the Specialty Tea Institute, the US-Japan Council and Japan Society. Her tea industry prowess has led her to speak at the World Tea Expo, San Francisco, Los Angeles & Northwest Tea Festivals, Shizuoka World Tea Festival, James Beard House and Smithsonian Lecture Series.