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The Langkloof Honeybush Company Takes on the World Tea Expo 2021

Grounded’s very own Langkloof Honeybush Company is on a journey of making niche teas from a small and little-known tea-growing region in South Africa, and already our budding company is making big news.

BY HAILEY GAUNT & JENNY WILLIS

26 August 2021

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The Grounded booth at the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In March this year, the Langkloof Honeybush Company won in the Green/Sustainability category of the international Tea Tycoon Awards, earning us a chance to showcase our teas at the World Tea Expo, an annual tea conference. (Kinda a big deal in the international tea industry.) We were commended as “a business that focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”

A table with Grounded pamphlets and the large, glass Green/Sustainability trophy.

Attendees of every stripe taking notice of our Green/Sustainability trophy.

We were honoured to be recognised for our ethics, but we know this is a small part of making our brand a success. It might earn us credibility, but it won’t win converts. People have to taste our teas to understand that the benefits of regeneratively produced and sustainably wild-harvested tea show up in more than just good principles.

The real reward was the chance to prove our teas taste exceptional; showcasing our blends at an international platform like this allowed us to do this like never before.

A road leading into the mountains en route to Las Vegas.

On the road to Las Vegas, loaded with honeybush.

On 28 June the 2021 World Tea Expo kicked off in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tea makers and café owners, product inventors, buyers and tea enthusiasts from Bali to Britain gathered in the name of specialty teas. There were in-depth educational sessions, workshops and tastings. The purpose was to celebrate, connect and inform to drive industry awareness. We shared a venue with the Bar & Restaurant Expo, allowing our adjacent industries to cross-pollinate and network more broadly, increasing our chance of exposure to the more than 8,700 attendees.

Over three days the Langkloof Honeybush Company welcomed hundreds of guests to our booth, where we shared cups of honeybush, stories about the Langkloof, South Africa, and the necessity of preserving and regenerating our endemic species and the landscape. Some folks came with a keen interest in our philosophy; some just came to sample the tea. (Many came back for more tea). We weren’t surprised that most people we encountered knew little about honeybush; but even the tea experts with some prior knowledge were excited to learn about the diversity of honeybush species and their distinct flavour profiles, reflected in our different blends.

The large expo hall with people walking around and many stands on display.

Over 8,700 people from both the tea and food and beverage industries attended the Expo, several hundred of them visiting our booth.

A number of tea folks let us know that our teas were some of their favourite products of the Expo. “I could sell this all day,” said one café owner after tasting our house blend. We even heard from more than a few skeptics: “I just want to tell you, I don’t like herbal tea. I don’t drink any herbal tea,” said one attendee, “But this I like.”

The chance to make inroads to international markets is a big deal for our budding company, but it’s also right on track. In the last few years, we watched our team on the ground in the Langkloof diligently nurture seedlings, tend the hectares of wild growing plants, cut and process their harvests. We saw our product developers brew and blend into the wee hours to create the perfect bespoke combinations that reflected the best of the season and the landscape. We witnessed our sales team devote days to chasing leads and educating prospective buyers and herbal tea traders about our blends.

The pandemic stalled our momentum and forced us to turn inward. As we had no choice but to withdraw from our in person sales activities, we focused instead on developing and fine-tuning our blends. We dedicated more time to this work than we might have otherwise, and while we waited to see what lay on the other side, took courage from our community who is deeply invested in this product and its process.

There was still no guarantee that we would reemerge into a world as enthusiastic about our product as it had been before. And for small, ethical companies still reliant on niche markets like us, it’s been an especially insecure moment. But the Tea Expo was confirmation that the world is still connecting over a shared love of herbal tea, and that now, more than ever, this is essential.

The Langkloof Honeybush Company tea packages on display in a row.

We emerged from the past year with five distinct blends and a global platform on which to share them.

We are grateful that the entire herbal tea industry could emerge from the pandemic, and that we could mark our own return by spreading awareness about regeneratively produced honeybush tea. We continue to build upon the strong foundations and processes we developed during the pandemic, with a focus on offering 100% traceable tea of the highest quality. The World Tea Expo was the first step out of the dark, and to us it felt like a leap.

The Langkloof Honeybush Company’s video entry that won us the spot at the Tea Expo.

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