Scheduled speakers are listed and displayed in alphabetical order. For a full schedule of talks and tastings, please see our Schedule.
Keynote Speaker: Kirsten Passmore
CosAbility, Ms. Wheelchair Texas (Humble, TX)
Kirsten Passmore, born May 11th, 2001, lives with her parents, Brett and Amy Passmore. She received the diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy at the age of two. However, this has not stopped her from living life to the fullest! In 2013, she served as Little Miss Wheelchair Texas, allowing her to attend numerous events where she advocated for and empowered those with special needs. Kirsten continued to speak up and encourage those with disabilities, even after her reign had come to an end. It was in 2014 she discovered her passion for cosplaying and, realizing it could serve as an excellent platform for people of all abilities to meet and hang out, she founded CosAbility along with her cousin, Kaitlin Thompson. In October 2017, she was invited by a producer to be a part of a Facebook mini-series known as Hero Makeover. Hero Makeover shows the magical transformations of cosplayers who have made an impact in their community. Kirsten’s episode has had over one million views, and is now available for streaming on Facebook and Youtube!
Adams Tea Shop (Katy, TX)
Janice Adams is Founder and Managing Member of Adams Tea Shop, a family-owned online tea shop in Katy, Texas. Adams Tea Shop specializes in fun flavors of high quality “Teas That Please”. An enthusiastic urban tea grower, she is the treasurer of the US League of Tea Growers.
Janice is the President and Co-Owner of Chemico International, Inc. and holds a BBA in Accounting and an MBA in Management. Janice is a member of various organizations, including Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Alumni, Women’s Business Enterprise Alliance, UT Rio Grande Valley Alumni, Dartmouth-Tucks School of Business Alumni, Emerging Leaders Alumni, and Silver Fox Roundtable.
The Dragon’s Treasure (Chicago, IL)
Youlian Banov is the owner of The Dragon’s Treasure, an Illinois-based tea business that seeks to bring tea culture to the younger generations by combining the passions of tea with the culture of anime. At The Dragon’s Treasure, the calm and the exciting combine in this unique blend of love!
Cuppa Rosie Lee (Sugar Land, TX)
Laurin Baucum and Emily Bowman are Houston residents who have a deep love for tea and art. They fuel their passions into Cuppa Rosie Lee to create a brand that is consistently delicious and unique.
Cadae Tea and Passion Garden Tea (Waco, TX)
Kay Bell (B.A. Ed.) is the founder and owner of Cadae Tea in Waco, Texas. Born and raised on a small farm in Jacksonville, Texas, Kay Bell, wife of Virgil Bell and science teacher, humbly began her journey to a green thumb through starting an herb and vegetable garden at her own home. After discovering the passion she had for nurturing her plants to healthy perfection and the passion her close friends and family had for enjoying the fruits of her labor, Kay decided to share this wonderful gift with the world. Her hands personally make sure every tea is blended with with love, tested with care, and created with a passion.
Kay started Cadae (Earth Goddess) Tea in 2010 with just one lot and a card table at the local farmer’s market. Now Cadae Tea’s farming operation has grown to several lots and has extended its retail business to several farmer’s markets, a local health store (Drug Emporium) and Farm to School. Cadae Tea takes pride and honor in growing each of their herbs, fruits, and vegetables organically. Customer health is a priority to Kay and she strives each day to come up with diverse means to heal people naturally.
Phoebe Daniels is the Assistant Gamekeeper and Keeper of Keys and Grounds of Mugworts Academy. She is an expert on fantastic beasts and where to find them and is skilled in the care of magical creatures.
Sugimoto America – Japanese Green Tea (Redmond, WA)
Noli Ergas never really “got into” tea; it just sort of grew on him. While living in Japan, he became accustomed to the standard daily teas and the tea of Japanese tea ceremony, matcha. Now, he is one of the few outside of Japan certified as a Japanese Tea Advisor.
With an education in the sciences (geology and biology) and a teaching certification (Japanese), Noli has both a solid scientific background to help in understanding the biological mechanisms by which tea is grown and how it benefits our health, and a passion for spreading knowledge and the love of tea.
Cat Spring Yaupon (Austin, TX)
Abianne Falla is the co-founder of CatSpring Yaupon, one of the largest producers of yaupon in the world. She and the company are based in Cat Spring, Texas where the majority of wild growth yaupon is sourced. CatSpring Yaupon has led the field in development of sustainable yaupon production, while also employing ethical labor practices by creating people first employment opportunities.
Feel Japan (Houston, TX)
Feel Japan was founded by a small group of Japanese women in the Houston/Clear Lake area who enjoy sharing real Japanese culture with their neighbors while also learning English. They organize events and activities such as Japanese cooking classes, tea parties, crafts demonstrations, and talks on Japanese culture. Look for Feel Japan on Facebook!
Marteana Tea Company (Houston, TX)
Giovanna Gabuzzi is the founder of Houston-based Marteana Tea Company, which launched after a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2016. She gathers tea from all around the world and creates her own fusion blends, then mixes it with natural, organic and honest ingredients.
Lee Q Garcia
Tea in Texas(Houston, TX)
Lee Q Garcia is the author of Texas: Tea & Travel Guidebook series and founder of TEAinTEXAS handcrafted tea blends. Championing women business leaders, Lee established the Texas Tea Affair, annually recognizing women who embody the giving spirit of tea in the Gulf Coast community. She is a proud member of Lions Club, Go TEXAN and the Specialty Tea Institute. Lee holds a BS in Agricultural Engineering.
For modern tea travelers, Lee’s newest books: Tea Lover’s Guide to Texas and Texas Afternoon Tea combine her love of tea and travel with her vast knowledge of historic Lone Star cities.
Mama Kat’s Usborne Books & More (Pearland, TX)
Kat Grannemann lives in Pearland, TX with her husband and two young children. She is an oncology nurse by day and a book lady by night! Kat has been a consultant with Usborne Books & More for 2.5 years and loves the adventure. Her favorite part of the job is helping families find the perfect book to add to their home library. Kat’s favorite Usborne Books & More titles are “Boy” and “Nibbles.”
Houston Lolita Society
Houston Lolita Society (Houston, TX)
Houston Lolita Society is a group of individuals who live in the greater Houston area and are fans and wearers of Lolita fashion. Lolita is a Japanese street fashion and subculture in Japan that dates back to the late 1980’s. It is known for its demure, sometimes doll-like look. Lolita fashion is not related to the novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.
To learn more about Lolita fashion, you can visit http://hellolace.net/ and http://egl.livejournal.com/ . If you are a Houston-based Lolita and would like to join, visit https://www.facebook.com/pg/HoustonLolitaSociety/.
Trishnna Tea (Houston, TX)
Saurabh Kajaria is a co-founder and creative head of Trishnna Tea, a Houston based company specializing in specialty tea for mass consumers. Saurabh has over 8 years of product development and marketing experience backed by degrees from Texas A&M and UT Austin. He is a blend developer who loves to promote Indian teas from North Eastern India- Assam, Meghalaya, Dooars. He is passionate about supporting small scale industries in India that in turn support the under-privileged community. Most recently by adopting use of handmade papers for Trishnna Tea packaging.
McHugh Tea Room and True Leaf Tea (Houston, TX)
Kim McHugh is an ITMA-Certified Tea Specialist and Tea Blending Master who enjoys blending herbs, teas and flavors to come up with the newest and best tea blends for her company, True Leaf Tea Company. Kim is better known in the Houston area as the owner of McHugh Tea Room and Gifts, the first tea room in the history of Bellaire, Texas, specializing in organic teas from around the world. This family-owned business began in 2010 with an online tea store, TrueLeafTea.com. After many trips to England, the dream of creating an upscale, organic tea room that specialized in serving the highest quality organic teas supplemented by a variety of freshly made foods became a shared dream by her entire family.
Wild South Tea (Houston, TX)
Nick Panzarella is the founder of Houston based Wild South Tea – selling bottled cassina made from wild harvested yaupon holly. With a mission to bring new life to native foodways, Nick fuses his love on languages and different cultures to the task of building a national beverage brand.
His interest in wild and foraged products began while he was obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in the boy scouts in Kingwood, Texas. As a linguistics major at Tulane University in New Orleans, he delved deeper into the traditional uses of wild plants by Native Americans and in Cajun culture. He took a year to travel in South America and Europe where he saw how many cultures prized the indigenous products that grew in their regions; especially with his cousins in the Sicilian countryside. Nick hopes his company can inspire more Americans to see value in the wild and delicious things growing around them.
Karen Peterson, DBE
Daughters of the British Empire, Sir Malcolm Sargent Chapter (Highlands, TX)
Karen Peterson has been a member of Daughters of the British Empire for 21 years. She has served her chapter as Regent, Vice-Regent, Secretary and Treasurer. She has also served on State Board as Recording Secretary and Organizer. Karen did a term on Mountbatten House board as Recording Secretary and has served as Recording Secretary for the Festival Board twice. Born in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, she moved to Texas as a young child. Karen holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Business from Sam Houston State University and attended Texas A&M for graduate school.
Blue Heron Tea Traditions (Dallas, TX)
Georgia Rayna holds three tea certifications from World Tea Academy: Tea Specialist, Tea Health Expert and Tea Professional. She is the owner of Blue Heron Tea Traditions in Dallas, where she is a purveyor of specialty teas and shares her love for many global tea cultures while engaging guests in tea experiences from around the world.
TeaTime Magazine (Birmingham, AL)
Lorna Reeves is the editor of TeaTime Magazine. Lorna was introduced to the pleasures of afternoon tea at the Williamsburg Inn many years ago, and it wasn’t long before tea drinking became an essential part her daily routine. She began her career at Hoffman Media, publisher of TeaTime, in 1991. Of her many responsibilities as editor, she especially enjoys planning the tea menus and tablescapes pictured in the pages of the magazine, which was named the Best Tea Publication at the 2014 and 2015 World Tea Awards. Lorna is currently pursuing Specialty Tea Institute Level 3 certification.
Elizabeth Sapaugh has been a researcher in the field of mythology and language translation for the past 10 years. She has done extensive correspondence work with European universities.
She is currently a student at University of Houston Clear Lake finishing up a double bachelor’s degree in sociology and anthropology.
Leila & Erika Shanoff
Erika’s Tea Room and Gifts (Clermont, FL)
Leila & Erika Shanoff are a mother/daughter duo who share a passion for everything tea related. In 2014, Leila left her SVP position at one of the country’s major banks to utilize her MBA in starting her own tea room. Erika is a certified teacher with more than ten years in the classroom. She applies her patience and motivational skills to her management of a successful tea room. You will enter their program as strangers and leave as friends, and be assured that “Memories are Made with Every Cup!”
Leila Shanoff is a certified elementary teacher with an MBA in Finance and Accounting. As a young college graduate, teaching jobs were few and far between so Leila began working in the Banking industry. With over 35 years in the corporate world, Leila’s specialty is in the area of Small Business. After years of helping other businesses get started, Leila and her daughter started their own tea room. Leila’s passion for cooking and baking is evident in the homemade savory and sweet treats Leila creates daily.
BS in Elementary Education and Sociology, MBA in Finance and Accounting
Erika Shanoff is a certified teacher with a degree in English Literature and Education. Her master’s degree in School Administration, provides a skill set in leadership and management. She associates all of her customer service skills with interacting with students and parents and applies those abilities in running a successful tea room for the last 5 years. As the face of the tearoom, she utilizes her people skills daily to grow the support of the community and followers. Her creativity is the driving force for menu and event creation.
BA in English, Secondary Education, MS in School Administration, Certified Literary Coach, President of the Clermont Downtown Partnership
Young Living Essential Oils (Houston, TX)
Sunday Taylor, CAP OM, has been on her oily journey for over three years. Initially she was searching for “something” to support her family’s wellness from a state of dis-ease to one of wellness. Then she found something empowering and transformative: essential oils. From the moment she sat with her first bottle of Frankincense, she knew her life was about to take off in a new direction. The shift was immediate. She dove into learning, bought every book she could find, and researched evidence behind the use of essential oils.
Sunday made the conscious choice to dedicate her life to teaching others about products that have changed her family’s and her life for the better. She left behind many of the trappings of modern Western medicine and embraced the positive. Since then, she has traveled all over the United States teaching others about the benefits of daily wellness, and she turns complicated science into easy-to-understand stories. Sunday’s wellness journey continues! Life is such a blessing, and wellness is free to everyone!
The Tea Mistress, LLC (Houston, TX)
Amanda Vermillion, a.k.a. The Tea Mistress, is originally from the Northeastern U.S. but is now based in the Houston area. Amanda’s French mother introduced her to “tisanes” (herbal teas) as a child. In college, Amanda became interested in the healing properties of herbs.
Amanda earned her Tea Master Certification from the International Tea Masters Association in 2013 and her New World Tea Certification from I-TEI in 2014. Founded in 2013, The Tea Mistress, LLC combines Amanda’s passion for, and knowledge of, teas and tisanes with her extensive event-planning experience. The Tea Mistress began with event planning, talks, classes and presentations. The focus of the business soon expanded to include retail sales of specialty teas, herbs, coffee, tea accessories and teaware.
For almost 30 years, Amanda has led social groups, volunteered, and organized hundreds (if not thousands) of events, meetings, conventions and social activities. Amanda currently serves as Director of Lone Star Houston Tea Festival, Inc., the 501(c)3 non-profit organization responsible for the Lone Star Iced Tea Festival and the Houston Tea Festival.
The Oolong Drunk (Fort Worth, TX)
Cody Wade is a tea blogger who resides in Fort Wort, Texas. He calls himself “The Oolong Drunk” because he easily becomes “tea drunk” while drinking puer and oolong teas. Oolong is his passion while puer is his obsession. He originally got interested in tea through oolong, then dove right into puer! Cody is on a never-ending tea journey and invites you to join him on that journey through his reviews.
It’s an Affair of the Heart and Houston Academy of Etiquette and Protocol (Houston, TX)
Penny Ward is a Certified Etiquette Instructor and Certified Tea & Etiquette Instructor. She is a public speaker, an event planner, and the owner of It’s an Affair of the Heart. She is also the Founder and Director of Houston Academy of Etiquette & Protocol, and can be contacted at www.pennyward.com
Yaupon Brothers American Tea Company (Edgewater, FL)
Bryon White, co-founder of Yaupon Brothers American Tea Co., identified the market opportunity for his first startup venture as a result of his long-time interest in botany. Bryon is a native plant enthusiast with a focus on ethno-botany and native agriculture. As a result, he was familiar with the Native Americans’ use of yaupon and wondered why it was never available commercially. “It was just a fringe product, so we surmised it didn’t taste good,” he says. “We experimented with it and found out it was a nice-tasting tea.”
Yaupon Brothers grows and sources Florida-native yaupon holly, which is North America’s only native caffeinated plant species. The company processes it into herbal tea and sells it nationwide. “No one is utilizing yaupon as it should be used, so it’s a complete disrupter in the tea industry,” Bryon explains. “As far as the modern American consumer is concerned, it’s a completely new product that is a viable alternative to coffee and tea. It’s an antioxidant superfood on the order of green tea that is gaining popularity.” Yaupon Brothers plans to keep that momentum going.