Previous Speakers

Learn from and connect with world-renowned tea makers and entrepreneurs.

Meet our speakers from 2015...

Roy Fong

Roy Fong is the founder and proprietor of San Francisco’s Imperial Tea Court, the first traditional Chinese teahouse in America. A native of Hong Kong, Mr. Fong was introduced to tea early in life, and has spent many years developing close relations with tea growers and producers in mainland China and Taiwan.

Each year he visits select tea gardens to supervise all aspects of production – from planting and cultivation to harvesting, processing and grading. In addition, he has built close ties with the historic pottery workshops of Yixing in Jiangsu province and imports dozens of exceptional “purple sand” teapots to the United States each year – many of which are his own special designs and commissions.


James Norwood Pratt

Author, The Tea Lover’s Treasury & The Tea Dictionary

Born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and brought up on land which has been in his family since before the American Revolution, James Norwood Pratt was educated at Chapel Hill and abroad and published his first book on tea in 1982. He is one of the world’s most widely-read authorities on tea and tea lore. His, “Tea Dictionary” was named Best New Publication by the World Tea Expo in 2010. He appears in several films and theatrical productions and lives with his wife Valerie Turner in San Francisco.


Rona Tison

Senior Vice President, Ito En

Rona Tison is the Sr. Vice President of Corporate Relations at ITO EN (North America) INC, the award-winning and world’s leading purveryor of green tea products and healthy beverages. Established 50 years ago in Japan, she is dedicated to introducing ITO EN’s authentic green tea culture in the United States and creating innovative products that embody the companies five guiding principles of Natural, Healthy, Safe, Well-designed and Delicious. Being half-Japanese she is fluent in Japanese and well-versed on the Japanese culture. Tison serves on the Tea & Health Committee of the U.S. Tea Council, she has been a speaker at the Shizuoka World Tea Festival, Smithsonian Lecture Series and World Tea Expo.


kristina richens

minister of commerce (director of sales), the republic of tea

Kristina Richens brings 20 years of experience in the food and beverage industry to her role as the Minister of Commerce (Director of Sales) for The Republic of Tea.  A native of New Jersey, Richens has been with The Republic of Tea for over 12 years and has proved instrumental in the growth of the brand.  In her role as Minister of Commerce, she oversees key accounts, international sales, training, education and public relations. 

Richens began in the natural food and beverage industry following graduation from the University of Delaware, where she majored in Economics.  Her first position was with The Organic Coffee Company in Wareham, Massachusetts where she worked as a Production Coordinator.  In 1996, she went to work at Allegro Coffee Company in Boulder, Colorado, holding a multitude of titles including Customer Service Representative, Customer Service Team Leader, Whole Foods Market/Key Account Coordinator, and finally Marketing Manager, a position she held until 2001.  Her next career move brought her to Oakland, California where she worked with Just Desserts, serving as the National Sales Manager, and helped to grow the regional bakery into a nationally recognized dessert brand and category leader. 

In 2002, she began her tenure at The Republic of Tea as the West Regional Sales Manager and then became the Minister of Education before earning the title of Minister of Commerce (Director of Sales) in 2008.  As the Minister of Commerce, Richens’ responsibilities include establishing and managing U.S. and international sales, providing a strategic sales perspective as part of the Senior Leadership Team, working closely with The Republic of Tea’s Director of Marketing and the Sourcing TEAm on new tea development, including the creation of over 200 new items since June 2008.  Richens also oversees the public relations efforts and acts as the company spokesperson for The Republic of Tea. 

A passionate philanthropist, Richens also serves as the President of the Board of Directors for Fresh Start, a Denver-based non-profit agency that focuses on providing resources for families in need. Richens is a resident of Denver and enjoys the bounty of activities and the healthy lifestyle that Colorado offers.


TOMMY smith

consultant, zu chang TEA company

Tommy has been leading public tea tasting events, working to introduce the diversity of teas and impact of brewing parameters since 2004. He is the content provider for the app "Tea for iPhone" and has been writing tea reviews to assist consumers and companies alike. As consultant for Zu Chang Tea, he has had the opportunity to travel to the major tea producing areas in Taiwan and deepen his level of understanding of teas he has researched and promoted for over a decade. 

Tommy applies an analytical approach from his studies in Biology and Environmental Sciences to take on the particulars of what brewing parameters may benefit or detract from the cup character derived from different teas. It is his great joy to help people investigate the many faces a tea may exhibit and how to find what teas might suit peoples' varied tastes.


hollie lucas-alcalay

owner, hollie's homegrown

Hollie Lucas-Alcalay is the owner of Hollie’s Homegrown, a small, organic family farm in Moraga, California (25 miles east of San Francisco).  She specializes in growing over 50 varieties of herbs that are used in her herbal teas, culinary products and her bath & body line. Hollie is a third-generation organic farmer, her Croatian grandparents were large-scale organic farming pioneers in central California, and her father was the first grower of wine grapes in Santa Barbara County.  Inspired by her family’s farming roots, Hollie transformed her 1/2 acre backyard from suburban weed patch to a beautiful, working herbal farm.

Since 2010, Hollie has sold her products at Farmers’ Markets and Festivals throughout the Bay Area. She teaches classes, sponsors events and is a frequent speaker for gardening groups, schools, community gardens and charity causes.  Hollie’s Homegrown recently won a Local Foodmaker Grant from Whole Foods, and was a 2014 National Finalist for the Martha Stewart “American Made” Awards.