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Devan Shah, founder, International Tea Importers.

The tea industry lost an icon with the untimely and sudden passing of Devan Shah. Devan passed away on April 3, 2016, at his home in Diamond Bar, Calif., surrounded by his family. He was 53. Devan was a beloved husband, loving father, and a great mentor and educator to the global tea community.


From his beginnings in Mumbai, India, where he was born, Devan evolved into a true pioneer in the global tea industry. He grew up in Coimbatore, where his lifetime love affair with tea began with spending childhood summers on a tea estate in the Nilgiri mountains. Devan majored in business at the university in Coimbatore, but his passion for tea never subsided so he became an assistant tea broker. He saw that the nascent tea industry in the United States was growing and chose to relocate to California, where he opened his first business in 1990. That business, International Tea Importers, now sells more than 600 types of tea. He acquired Chado Tea Room in 1994. The retail store now has three locations in the Los Angeles area. Devan also founded Waterfall Teas.

His tea companies have helped revolutionize the tea-drinking culture in America. He believed that by producing and selling good quality tea, customers will follow and the industry will grow. His good friend, James Norwood Pratt, has said that the success of chai in the U.S., can be credited to Devan.

As an educator, Devan created the first tea sommelier course, conducted numerous tastings and sponsored countless events.

He founded the Los Angeles International Tea Festival, was an annual exhibitor at World Tea Expo and a longtime supporter of the Specialty Tea Institute.

"Devan has touched many lives and played an integral part in connecting people worldwide through tea," said Gail Gastelu, the editor and publisher of The Tea House Times. "Gone too soon, my heart is heavy and yet so very full for having had the privilege of knowing and honoring Mr. Shah during the inaugural World Tea Awards in 2014. It was an elegant affair befitting a kind gentleman as he was presented the Cha Jing Lifetime Achievement Award (now known as the John Harney Lifetime Achievement Award) of which he was so deserving. His contributions to the tea industry and everyone in it will never be forgotten."

In his eulogy, James Norwood Pratt said, "None of us in the world of tea would be where we are were it not for Devan. When he arrived in this country, the tea trade was not just sleepy, it was comatose ... He did his utmost to educate us in excellence, not only in our tea life but in our whole life, such was his unmistakable integrity and generosity ... Purity of heart is to will one thing and Devan seemed to will, with all his might, to be the change he wished to see in this world. That single-mindedness of his has helped make our American tea scene by far the most interesting, welcoming and yes, profitable one anywhere in the world. He inspired us to respect and cherish tea and one another the way he did. This is the secret of his astonishing success. It is a success not simply measured by his profitable businesses but by how greatly our tea community has been transformed since he arrived and began his tireless work among us. He succeeded above all at being the best sort of human being."

Devan is survived by his wife Reena, son Brendan, daughter Bianca and mother-in-law Margaret. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Pratham USA:
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Comment:Devan Shah, founder, International Tea Importers.(PEOPLE NEWS: IN MEMORIAM)
Author:Facenda, Vanessa L.
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jun 1, 2016
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