Tea lovers are in for a treat when the Hong Kong Trade Development Council's (HKTDC) Hong Kong International Tea Fair debuts today. 'This fair will provide many business networking opportunities, and many cultural and fun activities for trade and public visitors to facilitate tea trade and promote tea culture,' said Raymond Yip, assistant executive director of the HKTDC, organiser of the fair. The tea fair will be staged at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai from today until Saturday. Only traders are allowed in on the first two days and the public on the final day. There are more than 250 exhibitors and 15 countries participating. Group pavilions include the mainland, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Vietnam, with the mainland holding the biggest pavilion because it is the biggest tea producer in the world. Hong Kong company Kampery Development is the biggest exhibitor overall, occupying 72 square metres of space. The HKTDC has invited tea retailers and supermarket chains to attend the fair. There are more than 40 buying missions from 21 countries and regions, and the number of buyers is expected to exceed 900. Mr Yip said that holding the first tea fair in Hong Kong was not an impulsive move for HKTDC. 'A lot of research has been put into tea drinking in Asia and the results showed that Hong Kong people consume the highest amount of tea in Asia. 'And there is a long tea drinking history in the city,' he added. 'Secondly, Hong Kong does not produce tea itself so the fair organiser would be more objective in promoting all kinds of tea.' He said that Hong Kong was the perfect location for the fair because it was one of the world's major trading hubs and had zero tax on imports and exports, which favoured trade. The fair is divided into nine sections to give visitors a clear indication of which section would suit them most. Exhibits on display include tea, processed tea and tea products, tea packaging, tea processing equipment and testing services, tea ware, tea bar/organisation, tea technology, tea art, and tea media. There is also an education area called the Tea Gallery, in Hall 3C, for the display of tea, worldwide tea ware, tea reference books and video footage of tea culture from Argentina, India, Japan, Sri Lanka and Britain. Because this year is the event's debut, a comprehensive promotion plan had been carried out to promote the fair since early last year. Mr Yip said as a result, the HKTDC was not worried about the effects of the economic downturn or swine flu. The tea fair promotions included local and overseas advertisements, magazine and radio interviews, printed matter, outdoor banners, inviting overseas journalists and pre-fair press lunches on the mainland, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Taiwan. Kampery Development also believes that the economy will not greatly affect sales and the number of traders and visitors at the fair. Athena Li, Kampery's assistant marketing manager, said: 'Tea drinking in Hong Kong and in China is a daily habit. So, in our opinion, the economy has not affected the tea industry greatly nor will it greatly affect the sales and number of traders and visitors at the fair.' Another local exhibitor, Ying Kee Tea Company, is also not too concerned about the economic downturn affecting the fair and is excited about being able to participate in the event. Wilson Chan, the company's director, said: 'We are delighted to participate in the fair and to promote tea culture to the world. It is a great opportunity to enhance our overseas market network and interchange our ideas with visitors.'