I'm a tea junkie. As for many people, my day cannot properly begin without a dose of caffeine. But unlike most Americans, my preferred medium is tea, rather than coffee. I'm every bit as particular and fastidious about the tea I drink as any coffee drinker can be. It should be good tea, well brewed, and served piping hot (except, of course, when it's served well chilled).
Now it so happens that one of my most favorite teas is sold by a company on the west coast, where my husband travels several times a year for work. This tea is not cheap, and I don't like to run out of it. So he had been buying several 4-ounce packages each time he was in the neighborhood. He's due for another trip out there, and I finally got it into my head to call the company and ask about a bulk discount. Lo and behold, I ended up placing an order for 5 pounds of tea and getting it at the wholesale rate, or about half the price of the small packages sold at retail prices.
When I spoke to the woman who handles wholesale orders, she initially said that anything over a pound would be sold at a 10% discount, and that there were no further discounts until ten pounds or more were purchased at one time. I didn't argue this, but I said I would be interested in five pounds, then asked if I needed to arrange for that much to be available at one time. At that point she simply offered me the wholesale rate for five pounds of tea, even though she'd just told me that I needed to buy ten pounds to get that big a discount. I didn't ask for clarification, just placed the order.
Needless to say, I'm pretty psyched about securing a large supply of my favorite tea at nearly a 50% discount. I have the space to store the tea in the freezer, and a vacuum sealer to keep the moisture out, so it shouldn't be a problem to buy such a large amount at one time. It made my day to get such a good deal, simply by taking the trouble to ask. The fact that a lot of packaging will be avoided is pure bonus. Moral of the story is: it never hurts to ask. A few minutes of my time on the phone saved us a tidy sum.
Now for the downside. I must acknowledge that tea is not a local product for me. I'm partially consoled by the fact that tea was an item famously traded over long distances in the age of rigged sailing ships. I admit to justifying some foodstuffs such as spices and the occasional citrus fruits in the same way. My husband is traveling to that area anyhow, which means we're not making a special trip just for this one purchase. Beyond that, I have to admit that I am simply dependent upon the stuff and really don't want to go without. Also, I don't know the fair trade status of the particular tea, which is probably not a good sign. It's not easy to be an ethical eater (or drinker) and keep the budget trimmed at the same time.
All this confessional is just my way of saying I'm not perfect either. Sometimes I worry that in focusing on the positive here on my own blog, I paint my life as far more ideal than it really is. My life is a balancing act of my own ethical standards just as much as anyone else's is. So I'm asking in hopes of receiving again - if any of you are serious tea drinkers and can recommend an excellent fair trade black tea, please recommend it in the comments!