Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

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!


Janet McKinney said...

I so understand your need for a piping hot cup of black tea first thing in the morning.

I can recommend a tea that meets some of your criteria - it is organic and Fair Trade, but grown in Australia called Nerada.

It is a beautiful tea

Of course, living in Australia makes it a local tea for me, so it ticks all boxes for me

ceridwen said...

I understand exactly where you are coming from - in my case its coffee - gotta have my several cups of coffee each day and I would feel VERY hard done by if I couldnt. Yep - I know/I know I wouldnt be REALLY...but thats how it I'm back to one of my "theme tunes" these days...the one which goes "its not just a question of life continuing - but it has to be WORTH LIVING"....if you get my gist.


Maureen said...

You have me curious because I live on the West Coast and LOVE to share?

Wendy said...

I, too, am a tea drinker, and while the tea doesn't have to be piping hot when I drink it (I usually let it cool a bit), the water does have to be *boiling* when it's poured over the tea bag, because warm water just doesn't brew the tea properly.

For a while I was buying loose organic tea leaves from the health food store, but when the price more than doubled (compared to the organic tea bags at the grocery store), I switched back to tea bags. I don't know if it's fair trade or whatever, but it's one of the few things that I make a concession on.

Kate said...

Janet, thanks for the tea recommendation. I will look into it. Lucky you to have it grown locally.

ceridwen, yeah, I get your gist. I'm doing what I can to cover both the bare necessities of life, and then include the few luxuries that really, really make a difference. Of course, what is needed to go along with those luxuries is the mindfulness and awareness that they ARE luxuries. Otherwise they're merely taken for granted eventually, no matter how wonderful.

Maureen, it's Bourbon Vanilla tea from Peabury's in Oakland. No alcohol in it though. "Bourbon vanilla" is a candymaking term indicating high quality of the vanilla bean. This is ceylon loose tea with actual chopped up bits of vanilla bean in it. I generally don't go for the artificial tasting flavored crapola, but this is something else entirely. Now you know my secret!

Wendy, I followed the boiling water method myself for many years but have just recently revised my procedure. I use the boiling water to warm the pot for one minute. That water then gets poured into my mug to warm it, and the one-minute-post-boiling water still in the kettle is then used to steep the tea. With a tea cozy and a warmed pot, the tea stays plenty hot. I think the just under boiling temperature brings out fewer astringent notes in the tea. But I wholeheartedly agree that tea must be brewed at *very* hot temperatures. Your mileage may vary though.