Leaving the Canton Tea Club

…or “Too Much Politics”

This is not a complaint against anyone in particular. The folks at Canton Tea, and especially Kate who runs the club and mails out samples, have been great. And their teas are top-notch. Hubby and I just tried two more (both from Hawaii) and were bowled over. No, the only issue was letting politics get in the way of what should have been friendly tea discussion.

Politics among tea drinkers is not unusual. In fact, over the last three years while I have been writing about tea, politics has reared its distasteful and controversy-inspiring head repeatedly. Often with no good reason. The real problem is how many folks take on an air of smugness in relation to what they think the rest of us should be doing. To them we’re all a bunch of uncaring, unfeeling cretins who just slurp our tea while they are noble beings who drink tea to feel better about themselves and the world.

Logic rarely enters into such discussions, or any logical remark is met with such responses as “oh, you just don’t understand” or “you’re just mean.”

This wasn’t the only issue with this particular tea club, though. I could not in good faith recommend participating in it. First, the company is in the UK, so for anyone outside of that country the shipping cost is rather high. Second, the whole “club” concept is like the boys and their tree house — full of a pseudo-camaraderie that anyone with a healthy sense of self worth doesn’t need. Third and most important for me, the teas, while nice, are just not worth the price — a big consideration in an economy that has no signs of really improving.

There are actually two major ways to determine whether something is worth the price being charged: 1) What went into the making of the item (value of materials, cost of labor, expertise); and 2) What value you will get out of having that thing. Too often, the focus is on a third item: What is considered morally or ethically superior. “Be a better human being by buying your tea from us!”

Sorry, but it takes much too much effort these days (far more than it did four years ago) to earn the little (far less than I earned four years ago) money to spend on anything, including essentials like food, housing, and medicine. Why in the world would I throw a chunk of it some tea vendor’s way because they say it will make me a better person (not in those exact words but clearly implied)?

As one who has been on the inside of Marketing and has spent a number of years acting as liaison between IT folks and Marketing Departments, I know that presenting your products to customers is tricky. The IT guys want something easy to program and the user will like it or else. The Marketing guys want something (and I quote) “sexy to present to the client.” For tea, marketing ploys seem to range from “it’ll cure what ails ya” to “so-and-so celebrity drinks this tea” and “you’ll save the planet if you drink this tea” (quite a trick that would be — me and my little cuppa tea saving the world). I’d love to see them say things like “you will get great value for your money” (a few — too few — vendors do this).

Finally, tea clubs in general seem unnecessary when we have social media sites and group pages popping up like proverbial toadstools after a rainstorm. If you really absolutely positively MUST be in some kind of group review situation, go to Steepster.com and sign up. You’ll get that “clubby” feeling without the price tag.

© 2012 A.C. Cargill photos and text

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