It happened in one of the new “lifestyle” stores that are popping up in our increasingly gentrified small town.You know the type.They fall into several categories:furniture and curios; kitchen and cookery; local artisan crafts; garden and landscape; bed and bath; pets (indeed, in our town of 7000human souls, we now have two boutiques devoted exclusively to things for dogs).
Back to the teapot, which, interestingly enough, was in the “bed and bath” category of lifestyle store.Prominently displayed on the front counter by the cash register, visible as you entered the store, there it was:White porcelain in a modern teardrop design, complete with two little cups, a tiny creamer and tiny sugar bowl, the whole ensemble sculpted into interlocking shapes and made to fit onto an oval bamboo serving platter.My daughter is a regular tea drinker, holds a degree in Fine Arts and notices things like design–she was hooked!
The maker of this set went one step further in the whole marketing seduction process: on the shelf next to the set were boxed “gift sets” of tea.Not bags, not loose-leaf tea.These sets contained anywhere from 6 to 12 individual pyramid-shaped infusion “constructions” with tea leaves inside, designed to fit perfectly into the aforementioned pot.Each pyramid had a little twiny “twig” on top, complete with leaf, made to rise through a hole in the pot’s lid.Tres charmant!
We happened to notice all of this while the cashier was wrapping another purchase for us, so we had time to admire it.Small enough to be practical for one person’s regular use, yet dressy enough to be brought out for a special guest; tasteful in a clean, traditional way, yet modern enough to catch my 20-something contemporary artist daughter’s eye.No way of knowing how it works as a tea-brewing vessel, although I think porcelain has a track record there.
Some things feed your body; some things feed your soul; some things feed your aesthetic sense.This package was definitely in the latter camp.But for me, something was missing.
Some of you are probably old enough to remember the moment in the 70’s when people started becoming aware of the connection between all of the paper products we used and the trees used to make them.This led to recycling, awareness of where our metal and plastic items came from and yet more recycling.We started using cloth coffee filters (with ambiguous results), and I think this is when I actually bought my first stainless steel tea infuser.
In the last few decades, many of us have probably boomeranged back from our “Save A Tree” consumer habits, but a few major changes have stayed with us, recycling being one of those, and a new awareness of the energy used to manufacture things and transport them.And while I really enjoyed the look and feel of these charming pyramidal tea infusers, I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that it took a 9 x 12 inch box with a plastic display window to contain 8 of them (each individually wrapped).It bothered me that each tea infuser was a “one-off”.Something so meticulously designed, built, and wrapped should be displayed on the mantel!
To be sure, these would be something to bring out for a special occasion.In the meantime, the teapot could be used over and over again, with your favorite infuser.No cans, plastic bottles, or paper cups.
I think I will opt for the teapot set when buying my daughter her birthday gift this year, and leave the boxed tea-bag gift sets on the shelf for all to admire.
Anne lives in the Hood River Valley in Oregon, USA, where she and her husband own and operate an orchard (pears and cherries), vineyard and winery (Hood River Vineyards) specializing in red wines, ports and sherries. Together they have also raised 5 children, 4 dogs, 1 cat, 3 rabbits, and 24 chickens. She has interests in writing, drawing, gardening, quilting, travel, Russian language and culture, and whatever the guy at the next table is drinking. Anne’s past with tea is checkered, including stints of regular tea-drinking while attending an English boarding school, a university in the ex-Soviet Union (Georgian tea is a favorite), and traveling. These days, she drinks copious amounts of iced tea in the Summertime, and occasional cups of various types of hot tea throughout the rest of the year. Although she prefers her tea “neat," she is not above putting a dollop of jam in her cuppa. Recently, she could not help noticing the many parallels between wine and tea culture. Unfazed by the arcane nature of the wine world, she is a little awed by the tea world, and wishes to learn more about it.