February 26th, 2011
What Happened to Tea?
What is Boba Tea?  A drink called tea but is made up mostly of syrups, powders, water, and Tapioca Pearls.
After centuries of tradition, then commercialization, Boba Tea is one of the evolutionary products of tea.  In the early years of the 21st century, a Boba Tea craze swept the States, where hundreds of franchises bloomed to satiate the need for this “tea” drink. There are quite a few Boba Tea drinks that are actually tea-based, but many of these drinks are popular for their fruit slushy flavors, and more prominently their Tapioca Pearls.  
In Little Saigon (the area of SoCal with the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam), this Boba Tea craze inducted hundreds of companies into the “tea” business.  Perhaps this has something to do with the prominence of tea in Vietnamese dietary and ritual traditions.  Yet, these Boba Tea “cafes” soon grew to the site of popular late-night hangouts for young adults, contrary to the old notion of sophisticated tea.  Now, after drinks and bar-hopping, many recoup from their nighttime adventures with a Boba tea drink.  Rarely does anyone actually order hot or iced tea from one of these venues.  
This is yet another interesting example of low tea- the diminution of cultural and traditional tea drinking to feed the market demand for tea products.

What Happened to Tea?

What is Boba Tea?  A drink called tea but is made up mostly of syrups, powders, water, and Tapioca Pearls.

After centuries of tradition, then commercialization, Boba Tea is one of the evolutionary products of tea.  In the early years of the 21st century, a Boba Tea craze swept the States, where hundreds of franchises bloomed to satiate the need for this “tea” drink. There are quite a few Boba Tea drinks that are actually tea-based, but many of these drinks are popular for their fruit slushy flavors, and more prominently their Tapioca Pearls.  

In Little Saigon (the area of SoCal with the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam), this Boba Tea craze inducted hundreds of companies into the “tea” business.  Perhaps this has something to do with the prominence of tea in Vietnamese dietary and ritual traditions.  Yet, these Boba Tea “cafes” soon grew to the site of popular late-night hangouts for young adults, contrary to the old notion of sophisticated tea.  Now, after drinks and bar-hopping, many recoup from their nighttime adventures with a Boba tea drink.  Rarely does anyone actually order hot or iced tea from one of these venues.  

This is yet another interesting example of low tea- the diminution of cultural and traditional tea drinking to feed the market demand for tea products.

February 17th, 2011

Tea Fetishism and Fashion

I think it is very interesting that people have elevated tea beyond its typical use, and incorporated it into fashion.  This appears to be a major case of tea fetishism!!

February 9th, 2011

What a great use of tea……….

Hangover Tea: A cure for hangovers. 

February 6th, 2011

Lady Gaga and the Queen

(6) Gaga for Tea

Elevation of Tea for the Masses?

According to the tabloids and the Internet, Lady Gaga is now the face of tea.  She has been seen and captured sporting a cup of tea during numerous occasions, and insists on drinking it in her own china before every performance or appearance.  The grand extent of her fame makes her a very influential celebrity, creating cult-like obsessions in gullible viewers over her lifestyle.  In fact, Time magazine lists her as one of the 100 Most Influential Celebrities in the World, and likewise, Forbe’s magazine lists her as one of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women. No wonder many tea companies are making large bids to have Lady Gaga as a spokesperson for their brand. 


Tea companies like Twinings are trying their best to have Lady Gaga as the representative of their brand.  Twinings has even created an oriental flavor for Lady Gaga.  They offered her a multi-million pound contract with the intent that her tea promotion increases sales, especially by appealing to the youth who often indulge in popular culture.  But what is it about attaching a celebrity’s name or face to a brand that makes the product more marketable?

As I mentioned in my previous blog, people like to consider themselves as sophisticated or fancy, even if only by imitation.  I think consumers like you and I have an affinity for products that are well marketed, especially if it is supported by a popular figure like Oprah, because it looks more “legit”, as some would say.  We like to assume that products that are more costly, aesthetically appealing, and reinforced by well-known names are probably the best of its kind.  Though there may be a correlation, these attributes are not a reliable caliber because the popularity of products highly corresponds to marketing strategy.    


The irony to me is that, although Lady Gaga is a paradox, we still hold her in high regards and as an example to model.  People would say she exudes sophistication with her pose, glamorous outfits and tea-drinking habits, but what about her repulsive meat dress and new perfume that is said to intentionally smell like blood and semen? Surely there’s no class in that.  What are we thinking?

Strangely, Simmel’s philosophy of objects and our valuation of them become blurred here.  Fans hold Lady Gaga in high esteem, and certainly tea companies yearn for her endorsement.  So with her elevation comes the elevation of tea too right?  But the central goal of tea companies is to have their brand universally consumed to reap the most profits.  If Lady Gaga is to be a model exemplar through the media who can elevate the value of tea in the view of other individuals, does she necessarily need to be accessible and commonplace to bring tea down to a democratic value for tea companies to get the most out of their investments?  

Perhaps one resolution is that Lady Gaga fans will aspire to drink tea because they hold her in high esteem and want to model themselves after her.  And on the other hand, tea companies may not think of Lady Gaga as much more than an engine for their profits, effectively “lowering” tea value to a more affordable, aware fanbase that will purchase their products.  Tea thus may assume both a high and low value if Lady Gaga’s promotion will satisfy both her fans and her funders.


February 3rd, 2011

An interesting link to show how creative the industries have become.  They keep finding new ways to get us to buy their products!

There is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Letters and Social Aims
February 1st, 2011
Media
Today’s tea parties are definitely not like those portrayed in the past.  Nowadays, to be “cordially invited to a tea party” may suggest an event to wear sunflower dresses, large hats, and to drink tea out of Alice in Wonderland-like tea sets.  But these are simulations of the past and a fiction, for today’s teatime in Europe is most likely less decorated.  

Media

Today’s tea parties are definitely not like those portrayed in the past.  Nowadays, to be “cordially invited to a tea party” may suggest an event to wear sunflower dresses, large hats, and to drink tea out of Alice in Wonderland-like tea sets.  But these are simulations of the past and a fiction, for today’s teatime in Europe is most likely less decorated.  

January 31st, 2011
The elegance of tea.

The elegance of tea.

Media
Film still from the movie Pride and Prejudice.  I think images like this are definitely what today’s society associates with when thinking about the English teatime. 

Media

Film still from the movie Pride and Prejudice.  I think images like this are definitely what today’s society associates with when thinking about the English teatime. 

(5) Fancy That

Media’s Distortion of Space and Time for the (Un)Willing Consumer

Our society seems to indulge in a false sense of sophistication.  We buy fancy shoes and clothing we can hardly afford to appear fashionable.  We buy purified water because we are convinced that drinking tap water is uncouth.  We buy, buy, and buy to attain a social stamp of approvable that delivers an irrational satisfaction.  Can we blame the media for our over-the-top cravings for things out of our league?  In one day, we see hundreds of advertisements, in which billions of dollars are spent toward warping social standards and values.  Media has elevated the simple things in life to the standards of the rich or famous to profit from our naivete.  As a result, we perform parodies and imitations of the things we perceive as fancy, which ironically emphasizes the social divisions between upper and lower classes. 

A great example is tea, which can be considered the universal drink of all social stratums as it is commercially accessible and relatively cheap off supermarket shelves.  However, with the depiction of teatime in movies like Pride and Prejudice, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Alice in Wonderland, drinking tea is still associated with the sophistication of the upper class.  Consequently, instead of brewing their own cup of tea, some people go to elaborate tearooms, like Mrs. Burton’s Tea Room in San Diego, that imitate the congregation of tea drinkers in the Victorian tradition.  Here, visitors would come dressed up in large flowered hats and gloves to have scones and tea on mismatched China.  The existence and continued business at these locales suggest that people seek the imitated refinement associated with the elite class to feel a distinction from the masses that is perhaps lacking in their everyday lives.


January 28th, 2011
January 26th, 2011
I Wonder…
Do teabags really jive with the traditional cup of tea?

I Wonder…

Do teabags really jive with the traditional cup of tea?

January 24th, 2011

(4) A Cup of Tea Solves Everything…Right?

Healthy Tea Drinking, a Friendly Capitalism, and the Results that Should Follow

There is nothing like waking up in the morning to a warm cup of tea.  It makes me feel happy even if I have to wake up early for Monday morning classes, or if I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  I like to think that it is the warmth of the tea in my stomach, and the soothing flavor that puts a little hop in my step, but there are actual health benefits from drinking tea.  Here are some interesting facts I found:

Tea is often considered a healthier alternative to coffee.  They both, however, have their own advantages.  A cup of tea has about half the amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee, which will less likely give you the jitters and a headache.

Tea is also a great source of antioxidants that act on free radicals in our bodies, and can help prevent diseases.  For those who want the most bang for their buck, white tea has the most antioxidants.  Moreover, studies have shown that those who drink tea regularly have lower blood pressure.  It also lowers cholesterol, which protects against heart disease.   There are also studies that show a correlation between tea drinking and the lowered risk of cancers.  Green tea is known to prevent against lung cancer –so for those who smoke a lot, get to the market pronto!  Tea also delays the onset of Alzheimer’s. In general, tea makes for a stronger immune system, which may explain the longevity of Chinese and Japanese people.  The oldest person to have lived, according to the Guinness World Records, is a Japanese man named Shigechiyo Izumi, and before him, Niwa Kawamoto, also Japanese.  Perhaps the two oldest people were produced from Japan because of their tea drinking culture.

Statisically, however, our country is responsible for one of the highest percentages of deaths due to heart diseases and cancer.  The public is led to believe that they are taking action by buying promoted healthier foods.  But why do I think of Diet Coke and “100 calorie pack” Chips Ahoy boxes when people mention healthier options?  And in vending machines, why not sell tea bags?  Perhaps America can improve these sad statistics by adopting the tea traditions so that everyone can have a little hop in their step, or at least take a hop down on the mortality rate.

For those interested, there are plenty of websites that list a wider and more detailed range of tea benefits.  Here are a few I found useful:

http://www.2basnob.com/health-benefits-of-tea.html

http://www.ivillage.com/top-10-health-benefits-drinking-tea/4-a-108301

http://www.revolutiontea.com/health-benefits.html

But what does this mean?  For all our grievances against capitalism and commercialization that feeds our deplorable mortality rates, does commercialization offer salvation through one of its products?  Perhaps this is at the heart of contradictions.  Whole Foods, organic foods, tea: Don’t they all posit the health and well-being of its consumers over the titans of bad health- the grocery store brands?  Yet they are themselves giants in commercialization.  If commercialization lowers tea to the standard of the everyday man and woman, is that necessarily a bad thing?  When I began to recognize the degradation of tea cultural values, I became somewhat disappointed that centuries of tradition and ritual could be reduced to a tiny tea bag in my cabinet.  But considering the health of Americans, perhaps this universality of tea drinking and its absence from high culture is a good thing.  

Or is there something else that is missing from the equation?  Perhaps even with all its affordability and accessibility, not only is it valued less, but maybe tea is ignored by certain consumers.  What if the “universal” nature of tea is really only concentrated within segments of the consumer populace?  And even these tea drinkers could simultaneously be our McDonald’s and TV Dinner consumers “balancing out” their bad diets with “healthy” tea.  Tea may only be part of the equation, and further from the answer.