I enjoy tea a lot. All kinds of tea. I haven’t taken this passion to the next level of home DIY experimentation, drying out leaves and whatnot, but lately it’s crossed my mind. Typically at around this time of the year, I return to the comfort of tea. Having a propensity toward being cold all the time, I like having hot drinks to sip on much as a fish likes to have things to fill its gills with. As temperatures began to inch toward the mild fall range yesterday, I found myself with a craving at work. So I opened my office kitchen cupboards and was delighted to find a nice assortment of individually-wrapped teabags. Lemon… no. Peppermint, not today. Mandarin Orange Spice?
Naturally, I’ve seen this trademarked tea blend from Celestial Seasonings with its Mandarin princess on the box countless times throughout my life. But today I actually felt like drinking it. So I did. Yet as I sipped, instead of being soothed, I was more and more peeved by this:
Her eyelids are lowered in a sultry glare. She offers a bounty of oranges, but you know there’s more.
For me it’s a well-known, almost accepted fact that tea marketing clownishly fetishizes Asian cultures. Perhaps more so than any other not-necessarily-Asian product. From Tazo’s ugly packaging and fourteen-year-old-getting-high-for-the-first-time pseudo-spiritual “The Art of Tea” campaign to Snapple’s “lovably” clueless tourist reacting to grizzled sages in their commercials for white tea, it’s clear that American tea companies are not exactly vying for the Asian American market. Fine, then. But I draw the line at this image. And this copy, from Celestial Seasonings’ website:
“Deliciously spicy and teeming with flavor, Mandarin Orange Spice Herb Tea embraces the essence of an oriental paradise. At your fingertips, the flavor of luscious oranges mingles with piquant cloves to create an exotic and 100% natural feast for your palate. Mandarin Orange Spice Herb Tea is a medley of aromatic flavors with the allure of the mysterious Far East.”
Hey, guess what? The mystery’s been cracked! We’ve already opened the vault to the secrets of the Far East. I think it was on Indiana Jones’ getaway raft in The Temple of Doom.
Now, I might be the only person in the world offended by Madame Mandarin over here and if that’s the case, then I’m prepared for and okay with it. The problem is, I really like this tea now. I like that the product is all-natural and I find this blend of herbs delightful. But I can’t stand the packaging. Can’t I enjoy my drink without being reminded of the sexualization of women of my heritage? Also, let’s not forget that the tea is not exactly “Mandarin” in any non-imagined sense – the blend of warm cinnamon, cloves, herbs and orange peel riffs on Christmasy mulling spices more than anything else. Or those oranges stabbed with cloves that I once made from a craft book as a child. So what the hell is this “oriental paradise” all about? I am so not in it.
Now, a good rant come off me, let’s start talking homemade tea.