Thursday, March 11, 2010

When is a tea party not a tea party?

The Chicago Tribune published a story this week that I love for a couple of reasons. First, it leads with an anecdote from Tony Gebely, who just launched the Chicago Tea Garden (some details here). Secondly, it gets at the heart of a real quandary for most tea lovers right now. That is: We have tea parties, but we may not be Tea Partiers.

Purveyors of fine tea and tea enthusiasts in general find themselves steeped in a linguistic shift, their beloved beverage now associated with a conservative political movement routinely praised or pilloried on talk radio and cable news shows. The tea party movement's name, a reference to the tax protests that led to the Revolutionary War, has nothing, really, to do with tea. But that doesn't seem to matter.

Doesn't matter to them. Matters to those of us who care a little something about tea. I'm fending off more jokes about it these days. "Oh, you like tea? Does that mean you're a crazy Republican?" Ha ha. I've also had to adjust my online news alerts and a few RSS feeds. A simple Google news alert for "tea" now turns up nothing but articles by pundits trying to make sense of whether or not these boobs have any impact and announcements of gatherings in which they whine a lot but provide no concrete alternative political strategies. (I now search for "tea -party" to filter out most of the politics.) The second post on this blog, almost a year ago, addressed the confusion. And it has only gotten worse.

One thing's for certain, I think. If these people drank more tea, or any, they'd calm down and see things much more clearly.

Sipping a cup of king-grade Tie Guan Yin tea in his Naperville shop, Robertson, the tea importer, took a politically neutral stance on the movement. He did, however, wonder whether tea party members might be calmer if they drank something better than tea made with the cheap tea bags they hoist at protests and mail off to politicians.

"I worry that they're drinking bad tea," Robertson said. "They don't know how to relax. If you just sit back and have a good cup of tea and talk, things tend to work out."

UPDATE: Oh, get this. Now some frustrated liberals are trying to counter the Tea Party folks by creating ... wait for it ... the Coffee Party. Leave our beverages out of this, please!

ANOTHER UPDATE: This story angle is catching on. AP tackled it now, quoting Steepster folks and more. Read it here.

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