Thursday, January 13, 2011

Will the next mayor of Chicago drink tea?

Launching and running a tea business seems like a benevolent action that could only generate positive press — unless (a) you're running for mayor of Chicago and (b) your business tanks.

Former senator and U.S. ambassador Carol Moseley Braun is one of the hopefuls seeking to replace retiring Richard M. Daley as Chicago's mayor next month. I've considered her as a candidate not only based on her record but, admittedly, also because she's a tea lover. She likes to take afternoon tea at the Four Seasons here, and in 2005 she launched her own tea and spice company, Ambassador Organics.

Braun was an ambassador in New Zealand from 1999 to 2001. Perhaps she experienced the country's fledgling tea industry — now producing some tasty oolongs — and got inspired. But, alas, Ambassador apparently has not fared well. When you're up for public office, you release your tax returns. Braun's show the company has lost at least $365,000. Not great news for someone seeking to manage a city with a $6 billion annual budget, though navigating the emerging markets for tea might not be directly comparable to making sense of Chicago's fiscal labyrinth.

It's a shame, because Ambassador sources only organic, biodynamic and fair-trade teas. "I founded my small business not in a downtown office, but in a South Side neighborhood, guided by the same principles and values that I fought for in government," Braun said recently. I've only tasted a hibiscus herbal blend, but I remember it was as snappy as Braun's personality.

1 comment:

  1. Too bad, because her teas, particularly her white peony, are quite good.