weird commerce

Weird Commerce: PoliTEAcal Teas, Steeping In Satire

American history has been steeped in tea, arguably since its beginning. Back around this time of year in 1773 and after the British government smacked a tax on American colonists’ tea, men dressed as Native Americans, boarded British ships bopping in the Boston Harbor and threw more than 300 chests of tea into the water. The Boston Tea Party is dubbed as one of the principal acts heading into the Revolutionary War.

And now, one company is bringing tea back into — if not to the forefront of — the political arena. Even post-presidential election.

“We wanted the tea to be political. We love puns, and most people do as long as they’re not overboard,” said Noah Bleich, founder and CEO of The TeaBook, which came out with a limited edition line of tea called DemocraTEA. “In previous elections, everyone loved putting their candidates on their objects. There were shirts, there were devices, there were hats and all kinds of things. This year, people weren’t as interested in politics that way. They didn’t want politicians’ faces on things. The second reason we did this was because there was a lot of hate-filled stuff.”

Two tea bags — created with no party affiliation in mind — are each about two inches square and depict the faces of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, respectively, with signifiers and “isms” of each candidate. Inside is a tea blend made especially to play off of each person.

Each tea bag image has 11 references to the candidate and their campaign. From tiny hands, a HUGE teapot and wads of cash on Trump’s, to a feminist teapot, Bill Clinton playing the sax and computers in the trash on Hillary’s, the cartoons equally display a satire that is comedic yet arguably undeniable. In addition, if you pair the bags side-by-side, Bleich said you’ll notice that it’s the background from the Whitewater trial 30 years ago.

“Political satire used to be a high caliber of information into a drawing. We wanted it to be more like that,” said Bleich. “Politics is politics, and while they’re different types of people, they’re still in that political realm.”

By bringing Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton into the tea scene through its two limited edition teas, Bleich said the collector-edition bags allow for fans — and not-so-much fans — to enjoy or continue to steep in the memory of the historic election.

The tea bags have specially drawn cartoons, one for each candidate: Donald TEArump Pure White Tea With Peach Tea and Hillary ClinTEAn Vanilla Essence Tea Packs. Each pack of tea starts at $7 and is predominantly sold through The TeaBook’s website.

And they’ve sold well. In just three months, the 50,000 limited-edition tea bags (25,000 for each candidate) are down to 5,000 each.

“Like anything, you have to get it out there. No one’s just going to find it naturally,” said Bleich. “Once people found it, the tea started to do pretty well. We featured in Parade magazine as ‘things to survive the election,’ and so, we sold thousands and thousands.”

The tea line is designed to be collectible unlike most teas. The TeaBook made a limited amount of the tea, and when it sells out, it doesn’t have any plans to make more.

“We’ve gotten lots of re-orders and orders specifically for political party parties,” said Bleich.

Which candidate has sold more or quicker? That is indeed the burning question on many people’s minds.

“At first, a lot of it was people saying, ‘Eh, I don’t want either candidate tea,’” said Bleich.

The TeaBook team took the two bags to an ice tea festival earlier in the election cycle. They gave out samples of each flavor, telling attendees who was depicted and then asked taste-testers to vote based on flavor … not on candidate.

“We told them, ‘Don’t worry, this won’t destroy the country, just pick based on the flavor,’” said Bleich. “And people were like, ‘I love Donald Trump’s flavor, but I can’t vote for anything with his name on it!’ and other people are like, ‘Aw, Hillary, no, I can’t vote for her tea.’ It was just a lot of vile response toward the candidates, even just based on the images.”

In that mini-vote, Bleich said Hillary won by 20 votes.

As for what’s next for these tea bags? The TeaBook team said, when they’re gone, they’re done.

“There is a connection to American history and our political teas, and you have to go for things that you believe in,” said Bleich.


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