On the tea box copy problem


Editor’s note: The internet still doesn’t work. I am posting this from the coffee shop.

“Through the screened front door,” says my box of Tazo Zen Green Tea, “zingy lemongrass and spritely spearmint coax contemplative pan-fired green teas to come play. Calmly, lemon verbena opens the door and invites them all to a cup of tea.” Hungover, I fly into a rage and invite the tea box to have sex with itself. It does not respond.

I woke with a compromised limbic system, because Titus Andronicus played the Missoula VFW last night. I though they were more popular than that—at least Palace-level popular, if not Wilma. But they played the bingo room at the VFW on their relatively new stage, where they were graciously enthusiastic. “I think we’re about ready to get started,” Patrick Stickles said after sound check. “Or maybe I have to poop.”

We all have to poop now. I am on the comfy chair in my new house, watching the internet man frown at his internet box. Ideally, my Tazo Zen Green Tea would ground me, or possibly center me, in my sunny and briefly analog living room, but I cannot stop reading the box.

What aspect of the experience of being pan-fired would make green teas contemplative? Lemongrass and spearmint invite them to come play through the oddly particular screened front door, but they are not allowed. Wouldn’t it be more fun to drink tea inside? Lemon verbena suggests it calmly, as if she had learned to master her emotions long ago. This is life now, since the pan fire.

Presumably, Tazo chose this vignette carefully. Probably, the thing they agreed to print on all their tea boxes is not a first draft. The germ of this story about tea ingredients coming over to play and drinking tea instead was once written on a whiteboard somewhere, and it grew from their according to professional teasellers’ understanding of the marketplace. This story sells tea.

Why, then, does it throw me into a rage? Again, it’s because I poisoned myself with alcohol. But also maybe there is something different about me, whereby a haiku about anthropomorphized tea ingredients that makes other people feel pleasant and safe makes me feel snarky and alienated.

Or maybe everyone feels like that. Maybe the box copy guys at Tazo thought lemongrass and spearmint coming over to play was somnolent bullshit too, but no one said it because that’s how these things are done. They go home and listen to loud music about how everything is fake. Perhaps the yoga moms feel a pang of cynical resentment when they read about lemon verbena in the tea aisle. Maybe we are all displeased with our own society, and we want only to come together and admit it.


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  1. Patrick Stickles used to come to one of my karaoke nights. One time I sang Darkness on the Edge of Town and he and his girlfriend slow-danced to it.

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