Saturday, March 28, 2009

Create Your Own "Stimulant Package" at the Office

Hello TEA Friends,

These days, many companies, including the one I work for, are looking at ways to cut costs. One of the more insignificant perks on the chopping block is the familiar and taken-for-granted coffee station. You know, the standard commercial pots and generic prepackaged coffee and tea bags that have been around since we moved to an industrialized nation (and, sadly, often tasted like they had been around that long, too).

Faced with a challenge, many folks are getting creative and resourceful in filling this now unmet need for caffeine. In the office I work in, some of our java brethren launched a "coffee club" last year, just before the official plug-pulling of the company-sponsored supplies. Each week someone was responsible for bringing in a new package of grounds - the only condition: it had to be better than the generic fare that was already there. Few found this difficult to meet.

Borrowing from this great idea, my friend, co-worker and fellow tea enthusiast, Christine D. , suggested we start our own club, but, with (how anti-climatic!) tea. Knowing we'd seen others with the recognizable string-and-paper- tab dangling from their cups, we figured there were at least a few like us who might want to start an exchange.

One office e-mail later, we had almost a dozen members the first day, and one third are gents. Cost of entry is a box of your favorite tea. Of course, being practical and a friend to Facilities, we have to stick to teabags, but we take comfort in knowing over 90 per cent of England's tea drinkers use them daily. If it's good enough for our friends across the pond, it's certainly sufficient for us to take back to our cubes.

We've had a great variety brought in, including herbal, fruity, green and black teas. It's interesting to see the different personalities and what tea they bring: one member brought in Tazo"Passion" and another brought in Tazo "Calm" (I'll let you decide who you want to sit near in the next staff meeting).

We continue to grow in numbers and we're finding with with the variety of tea and enthusiam we bring to the table, we're a pretty good team. As we all know, there's no "I" in team, but there is "tea".

If your office hasn't started a stimulant package yet, we highly recommend it. And, when you do, we'd love to hear about it.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Bringing in the New Year with a Bit of the Bubbly

Hello TEA Friends!

I know, it isn't exactly the "New Year", but the "bubbly" I'm referring to isn't the effervescent, golden-hued adult beverage, either. No, the drink I rang in the second month of 2009, was the trendy curiosity that I've been anxious to try ever since I heard about it a few year's back - bubble tea!

Bubble tea is an unlikely combination of black tea, fruit juices, milk and "pearls", the little tapioca drops that fall to the bottom of the glass likes rows of miniature cannon balls. It's an interesting, if not necessarily appetizing, look, to be sure.

As you might suspect, this drink is more popular with the "younger set" and by that, I mean college kids. My college sophomore daughter, knowing that I'm always up for a new tea experience, suggested we visit "Bubble Island" in East Lansing a few weeks ago and I couldn't wait to go.

Bubble Island is a growing franchise on college campuses and this particular "tea room" has resided on Grand River, hub of the local campus retail strip, since 2004.

I ordered, I believe, a passion fruit drink, and Rachel having sampled bubble tea before, opted for her drinks "sans" pearls. I think that may be my choice in the future as well. The drink was sweet and tasty, but the gummy bear spheres that slid up my straw when I wasn't paying attention, were chewy, and by my fourth slurp, a bit annoying.

Bubble tea originated in Taiwan in the 1980's and began as a fun treat for the little ones. It made it's way to California where it proliferated like Starbucks, with a bubble tea outlet on every corner. Today, it's found a welcoming home on college campuses and continues to be a popular drink with the same folks who are tutoring us on Facebook.

And in that vein, I sometimes feel for my kids - their culture and fads get invaded by us baby boomers like our entitlement generation has approached so many other things. We invade their music, their movies, their TV shows and, yes, even Facebook, as our territories leaving them little to claim as their own. In this instance, however, I surrender to you this bubble tea. It belongs to those with a "refined sugar palate". I still prefer my tea in a china cup and my pearls around my neck, but, thirty years ago, I would have given this a mood ring-adorned thumbs up!

Yours in TEA and friendship,