To The Dregs

  • Bursting the Bubble

    Look at the device you're using to read this blog. I don't mean look at the screen; look at the whole device. Many people worked to build your device. Have you ever thought about them? A person spent hours on a computer designing your device. Another person took the glass off the glass manufacturer's assembly line. Someone connected the back shell to the front. A group of people put the guts together. Perhaps dozens of people have actually handled various sections of the equipment in front of your eyes.
    We forget that the goods we use and enjoy every day are the result of the hard work of hundreds and sometimes thousands of people. We live in a consumer bubble where we see and use the finished products without much or any thought given to the labor behind the products. But the men, women, or in some instances, children who create our goods deserve our attention, care and gratitude. 
    Many of the workers in third-world countries who make our goods are paid less than $2.00 a day. Many work an obscene amount of hours. Many work in terrible conditions, and some die from the terrible conditions while working on the goods that we get to enjoy. And we don't even give them a thought. 
    I don't want our company and our customers to be ignorant of the plight of foreign workers in the tea industry. As a company, we try to work with groups that promote the rights of workers. We want to care for the people who spend hours every day picking tea leaves by hand, then lay those leaves out to dry, package them, and ship them to the US. We want to shake those hands with thanks and hold them when worn and hurt. We want them to know that they matter to us. 
    So we're simultaneously glad and saddened when we read an article like the one I've copied in full here. (I don't make it a practice to copy and paste full articles from other sources, but I feel this is appropriate and give full credit to Dan Bolton and World Tea News for the article. You can find the original article here.) Dan Bolton, an accomplished tea reporter, tells us about India's Commerce Minister seeking higher tea wages for workers. Think about the workers who picked the leaves for your cup of tea and say a word of thanks for them. Even better, advocate on their behalf. 

    India’s Commerce Minister Seeks Higher Tea Wages

  • Coffee or Tea? That's the Wrong Question

    Coffee or tea? I hear this question more than I'd like, so I thought I'd settle the debate by removing the question.
    I think the question is silly, not because there aren't some differences between the two, but because most of the time the question is asked, the bean and the leaf are pitted unnecessarily against each other. It's like they're two rival gangs and we have to choose sides. End the gang violence!
    The bean and the leaf aren't at odds. They have much more in common than they have as differences.
    More importantly, I think the question of coffee or tea is silly because we don't live in an either / or world, a world where our differences need to divide us. We can live in a both / and world, a world of peaceful harmony where coffee and tea are the perfect beverage for different times and different occasions. (I also think that we should have a both / and approach to beer and wine for the same reason.)
    Much of the world drinks coffee in the morning to get the jolt of caffeine to jumpstart their day. Then they drink tea in the afternoon because tea provides a steady release of caffeine (due to the tannins in tea) that helps them get through the latter day without the jitters or sleepless nights. Why not drink both? Treat them like your children: you love them equally, but Thing 1 is much better at helping you cook the meal, and Thing 2 is much better at helping you clean up after the meal. 
    Even if you disagree with the both / and approach as a diehard coffee or tea drinker, your children will most likely not follow your lead. Most younger people drink both beverages equally and that trend is set to continue. In fact, I predict that in less than five years, nearly any coffeehouse you enter will have one menu devoted fully to coffee drinks and another equally long menu devoted fully to tea drinks. And we hope that that tea menu will be full of options from The Sophisticate's Tea. 
    Great men though disagree with me about the coffee or tea divide as Jerry Seinfeld and friends demonstrate in the clip below. And I know this blog won't end the age old dispute between the two, but if I can save at least one person from the violence of the bean or tea gangs, then I've done my part. 


  • What Do Tea And Marijuana Have In Common?

    Now that recreational and medicinal marijuana are legally bought and sold in Colorado and a few other states, a number of fellow Americans are jumping on the green bandwagon to legalize it. But weed rather get you hookahd on another leaf, tea.
    Unlike Texas tea, actual tea relaxes and stimulates simultaneously, has only positive health benefits, and comes without any cultural stigma. But like Mary Jane, high dollar loose-leaf tea is sold in a couple of ounces, can be ingested through a variety of baked goods, and has a sordid and violent past with smugglers. The notorious Hawkhurst Gang smuggled tea in 18th century England using similar tactics to El Chapo's gang. Their gang sign? Pinky always out.
    Reading about tea's sordid smuggling history under the Hawkhurst Gang on our friends at NPR's Tea Tuesday blog was like reading a Tarantino script: it's not for the faint of heart as the violence is over the top. What I found interesting was William Pitt's ultimate solution to the decades-long violence of the tea smugglers. He took away their market by cutting the tax on tea so it was available to most people. Novel approach. 
    Check out all of the Tea Tuesday blogs from NPR here.
  • We the People . . . Are Struggling with Communication

    Over the past fifteen years of teaching American Government to college students, I’ve noticed a steady decline in our ability to communicate clearly about our political ideals. Here's what I mean.  
    This is a set of words. I wrote them. You’re reading them. And so I’m assuming that I’m communicating with you in a meaningful way. But what if I’m not? What if you’re interpreting the meaning of my words in whatever way you want? I imagine that the result would be like hearing a completely foreign language, one in which we have no common reference point for the meaning of the sounds being uttered. If this is the case, are we communicating?
    I know the notion that words must have a common meaning or reference point between people in order to exchange ideas is an elementary one. And I don’t mean to insult your intelligence by pointing this out. I also accept that languages change, that the meaning of words can be somewhat fluid, that one word can have multiple meanings depending on context, that some language is private, that language is to some degree relative, etc. Language evolves, is difficult, and imprecise. This much I understand.
    But what I’m questioning is what happens if we keep talking to each other, but we’ve privatized the meaning of some of the most important words we’re using, especially some of the same words we’re using. And then, we assume that we know each other’s meaning because we’re using the same words. For instance, what if your meaning of “justice” and my meaning of “justice” are substantially different even when used in the exact same sentence, but we keep talking about justice assuming we have a similar or the same meaning?
    I don’t think that all words have been privatized, but maybe we’ve removed enough important words from the public domain so that we’ve unintentionally wrecked our ability to communicate clearly, and thereby relate well, with each other on what many people consider fundamental ideals, like political ideals.
    American politics, especially at the national level, is a generally agreed upon mess. But I think one important underlying reason that it’s so dysfunctional at the national level is our miscommunication at the local level, the very local level, in the way we talk about politics with our neighbors and children and spouses. We talk about political ideals without defining what we mean and assume that everyone hearing us shares our meaning.
    Think of some of the most common words we hear in stump speeches or in public policy debates. Now ask yourself what they mean. What is justice? What is liberty? What is terrorism? What is faith? What is equality? What is security? What is privacy? What is patriotism? Even, what is an American?
    What is the essential concept or ideas that these words represent? If the way that you answer these questions begins with the phrase, “To me . . .,” or “In my opinion . . .,” you might be regularly miscommunicating by assuming that others automatically understand and agree with your meaning. And so the conversation you have with your neighbor about our political response to mass shootings, just to pick one of any number of examples, isn’t really a conversation.
    If we don’t agree on the meaning of our fundamental political ideals, and if the words that represent our ideals have different meanings for different people but we keep talking as if they don’t, then we’ll have a heightened discord in politics today at all levels. Add to this miscommunication by amateur politicians (my name for all of us who don’t get paid for political office) the fact that professional politicians regularly, purposefully miscommunicate. They do this for a variety of reasons: to persuade, to dupe, to motivate, to excite, and so on. What we get is a distasteful recipe for toxic American political pie.
    We regularly spread our confusion about politics through miscommunication due to assumptions, a confusion which over time intensifies to frustration, and our frustration erupts in anger, which subtly morphs into fear, which degenerates in some instances to hate.
    An important part of the solution then to our political discord today is to ask ourselves what we mean by the politically charged words we use, ask ourselves if our meaning is the accepted meaning, and help others understand our meaning through humble conversation. If we disagree about the meaning of the ideals, at least then we’ll know and can reasonably discuss why we disagree. Or, we can just respond to any political ideals in the brilliant voice of Groucho Marx:
    I don't know what they have to say
    It makes no difference anyway
    Whatever it is, I'm against it!
    No matter what it is
    Or who commenced it
    I'm against it!
    Your proposition may be good
    But let's have one thing understood
    Whatever it is, I'm against it!
    And even when you've changed it
    Or condensed it I'm against it!
    I'm opposed to it
    On general principles I'm opposed to it!
    (He's opposed to it)
    (In fact, he says he's opposed to it!)
    For months before my son was born
    I used to yell from night to morn
    "Whatever it is, I'm against it!"
    And I've kept yelling
    Since I first commenced it
    "I'm against it!"
  • Denver Artopia 2016 Review

    We sampled our teas with more than 3,000 eclectic attendees at Artopia, hosted by Westword, this weekend. The raucous event showcased many of the best Denver artists who displayed works over eight large spaces, each space equipped with a DJ and brimming with creativity. The show has a wide range, from fine art to street art and seemingly everything in between, and includes the signature Whiteout Fashion Show. It's night club meets art gallery meets fashion runway: a glorious celebration of imagination.
    Curated to perfection by Westword, the event itself is a large work of public art, where the fashionable attendees, helpful volunteers, and exuberant artists come together like a Jackson Pollock painting to pay homage to the Muses. The staff from Westword was top notch, especially the charming Allie Mason who worked directly with us, and the host of volunteers were giddy to help. Many of the volunteers came from Youth on Record, a Denver-based charity "committed to bringing our proven methods of empowerment and behavioral modification through music education to youth in Colorado who need it the most."
    You can see pictures, videos, and articles from Westword's coverage of Artopia 2016 here.


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