November 21, 2012
All things must pass, as many a sad song will tell you, often with bad rhymes and lots of “ooohs” thrown in. Even the Sun, steady old girl that she is, will someday not come up to greet the (by then heat-blasted and possibly not-even-there) Earth. It’s enough to make you curl up in a ball and whimper for a bit, really.
But let’s get back into a meaningful time frame. Just this morning I found out that Rare Tea Republic, a company who’s tea I bought often and liked just about as often, no longer exists as an entity separate from Republic of Tea, who was their parent company (a fact I also just found out this morning from reading the Wikipedia page on Novato, California and then reading about Republic of Tea and then connecting dots, etc).
I’m mostly upset about this because Republic of Tea’s website is fairly ugly and their tea selection largely unimpressive, as opposed to RTR’s very nice website and interesting (if not always amazing) selection. Yes, the RTR teas are now available on the parent site (at reduced prices, no less), but I also liked RTR’s flat shipping to Canada, something ROT (unfortunate acronym, fellas) doesn’t offer.
From a tea standpoint, I’m not TOTALLY devastated: after all, a lot of RTR’s selection was from estates that presumably sell their tea elsewhere. The big exceptions are Jun Chiyabari and Sandakphu, which are of course my two favourite estates. Sandakphu I’m not terribly sad about, since I liked their teas but not to the point of eagerly seeking them out. Jun Chiyabari is another matter. They just so happen to make my favourite tea, Himalayan Spring Evergreen, and the thought of never being able to buy it again makes my soul deflate.
Now, I bet with some searching (and some help from you guys) I could solve this problem, but in this moment I feel pretty bummed. I understand that RTR was probably not profitable, though considering the prices they charged I can’t see how this would be the case…of course, maybe because of those high prices, they didn’t sell enough product to keep above water.
I feel kind of disillusioned to discover that RTR was just an arm of a much bigger beast, but in hindsight I shouldn’t have been surprised. Talking to the RTR folks on Twitter always felt like talking to marketing robots. A smaller operation, for the most part, will have a more human feel, with exceptions of course.
Tea itself is an example of transience that we can experience viscerally every day. Tea loses flavour, changes flavour, gets used up, stops being made, stops being made the same way, and on and on. Unlike a Big Mac, which has tasted the same for decades and always will, a really fine tea is a product of its time and might not ever be replicated, and when it’s gone, it’s gone, leaving only a memory that will die with you.
Is the folding of a tea company worth all this existential prattling? No, not really. The sun will rise tomorrow and keep on rising long after anything humans have done, tea companies included, will have faded away, not even a memory left. But in this moment, as I drink a tea I probably won’t be ever see again, I can’t resist a little melancholy.