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DIY Oprah Chai Archives | Elizabeth Borelli

Posts Tagged ‘DIY Oprah Chai’

Deconstructing Oprah Chai

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

To be sure, I’m as enamoured with Oprah Winfrey as the rest of the country – I really didn’t even have to spell out her last name, Oprah’s nothing shy of a living legend.  I’m also quite a chai fan.  It’s been my morning bev of choice ever since will-meaning coworkers suggested that unleashing my morning coffee energy in the space of our small office was a little scary (paraphrasing here to preserve my dignity).  I like to be a team player, so now chai it is.

So I was thrilled when my dearest friend shared a cup of the newly released Oprah Chai she’d just bought.  It was as amazing as you’d expect from Oprah, and I was immediately smitten.  And when I learned a portion of the proceeds go to charity, I was off to Starbucks in search of my own contribution.

Since I don’t happen upon the big S all that often for a variety of reasons, nearly a week went by when I was finally able to get my hands on some. By that time the anticipation was so great I barely flinched at the 14.99 price tag.  In fact I’d suspected something similar after seeing that lovely, fancy box.

When I got home that afternoon with my exciting new purchase, I couldn’t wait to rip it open and replace my now lackluster morning blend with the new Oprah Chai.   I eagerly unpacked the sturdily constructed, double-walled box, then  pried open the specially embossed tin, only to find a small, crunchy plastic bag nestled at the bottom.  I have to say for a moment I was speechless.  All that fanfare for a little plastic bag?  Worst yet, all that wasteful packaging!  I felt a little sick.

Oprah Chai was calling me out!  I like to think of myself as the person who actively participates in No Impact Week every year, who will skip a trip to the juice bar if I’ve forgotten my own reusable bottle.  And now here I was, facing down the Oprah Chai in what was rapidly approaching an existential crisis.  I wanted that chai, but I hated that packaging.  Now please understand, this isn’t an Oprah bash, she didn’t design the package, she was focused on creating a great-tasting tea that supports a good cause, which she did.

I also understand the need to focus on product presentation, but, as our population increases and our limited resources continue to deplete, we need to look beyond the package at the larger impact of our choices.

Now I’m not saying I’m perfect, I use disposable things too.   It’s part of our culture and largely unavoidable.  I just try to limit them to the best of my abilities.   And since the trend I’ve seen since I launched a business selling reusable products 10 years ago is toward more reuse and less waste, it seems other people are starting to think that way too.  Even Starbucks upholds a commitment to environmental responsibility in their mission statement.

And this packaging was just so gratuitous.  They could have done either the fancy box or the fancy tin.  They could have reduced the package size by half and done the same job very nicely.  The packaging could have been made from recycled materials.  And why would they need to use a plastic bag inside of a sealed tea tin?  These questions plagued me;  yet a portion of the proceeds goes to charity, I reasoned.  I had to walk away to let it all sink in.

It took me 2 hours of grappling to figure out what to do – it was way too much packaging for me to feel good about – I’d find myself trying to creatively reuse it, which ultimately just leads to the accumulation of more unnecessary stuff;  wrong direction.  On the other hand, I didn’t really want to deal with returning it.  So finally I arrived at a compromise; I’d gift it.

Hopefully my third-grade daughter’s teacher will be able to enjoy her new tea without all of the hang ups.  For me it’s too late for Oprah Chai, but that doesn’t mean I can’t go ahead and do what I do best;  make it myself (and for 1/10th the price).  And so can you!  Here’s my version of delicious, Almost Oprah Chai.  Enjoy!

(To donate to one of Oprah’s favorite charities without having to deal with all of the packaging, click here.)