On Oprah’s Tea and Other Flood-Worthy Inanities
I was sitting in a local Starbucks this afternoon when I saw the most absurd thing in the history of humankind: a big glossy advertisement for a product called an “Oprah Chai Tea Latte.” Alongside pictures of what I can only imagine must be very tasty delights indeed (iced or hot) was a (larger) picture of a beaming Oprah Winfrey, lending her teeth, her hair, her celebrity to this product. What does Oprah have to do with chai tea lattes, you might wonder? I certainly did. Did Oprah Winfrey make this chai tea? Did she create the recipe? Did she enjoy drinking this tea in some kind of unique way? Does she own the tea? Did she import it for our benefit? The advertisement didn’t tell us. It simply presented a picture of Oprah, a picture of tasty beverages and assumed that we would make (invent?) the connection.
I squinted more closely at the advertisement to see what the connection between Oprah and chai tea might be. Handcrafted with organic Teavana® tea, it said. Not knowing how to interpret this strange sentence, my gaze came to rest on the black coffee I was currently drinking. I imagined my name on the cup, my picture on the advertising (I would wear my best shirt), my self being used to penetrate hearts and wallets of the eager consumers of celebrity culture. Yes, I’d like a Ryan Black Coffee please. Oh, and make it a “grande.” The idea seemed laughably absurd. Because, after all, my name has very little to do with a cup of coffee. Also, I don’t have teeth (or hair) like Oprah. My smile isn’t nearly as lucrative.
I began to wonder how such an obscenity as the “Oprah Chai Tea Latte” could even exist. How does the world not spontaneously combust at the appearance of such stupidities? How do people not look at such advertisements, and say, “well what on earth does Oprah Winfrey have to do with the artificially produced, mass-engineered product I am about to enjoy thousands of kilometres from where Ms. Winfrey lives?” How do people not say, “Well, these advertisers clearly think that I am a very foolish human if they think that simply prefixing “chai tea latte ” with “Oprah” would ever be enough to make me purchase their products. How can we collectively tolerate such madness?
I began to despair of the human race. I could imagine God wanting to wipe us out with a flood.
And then I thought about a conversation I had the previous evening with a photographer friend who is visiting from Europe. We talked about the triviality of a world where we increasingly live online, promiscuously tossing around our “likes” on Facebook—photos, cat videos, blog posts, pithy updates… We like, therefore we are!—and about how our kids are growing up in a world where they are learning to evaluate themselves according to these inane categories… We talked about how quality work, whether in writing or photography, sometimes goes almost entirely unnoticed while virtual crap is rewarded by the masses every day… We talked about Facebook “Like Farms” where “likes” are bought and sold or manufactured in attempts to boost popularity, revenue, whatever… About how social media is turning us all into the equivalent of petulant preschoolers squalling for attention….
Like Farms. How can the world tolerate such things?
And then I thought about how I spent the previous evening, watching overpaid, hyper-tattooed millionaires prancing around the football cathedrals of Brazil, each of whose feet had been bought by Adidas or Nike or Puma or whoever, all trying desperately to stand out with their flashy, colourful footwear and their innumerable tattoos and their perfectly coiffed hair, all looking exactly the same…. I thought about the many enormous corporations who have purchased the sport of football (and every other sport) in order to sell it back to us, the ever-eager consumers of celebrity… I thought about ridiculous World Cup pre-game shows where perfectly manicured beautiful people talk (apparently seriously) about which football players are getting more Google searches or tweets and what this means (because presumably it means something other than the fact that there are a lot of bored, trivial people out there with a good deal of time and technology on their hands)…
And I began to think that the world is a very, very bad and stupid place, and we are very, very bad and stupid people.
So I did the only rational thing I could do and wrote a disheveled, denunciatory blog post about all of this on a Macbook® laptop, sipping a Starbucks® coffee in between reading a few chapters of a novel purchased at Chapters® and recommended by Oprah Winfrey® before hurrying home to watch the USA vs. Ghana at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.®
And then, the weight of my own hypocrisy and self-righteousness having grown too heavy to bear, I admitted defeat, closed my computer, and headed meekly for the exit. I didn’t want to spontaneously combust in front of all the nice people all around me sipping their artificially produced, mass-engineered beverages on a lazy Monday afternoon. The last thing I saw as I staggered duplicitously out the door was Oprah Winfrey, beaming down upon me, imploring me to try her chai tea.
Hi Ryan, it’s me Petra, could you please get me one of those Oprah Chai Lattes before you come home? Thanks!
Iced or hot? With or without organic Teavana® tea?
Despair is a word I use frequently…
With your approval, I’d like to reblog this, please
No problem 🙂 .
Reblogged this on The Zombies Ate My Brains and commented:
Please pay this blogger a visit. He speaks of despairing at the state of humankind, not unlike Noah’s God. This despair is something I feel regularly. I wish I had an answer so that it might not be so regular.
I didn’t know that Starbucks had ventured across the border, I had read that sales here in the U.S. were flat. My sister gave me a Keurig for Christmas and yet my favorite blend is a Tim Horton’s.
We’ve had Starbucks up here in the Great White North for a few decades, Mike 🙂 . Although if it’s going to come with Oprah from now on, you can keep it down there…
(I’m going to pretend that you didn’t say that about Tim Hortons coffee… Ugh.)
(I’m going to pretend that you didn’t say that about Tim Hortons coffee… Ugh.)
Obviously, your not an old recovered Alcoholic 🙂
No, I’m not, but I would wish better coffee on anyone and everyone 🙂
(There’s a Tim Hortons across the street from our church and I do wander over there from time to time… Did I mention that I’m a hypocrite?)
I too blinked when I saw Oprah Tea at Starbucks. Sadly I no longer feel surprise or outrage at the corporatization of our lives.
I feel it intermittently, at best…. 🙂
I drink Lavazza. When Oprah started her book club, I was horrified. Now I want her to pick up on my novels (then they’ll sell). The only time I’ve actually SEEN Oprah was on South Park when she interviewed Towelee. I know the public pulse is here somewhere…
Never heard of Lavazza! A quick google search and I am intrigued…
I order it from Amazon and get a supply every month. There are Italian coffee houses that serve it as well, but I live in the boonies so…
Hilarious! And so true!
First things first, Ryan …
Why do you drink “coffee” in Starbucks ? – why not somewhere you can be served REAL coffee and not have to look at ludicrous marketing posters ?
Don’t you think maybe you’re part of the problem …? 😉
Yes, yes… There is a local coffee shop in town that I far prefer to Starbucks, but my kids were at the mall nearby and I had an hour to kill….
I believe I covered a few of my numerous inconsistencies in the second to last paragraph, didn’t I? 🙂
I was being deliberately picky, my premise being why would you be complaining about stuff when sitting in a place like that ?
I’m a horrible old fart, and that’s the truth !
First, you’re silly. Second, I am embarrassed to know this, but Oprah has a show on OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network, of course) called “Super Soul Sunday.” She interviews all the pop, spiritual gurus. In the intro, she always says, “Get your chai on!” She and her guest drink chai during the interview. Now don’t go telling ANYONE that I watched several episodes of that show, or I’ll have to take away your chai.
Silly? Well, I suppose I’ve been called worse…
I’ve heard of Super Soul Sunday. Something tells me I might prefer choking down Oprah’s tea to watching it or anything associated with Oprah’s TV empire.
I guess I meant “funny” if you prefer that. For the rest, I KNOW. I’m really embarrassed about the Oprah thing…
Yes, “funny” certainly makes me feel less silly about writing a blog post about Oprah Winfrey and chai tea lattes 🙂 .
I once swore I would never read a book that had Oprah’s stamp on it. Alas, I have failed on numerous occasions… I, too, have cause for embarrassment, it seems 🙂 .
I heard that she stayed hopped-up on that green coffee bean extract that Dr.Oz peddles on TV.
HATE Starbies, much prefer an old ma and pa coffee shop. Well if I can find one nowadays that is :-s
They are getting fewer and farther between, aren’t they?
Wow, Ryan…your post is going viral. ..of all things, Coffee ..who woulda thunk 🙂
I’ve noticed that making Good coffee has an unexplainable Mystical quality to it. Ever notice the subtle and not so nuances in taste that occur,depending on who is making it? Like the difference in the taste of your Grandmothers chicken and dumplings compared with your wife’s or husband’s even though they are using the exact same recipe. Some believe a “transference” takes place during the preparation..Whether it be the transference of Love (as in the case of your Grandmother) or perhaps resentment in the case of your spouse. I’m just sayin..
Not sure about “transference,” Mike, but I do agree that good coffee has a mystical quality to it 🙂 .
Re: going “viral,” over 7+ years of blogging, it never ceases to amaze me which posts resonate with or amuse people and which do not. I’ve given up trying to figure out a pattern and try to just enjoy the surprises…
What first stuck me is the usual way that North Americans destroy language.
In Middle Eastern Countries, where “chia” originated, the word chia means “tea.”
Like calling Fuji-yama, Mount Fuji-yama, calling chia tea is saying “tea tea.” Spiced chia is appropriate, but not Spiced chia tea.
But anything to get the serfs to spend more of the emperors coin.
Delightful writing, Ryan. Seven years is a long time to blog. I too find it interesting to see which posts get read and shared most and can’t figure it out in advance. But this one deserves its fame. I’m sharing it on my author page. I don’t have a like farm, however, so all likes you get there will be “real.”
Thank you very much Shirley, for this kind affirmation.
Love it Ryan. (Per usual) Personally, I would repost all of your blog writings, but I am scared people would just start to ignore me as the “crazy lady obsessed with Rumblings” and stop reading them. I think the reason this is so popular is you gave a voice to what many people feel but are not as gifted or able to express with your poetic and visual wording. Thankfully you are able to take the ridiculousness of our world and culture and shout it out on your blog.
The rest of us just implode or go to our rooms and cry…
Thank you, Tanya 🙂 . Very kind…
(Please don’t implode.)