This year, the Luzianne Movement met at the Luzianne Dome in New Orleans, LA, for the third time in its illustrious history. However, there are doubts about its future because of the actions of some of the celebrity attendees of the two-day event in Eastern New Orleans.
The Luzianne Movement was started by William B. Reily who operated a wholesale grocery business in Monroe, Louisiana. With his expertise in roasting and the strong demand for his coffees, Mr. Reily moved to New Orleans in 1902 to found a company to roast, grind, package and distribute canned coffee. It was the birth of the Luzianne brand. In 1906, Mr. Reily was joined by Jacob Aron, a green coffee importer and family friend. With 85% of all imported coffee beans passing through New Orleans, they assured themselves of having the first choice of the finest beans available. As the companys reputation for quality grew, tea was added to the product line. It was the company’s tea, Luzianne Ice tea, that formed the foundation of this movement and continues to propel it into the future.
This year was supposed to be a celebration of the renewed interest in tea throughout the world. The growth of the tea industry has been remarkable in recent years. Tea¢â‚¬â„¢s popularity is ever-increasing. One only has to note the growing availability of Specialty Teas in the thousands of coffee shops across the country. Even for confirmed coffee lovers, tea has a new appeal in the form of a product called Chai – a blend of tea, spices, and milk. And for a new generation of tea drinkers, or simply the young at heart, bubble tea outlets are popping up in major metropolitan areas across the United States. Today, there are over 2400 specialty tea rooms and retail shops in big cities and small towns across America. Also, there are an ever increasing number of upscale hotels offering Afternoon Tea service. In fact, the 2007 wholesale value of the tea industry in the US was estimated at $6.85 billion and world-wide, it is the second-most consumed beverage in the world, surpassed only by water.
Unfortunately, however, the Luzianne Movement turned ugly. Many of the 4,000 participants started arguing among themselves about whose celebrity’s tea philosophy was better, the with followers of each celebrity mocking and demeaning other’s philosophy.
Many of the most influential tea connoisseurs, oddly enough known only by their first name and the approach to tea, were present. There was Len the Spicy, known for his philosophy that the only way to drink tea is to add a peppery mix during the brewing process. He particularly loves to use Old Bay or Crab Boil, since this allows him to enjoy the smells and taste of shellfish without actually eating shellfish. (Apparently, shellfish causes an allergic reaction and can kill him.) According to Len the Spicy, drinking tea this way elevates the tea’s natural flavor, heightens its impact on the tastes buds and increases the sensory aspect of the tea-drinking experience.
Also in attendance was Mark the Hot. This Northwest US tea philosopher’s Slavic-born parents taught him that tea must always be sipped and it must always be hot. It is interesting to note that Mark the Hot’s tea philosophy appears to also reflect his own personality, as it appears he was “hot” because did not get a speaking opportunity. Rallying his followers, Mark challenged the rest of the speakers for their speaking time, going to the extreme of erecting a 12-sided cage, known in fighting circles as a Dodecagon, and trying to get each speaker to thumb-wrestle him for their remaining time. Apparently no one would accept his challenge, however, so he denounced them all and his followers took their tea bags and started their own event across the street at the Tetley Center.
Tom the Crumpeteer came from England. A powerful tea historian from the Welch countryside, his family have been tea producer for over 1000 years and it was always partaken with crumpets. The crumpet, a sweet and savory bread snack made from flour and yeast, allows for a sweet injection of flavor into the tea, soothing the palate and comforting the tea drinker.
The most interesting attendee came from Florida. Bobby the Ecstatic was carried in on a litter, a class of wheelless vehicles. It is a type of human-powered transport used for the transport of persons. Bobby the Ecstatic’s resembled Cleopatra’s litter. As he entered, a shofar was blown and George Michael’s song Faith was blasted over the load speakers. As he began to speak, he started to dance, saying that tea should only be partaken of in celebratory events. Anything less than a celebration was defaming the history of tea. Bobby the Ecstatic produced a five point plan to rejuvenate not only the tea industry, but the life of people in general, all based on the history of tea. He also denounced Tom the Crumpet, calling him a “liberal tea historian spewing garbage from the pit of hell that if not rejected, will totally destroy the tea industry.”
Earl Gray, the Lipton Professor of Camellia Sinensis at Brewer University in Hong Kong, was saddened by the ruckus caused by some of the attendees. “This year’s movement was supposed be a celebration of the second most consumed beverage in the world, in all of its flavors, colors, and brewing methods. The fact that it degraded into a competition between celebrity tea thinkers is completely unacceptable. Who wants to discuss tea after watching this sham? Can there not be unity among tea drinkers? Can they not come together and celebrate a mighty tasty drink?”
Outside observers concurred with Gray. Taken aback by the rhetoric and tactics of some of the participants and their followers, Oo Long, one of the security workers at the Movement noted that, “As a result of what I have seen and heard during the past two days, I will not be drinking tea. I was considering switching from coffee to tea, but from what I’ve seen, only a fool would want to drink something that would cause such division.”
Promoters of the Luzianne Movement note that if there is another movement in the near future, different rules will be in place to eliminate a repeat of the two day “yell-fest”.