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© 2019 Ariel Fang

OFFICE TEA (DRINKING TEA AT COCA-COLA)

September 13, 2019

Fun times speaking at our Global Tea Conference in Istanbul, Turkey

 

In my conceptually free-wheeling hay days at art school I would be pegged as too methodical.

Maybe that’s because when your success was determined by a group of people standing around “critiquing” and asking a bunch of questions about something you care about, you make sure you have an air-tight answer for everything that gets thrown your way…

 

This mentality still applies today.

But it’s hard to answer the questions as eyebrow raises of my investigators reach peak altitude.

 

“So you got a MBA?”

“So you’re working corporate?”

“So are you still making work?”

“You’re working at Coca-Cola??”

"Are you a corporate sell-out??" 

“Do you even drink soda???!”

 

Yes, I drink tea in corporate now. (And on extremely rare occasions a Coke Zero.)

 

In my cubicle I low-key bother my co-workers with the rumble of water boiling, clinking ceramics, and obnoxious slurping sounds as I prepare specialty tea from handmade ceramics vessels. Sometimes I'll hide in sound-proof work rooms to grind coffee beans while apologizing to the coffee gods for not getting a burr-grinder and hoping the person in the room next to me isn’t on a conference call.

Office tea changes on a day to day basis!

 

While some coworkers have asked inquisitively what I was doing, most people just let me be and seem surprised by how much I genuinely like tea and coffee. No one in the corporate asks me to justify my actions. I figured that if I was doing something really inappropriate I would be told to stop. But never had I imagined that I would be rewarded for my tea and coffee curiosity. It seems the more tea and coffee I drink in my cubicle the more learning and travel opportunities appeared. 

 

I'm not an 100% convert though. There are days when I want nothing more than to be in a studio making teapots and trying to live some Instagram-perfect life in an impossibly clean Brooklyn studio with millennial plants and a puppy. But by and large I'm happy where I am right now and hopeful for the future!

 

I’ve learned an immense amount these past few years since pivoting from fine arts. Doing so I've found greater clarity in what a sustainable, balanced, and a purpose driven life means. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to leverage my personal interests to support an organization that has immediately tangible global influence. Due to scale and influence, Coca-Cola has a level of reach that can really change people’s behavior and alter effects on the environment. And while this capability can be used to the detriment of society, I’m happy to report that the people in the company are some of the kindest, humble, intelligent, and optimistic individuals I’ve ever met. Their motivation to do good makes me rethink my prior haughty perspective against massive companies. I’m hopeful for the future of consumer goods because we’re really making a stand to support generational shifts to healthier, sustainable, life-giving products.

 

You may be shaking your head saying that I’m just a corporate wash out and have drunk the proverbial kool-aid (or coke). That’s alright, I understand. My former self would have shook my head with you. One thing I ask now though, is that we try to understand these massive organizations from the perspective of the individual or group basis (your friend, or your family members) as often as we think of them as these profit-hungry, shareholder pleasing, apathetic machines. It is easy to feel self-righteous when you disconnect humans from company characteristics. But without trying to bridge understanding we won’t be able to meet all the problems facing the collective world with tangible solutions.

 

Okay, stepping off my soap box.

 

Short answer - work is great, love it, making money is nice.

 

As always I am trying to be better than I was yesterday. And the questions from those who are wondering when they’ll be able to buy tea from me are very warranted. One day soon, I promise. As always thank you for your patience and your support. I’m working hard to the day I get to treat you to a restorative experience over a beautiful cup of your beverage of choice. Please continue to challenge me to be better, and I will do my best to do the same! 

 

I have office sickness and will always look at the bottled tea sections of grocery stores (RTD or ready-to-drink is what we call it in the industry)

Thank goodness they gave me a mic so people could hear me talk about old grove tea pickers.

 

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