At this very moment, it’s possible that some big TV star is contemplating his or her next script over a soothing cup of Maine-blended tea made from rose hips harvested from the seaside bushes of Stonington.
It’s possible because in our celebrity-crazed and consumer-driven society, an entire industry has sprung up around the idea of giving famous people gift bags.
The most recent Maine company to benefit from this odd enterprise is Tempest in a Teapot, a tiny loose tea company that began making 13 blends of tea in a former Stonington schoolhouse in January.
The company’s tea was included in some 80 gift bags given out to TV personalities last Saturday in California during “The Secret Room Events Red Carpet Style Lounge,” a benefit for Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. The event is one of many leading up to the 65th Emmy Awards, which will be broadcast live from Los Angeles on CBS at 8 p.m. Sunday.
The two women who run Tempest in a Teapot, Sarah Burrin and Jennifer Larrabee, haven’t heard yet who got their tea or whether the celebrities liked it. But they say the publicity alone has caused their tea orders to double in a month, and so far they have gotten two more gift bag invites as well as a few overtures from other gift bag bundlers.
The company that organized last Saturday’s pre-Emmy gift bags, Secret Room Events, found Tempest in a Teapot by browsing the Internet. The tea maker was listed among Maine companies on the state’s Maine Made website. But the world of gift bag companies and “gift bag lounges” at glitzy entertainment events is so foreign to folks in Maine that Larrabee said when she first got an email from Secret Room Events, she ignored it.
“I completely ignored it. Being from Stonington, I just didn’t know about these things,” said Larrabee, 35, whose family runs Sunshine Seafood in Stonington. “But luckily, Sarah thought we should follow up on it.”
Larrabee and Burrin sent Secret Room Events two of their tea blends that they thought would say something about their business and about their state.
Larrabee would not say what those blends were. The company is hosting an Emmy party on Sunday at the Factory Tavern in Stonington, where Burrin’s husband is chef, and they want to unveil the tea types then.
“The message of our company has to do with the fact that we started this as two good friends, two stay-at-home moms who decided to try this, and the fact that tea forces you to slow down and focus on yourself and your health,” said Larrabee. “We want to gift you with taking time for yourself, and that’s really the message of our community and our state.”
Larrabee said Secret Room Events asked her and Burrin to submit products that had “unique packaging” and are “locally sourced.” She said the packaging was easy, because all 13 of their loose tea blends come in bags with “vintage” images of folks from the Victorian period through the 1920s. The 4-ounce bags sell for about $12.
The locally sourced part comes from the Maine herbs and fruits — including blueberries, rose hips and apples — that are dehydrated and blended with tea “bases” imported from around the world. The teas have names like “Cold and Flu Tea,” “Rosie Tea” and “Stress-Free Tea.” They are sold at a few places around Stonington and on the company’s website, tempestinateapot.me.
Tempest in a Teapot is not the first Maine company to get included in a high-profile gift bag. Simply Divine Brownies were part of a gift bag at an Oscar-viewing dinner and after-party in Hollywood about six years ago, Living Nutz were in goodie bags at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in 2008, and Better Than Average jams and jellies went to the News and Documentary Emmy Awards in 2011.
The national exposure a company gets from being at a Hollywood event can be a huge boost for both sales and name recognition, said Tammy Knight, program manager for the state’s Maine Made products program and website.
“It’s really hard for a small company to get that kind of national exposure on its own, so this is great,” said Knight. “And the fact that companies (which organize celebrity events) are looking for Maine-made products is great too.”
Tempest in a Teapot was picked for the pre-Emmy gift bags based on the company’s packaging, name and its custom teas, said Amy Boatwright of Secret Room Events. Boatwright, who scours the Internet looking for interesting or unique products to put in Secret Room Events’ high-profile gift bags, said she’d “absolutely” like to use Tempest in a Teapot in future gift bags.
Since word got out that Tempest in a Teapot was part of a Hollywood gift bag, the company has gotten invites to send its wares to the compilers of two other gift bags.
First, Larrabee and Burrin will be contributing their tea to goodie bags for a Food Network promotion during the New York City Wine & Food Festival in mid-October. They have also been asked to send tea to Variety magazine’s “Power of Women” gift bag, given away to folks as a way to promote the magazine’s social media efforts.
Larrabee said some other gift bag stuffers have contacted their business as well, but none of those events is firm yet.
The Secret Room Events website lists some 25 products included in the gift bags at last Saturday’s event. Other goodies in the bag included jewelry from Forestique and Liz Palacious Designs, as well as items from Rosebud Perfume, Glitzy Girls Magazine, Nanea Skin Care, Pasta Chips, Brownie Brittle and St. Francis Pet Treats.
So given the choice of trying the perfume, eating the pasta chips or sipping locally sourced Maine tea, it seems likely that the propensity of stars would be for the tea.
“The thought that (Emmy nominees) Al Pacino, Matt Damon or anyone from the cast of ‘Downton Abbey’ might be holding our tea — that is pretty exciting,” Larrabee said.
Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: