How to turn tea into cash?
September 9, 2007 5:56 PM   Subscribe

What can I do with 1000 boxes of organic tea?

I've got an odd situation and need some creative solutions. I'm turning to the hive mind for help.

I've been raising money for a cycling event called the Pan-Mass Challenge for the past couple of years and have been pretty successful. I've hit up a few large companies for donations and have managed to get nice-sized contributions to my efforts.

I recently contacted the Yogi Tea company (long story) and instead of cash they sent me about 1,000 boxes of organic tea. While it's quite yummy tea, 1000 boxes (20 bags/box) is quite a lot to deal with. I figure at $4-5/box retail, it's a generous donation, but getting it converted to cash has turned out to be a little tricky.

I thought about holding a tea-centered fundraiser to convert the tea into cash that I can donate in their name to the Pan-Mass Challenge, but I have a very busy job and don't have time to organize such a thing.

Any ideas (realistic, please) on what to do with the 1000 boxes of organic tea? I have three huge boxes in my basement and my wife is on me to do something with them. Best answer flags go to those that could conceivably turn the tea into cash that could then be donated to my pet cause (pediatric oncology).
posted by scblackman to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have a Boston Tea Party. For $10, you can have a box of tea to take home or dump in the harbor.
posted by acorncup at 6:04 PM on September 9, 2007

Everyone who participates in your cycling event gets a box of tea at the finish line? (generates no extra money but gets the tea out of your basement)

Ask some less-busy friends to hawk the boxes at shopping centers, subway stations, etc as a fund-raiser?

Try to sell some to local coffee shops, cafes, etc? (Provide a poster plugging your event that the shop can display.)

Bring some boxes into the office and try to guilt your co-workers into buying some? (It's for those poor kids with cancer!)

See if you can get some school-based organization to hawk them for you - it's a good tie-in with kids.
posted by Quietgal at 6:14 PM on September 9, 2007

I'd donate a bunch of money in exchange for 10 or 20 boxes. Course, you'd have to send them to me, and that only gets rid of 10 or 20 boxes. If you decide to go such a route, let me know.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:16 PM on September 9, 2007

The value is more like $2 retail.
posted by rhizome at 6:28 PM on September 9, 2007

Response by poster: At my local co-op grocery it's more like $4 (and it's $3.89 at, but whatever the case, it's still a super-nice donation. I'd love to be able to turn it into more usable currency.
posted by scblackman at 6:32 PM on September 9, 2007

In response to rhizome: my local health care store sells them for about $5/box, so in some markets it's definitely higher than $2.

What about ebay?
posted by Bella Sebastian at 6:34 PM on September 9, 2007

How about donating the tea directly to facilities that could enjoy it? Pediatric oncology research facilities -- imagine the refreshing break leading to an inspired breakthrough, or at least a nicer evening. It could save them money.

Now, 1000 boxes is a lot to contend with... if you donated 20 boxes to each recipient, that's still 50 different recipients. If you mailed big shipments of about 100 boxes each to ten major medical facilities, Ronald McDonald houses, maybe these guys (I'm currently working for them, but they actually put together welcome packets & such for families -- some tea could be very nice. Contact them directly if you wish).

The basic idea is that you send big batches of boxes of tea to large concerns, or possibly friends of yours, then they split it up into smaller batches and send it to individual entities.

Assuming that some of the money you raised would be spent on tea eventually, donating the tea directly as goods rather than money would mean less overhead time spent on using it.
posted by amtho at 6:54 PM on September 9, 2007

I meant you could donate to pediatric oncology research facilities OR treatment facilities OR a bunch of other similar places. A few e-mail messages would probably get fast results.
posted by amtho at 6:56 PM on September 9, 2007

i don't know what the shelf-life is on the boxes, but if you can hold out until holiday season, you could make a killing on stocking stuffers. markup the boxes by $5, and if there's some way you can repackage the tea in a festive way, that might help. if you belong to a religious congregation or have a bunch of high schoolers in your community who need a community service project to make themselves look good on their college applications, delegate them to do a lot of the grunt work.

in the meantime, you may wish to check in with yogi tea and make sure they are okay with you reselling the tea in order to raise cash for a charitable donation. their marketing people may even help you set up a website and otherwise legitimize the operation so it doesn't look like you're selling tea stolen off the back of a truck. :)
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:56 PM on September 9, 2007

oh, and pediatric oncology means you often have a lot of families in waiting rooms for extended periods of time. the family liason should be able to tell you what you can donate. i'm sure they'd love a variety of teas when you need to stay calm and awake.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:59 PM on September 9, 2007

I don't know if Scout troops still do the door-to-door thing, but I think I would probably approach a local troop and see if they want to go halfsies.... if they hawk the boxes door to door, at $5/box, they can keep half the money. That should turn your 1000 boxes of tea into $2500 each for the troop and your cause.

It's not as much as it used to be, but $2500 should still send a few of the poor kids to camp, or buy the troop a few tents, or something like that.

I'm not at all happy with the modern Scouting program, but they would seem uniquely well-suited to this kind of arrangement.
posted by Malor at 7:08 PM on September 9, 2007

Malor, Girl Scouts are not allowed to fundraise for organizations other than the Girl Scouts while doing official Girl Scout stuff, like selling cookies. I don't know about Boy Scouts, though.
posted by liesbyomission at 8:09 PM on September 9, 2007

Local coffee shops / organic-hippie-type restaurants? And yes, teaching hospital and laboratory tearooms.
posted by holgate at 8:39 PM on September 9, 2007

Sell them here
posted by growabrain at 8:56 PM on September 9, 2007

Make some sort of store display that says "But Tea to Help Sick Kids" and get local coffee shops and health food stores to sell it for you.
posted by LarryC at 8:58 PM on September 9, 2007

I suggest firstly that you not sell it on eBay. This is as much as saying, "In gratitude for your generous donation I am going to compete with your retail sales with a greymarket offering." Meh.

I suggest secondly that you resist a Boston tea-party theme, or otherwise imply that your gift is worthy of dumping in any body of water other than a cup, followed by fresh water from a tea kettle. You've been given food, and it should be treated with respect.

And thirdly, I'd maybe take a leaf (hah! get it? a leaf!) from the one red paperclip manual, and see what might happen if you gave 1000 children each a box of tea and challenged them to see how much money they could raise by trading up.
posted by deCadmus at 9:10 PM on September 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

that is nice tea - if you have some of the egyptian licorice or licorice mint kind and want to sell 10-20 boxes to me, i may be interested, send me an email! :)
posted by citron at 9:43 PM on September 9, 2007

I suggest firstly that you not sell it on eBay. This is as much as saying, "In gratitude for your generous donation I am going to compete with your retail sales with a greymarket offering." Meh.

I kind of disagree. While this might be the case if, say, Evian donated water to a nonprofit marathon organization, presumably the tea company knew it was contributing to a cancer organization's fund raiser; antioxidant properties aside, it's not at all clear that in-kind donations of tea can contribute to the fight against cancer in any direct way. And 1000 boxes is way more than you'd use around the office in any reasonable time. I think they probably anticipated that the organization would sell the tea as a fundraiser. Or if they didn't, they should've.
posted by rkent at 9:54 PM on September 9, 2007

rkent - I don't mean to suggest that the tea might not be sold directly in a fundraising manner. On the other hand, I think it's one thing to resell a product that's been donated in a targeted and local manner: e.g. door-to-door, or bake-sale, etc., and it's another entirely to set up shop in a broad retail marketplace.
posted by deCadmus at 10:16 PM on September 9, 2007

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