Eli Tea Reinterprets the Queer Rainbow
Eli Tea Shirt

As young queermos, many of us went crazy with the rainbow after coming out. But as we grow up and our tastes soften, we want something cleaner that still has the spirit of pride. Elias of Eli Tea in Michigan sent me one of his elegant hand-printed, organic cotton rainbow shirts that reinterprets the rainbow to be elegant, minimalist, but still carries a global message of diversity. He spoke with me about his design and shared some of his tea with me from his organic tea business for which the shirt design will soon be his storefront.

The concept of the shirt was to try and make the queer rainbow and the inclusive qualities it represents into something more timeless. Because of the absence of red, it’s intended to be an open-ended statement that can be completed however the wearer desires, and to send a fluid, ever-changing message of diversity. I completed the rainbow with some sweet cherry red pants.

Elias’s design was based off of a Halloween costume he made himself for “Hipster Ernie” (like from Sesame Street). After getting a lot of compliments, he appropriated the style for his shop.

Of course, Elias sells more than just sweet queer-friendly shirts; Eli Tea was created out of his search for a job he could be passionate about. Unable to find just the right career, he created his own to combine his interest in science, health, and culture. All of his tea is created with an interest in the story, and the background of where it came from. Eli Tea prioritizes the use of organic, sustainable agriculture, and gives provisions to tea gardens that support women’s rights and provide daycare services for tea workers’ children! Cool, right?  I know I love tea, and the tea Elias sent me (Ayurvedic Chai) was the best chai I have ever tasted.

Elias believes that his uniform says something about the inclusive nature of his business, the diverse “rainbow” of his products, and the global spirit of tea. And what does someone in the tea industry wear, we ask? Think Darjeeling mountain adventure: white cotton and linen shirts, the adaption of British people who showed up in English suits to trade tea in 100 degree weather. Even his clothes have a story. And did I mention he uses 8 different kinds of cinnamon?

For his tea and a shirt of your own, visit www.elitea.co.

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