House of Cha is a tea house based in Lawrence, Kansas, that sells hot and cold tea, bubble tea, as well as small, gourmet pastries. The atmosphere resembles that of a Zen garden, and gives the impression of a place where tea must be sipped, not gulped. Time is not taken for granted, as the area is small and intimate, and tea is brought in small tea pots with small cups to accompany.

At the moment, the store relies on the same SYSCO packaging used by almost every place in Lawrence that sells coffee. Their bubble tea comes in the same plastic cup with the vacuum sealed lid—standard to most bubble tea specialists from the US to Japan. Unlike the rest of their store, their packaging relies on conventions of the thrifty over the atmosphere of “one with the earth” they seem to give off with their Zen garden approach. When at the store, people are given hand-crafted tea pots and bulbous glasses guaranteed to make any drink look amazing. There is clearly and aesthetic and a feel they want to project, but when it comes to those who are not available for the “break from life” that they offer, than it’s “paper or plastic?,” then off to the landfills.

My other idea is to reinvent the to-go conventions of a local bakery. I don’t have a particular bakery in mind, rather my hope is—in the future—to open up a bakery/coffee shop. My concept behind the store, or my zag, entails my backed goods to be sold from the pan. Who, honestly, can wait for their fresh baked cakes and cookies to cool before sampling or scarfing? I want to sell individual cupcakes that have been baked in mugs, or batches of half a dozen or a dozen straight from the muffin pan.

Traditionally, bakeries used the thin card stock boxes to house everything from pastries to sheet cakes which sometimes include a clear plastic window. The boxes are used once as a serving station before getting tossed, or recycled if they are without the plastic window. In the case of the bakery at Hy-vee, breads and rolls are quickly slipped into plastic bags with zip ties, while cakes and cupcakes are packaged in the card stock windowed boxes and everything else in pop-close plastic boxes. Their baked goods are cooked in aluminum pans, thrown away after one use.

The containers used house the foods for the few days they stay edible, unless finished on the first day. Afterwards, the package is discarded either in the trash or recycling bin. When first arriving at the store, boxes lay flat and bags are pressed together in large batches. Some cakes even arrive to Hy-vee frozen, and in the box they are sold in.

photos by: my roommate, the lovely Lindsey Fisher