In 2012, Starbucks coffee stores surrounding Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal, the largest container port in the eastern United States, adorned some of their refrigerated beverages with miniature seafarers’ caps. The project, called 1200 TEAny Hats (because the hats topped Starbucks’ TAZO-brand tea bottles), helped SCI reach consumers to talk about the work of mariners who deliver most of their consumable merchandise, including the tea found at Starbucks. Over 175 knitters participated in the endeavor, making some 2,173 hats for bottles sold at 12 New Jersey Starbucks, spreading the word about mariners and SCI to thousands of shop visitors.
SCI designed the TEAny Hats to mirror a life-sized watchcap, a hat design that has protected mariners traveling on cold waters for hundreds of years. Customers at New Jersey Starbucks who went to purchase tea that winter discovered their bottles topped with a mini watchcap. The colorful wool on top of each tea might have drawn some strange looks, but customers examining the tag affixed to each hat soon understood: “From smartphones to blue jeans to the ingredients that make this beverage so tasty, seafarers bring us the comforts of our daily lives.”
The project inspired knitters from across the United States to craft the miniature tea-topping hats, which helped spread the news of mariners’ arduous labors to deliver overseas products to American shores and garner support for North America’s largest mariners’ service agency, SCI. But many felt the message did not travel far enough. Passionate knitters expressed a desire to enlarge the project’s reach to locations in their own communities.