My friends at NowHampshire are laughing about the reaction from Rep. Carol Shea-Porter’s staff after getting a Tea Party protest letter in the mail, but I’m not so sure we should scoff. Ten years ago, if someone got tea leaves in an envelope, no one would have batted an eye. A few anthrax attacks can change your perspective:

Taxpayer tea parties have rattled some politicians in Washington, as thousands have gathered in cities across America to object to President Obama’s spending policies. But no politician was rattled as severely as the staff of Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) was yesterday.

After opening an envelope containing a teabag and marked “Tea Protest” in the Congresswoman’s Manchester office, Shea-Porter’s staff called Capitol Police and city police and firefighters.

The authorities instructed Shea-Porter’s staff to seek “refuge” as they performed field tests on the substance contained in the tea bag. It turned out to be green tea.

Was it a teabag, though, or loose tea leaves? The video report appears to indicate the latter, not the former. When they say “green substance” and “green material”, it doesn’t sound like a teabag. Given the mailed attacks during 2001-2, any political office would be foolish not to take precautions when finding an envelope filled with an unknown substance.

The Union-Leader’s coverage makes this even more clear:

After the letter arrived at Democrat Shea-Porter’s office at 33 Lowell St., Capitol Police in Washington told the staff to call city police and firefighters.

Manchester Fire Lt. Paul Smith said emergency responders quickly identified the substance as tea or tobacco. But they tested the material to be sure.

Since tobacco doesn’t come in bags, with a couple of exceptions for dippers, it certainly sounds as though the protester mailed loose tea leaves.

The person mailing the letter obviously intended it as nothing more than an extension of the Tea Party protests, so the police have rightly dropped the matter. I’d call it a good lesson all the way around. When sending tea to your elected representatives, send it in the wrapper. It’ll save you a visit from the local police, and save your community some money on emergency services.