If you’ve set foot in a grocery store lately then it’s a pretty good bet that you’re familiar with Bigelow Tea. They may not be the biggest tea merchants on the block but with hundreds of employees and with sales that are estimated to be approaching the $100 million mark, they’re hardly small potatoes either.
But it wasn’t always this way, as David Bigelow recalls in My Mother Loved Tea. The son of the co-founders of the company, Bigelow points out that the company got underway in 1946, when his mother Ruth was experimenting with a tea recipe popular in the American South during colonial days. This was a mix of black tea blended with orange peel and sweet spice and the end result was something known as Constant Comment. It’s a product that’s still, to this day, Bigelow’s flagship product.
Which is not to say that it was always an easy road for would-be tea merchants, Ruth Bigelow, a former interior decorator, and her husband David. Constant Comment was slow to take off in the early days. But, as Bigelow recalls, it was given a good kick in the pants by the introduction of something called a “whiffing jar,” which allowed prospective buyers to get a whiff of the contents of Bigelow’s tea tins.
In addition to being something of a tea powerhouse, Bigelow also holds the considerable distinction of being the owner of the only commercial tea garden in America. The 127-acre Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina gets it due with a chapter here.
Bigelow’s book, a rather slim volume, is nonetheless stuffed to the brim with his recollections of the company’s evolution, from its modest beginnings to its current position as an efficient modern business headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut. The book is lavishly illustrated throughout, with scores of excellent photos that highlight the Bigelow story. Also worth noting, chapters on How Tea Is Made, The History of Tea and a selection of recipes that employ Bigelow’s products.
Check out William’s site, Tea Guy Speaks, for more great tea-related information!