Bigelow Tea Company

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R.C. Bigelow, Inc.
TypePrivate
IndustryTea
Founded1945; 76 years ago (1945) (as R.C. Bigelow, Inc.)
FounderRuth Campbell Bigelow
Headquarters,
U.S.
Key people
  • David C. Bigelow, co-chairman and co-CEO
  • Eunice Bigelow, co-chairman and co-CEO
  • Cynthia Bigelow, President
ProductsTeas & herbal teas
RevenueUS$90 million
Number of employees
350
Websitewww.bigelowtea.com
Bigelow's Constant Comment tea

The Bigelow Tea Company (formerly R.C. Bigelow, Inc.) is an American manufacturer of dried teas based in Fairfield, Connecticut. It was founded by Ruth C. Bigelow in 1945, based on a recipe she marketed as "Constant Comment" tea. The company markets over 50 varieties of tea, including black, green, and herbal, all of which are blended in Fairfield. The company has other plants in Boise, Idaho, and Louisville, Kentucky. Their Charleston Tea Garden in South Carolina is the only tea garden in America, but does not produce the "Bigelow Tea Company" teas. Still a 100% family-owned business,[1] Bigelow employs 350 people and had annual sales in 2009 of approximately US$90 million.[1]

Constant Comment[edit]

Constant Comment remains today one of Bigelow Inc.'s most popular products. It is a black tea flavored with orange rinds and sweet spices.[2] The recipe was developed by interior designer Ruth Bigelow in 1945, from an old colonial tea recipe for making orange and spice flavored tea in stone containers.[3]

In 1945, The New York Times food writer Jane Holt wrote about the newly introduced tea, calling it "unusual", "delicious", "concentrated", and "economical":

Ruth Campbell Bigelow and Bertha West Nealey [are] both interior decorators whose enthusiasm for tea has led them to blend their own... an unusual and delicious brew called Constant Comment, which has just been introduced in city stores.... Unlike the ordinary sorts, it is so concentrated that a little goes a long way. For example, in preparing it, a scant half-teaspoon is recommended for three cups.... Several other varieties are in the process of experimentation in the laboratory.... The price ranges from 67 to 75 cents a [two-and-one-quarter-ounce] jar.[4]

A 1945 article by noted food writer Clementine Paddleford tells this story about the origin of the name:

The tea was ready for market, but no name seemed to suit. Then it happened this way: One of Mrs. Bigelow's Park Avenue friends was giving an afternoon party, and it was suggested she try the new blend. Not a word was said to the guests regarding its novelty, yet everyone spoke of the tea's aroma, its flavor—there was “constant comment.” A good name, why not? Labels were made and the tea was hurried to the stores, where it is selling at around 75 cents for the two-and-one-quarter ounce jar. Expensive? But here's a tea so flavorful that three quarters of a teaspoon make six bracing cups of aromatic spiciness.[5]

Sales grew slowly but steadily, taking off in the 1970s when Bigelow began packing their teabags in folding cardboard boxes instead of tins.[3] According to singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, the famous lines, "and she feeds you tea and oranges / that come all the way from China", from his first hit song "Suzanne", refer to Constant Comment tea.[3] The tea also gets a mention in the 1977 children's novella 'Mildred Murphy, how does your Garden Grow?' by Phyllis Green in which "[Mildred's] loneliness disappears when [she] befriends a secretive woman living in a condemned garage" who is fond of the tea.[6]

In 2016, CEO Cindi Bigelow said of the recipe for Constant Comment: "the only two people who know the formula are my parents [Ruth Bigelow's son David, Jr. and his wife]" and that the recipe remains unchanged from the original since it was first developed.[3]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Hoovers article on R.C. Bigelow, Inc." Accessed in 2010. It lists David Bigelow and Eunice Bigelow as Co-Chairmen and Co-CEOs, and Cynthia Bigelow as President.
  2. ^ "Constant Comment tea description". Bigelow Tea. Archived from the original on 2011-07-07.
  3. ^ a b c d Martyris, Nina (November 15, 2016). "The Story Behind The 'Tea And Oranges' In Leonard Cohen's Song 'Suzanne'". The Salt: What's on your plate. NPR. Retrieved November 18, 2016.
  4. ^ Holt, Jane (May 21, 1945). "News of Food: New Tea Mixture Appears in the Market; Economy of Use a High Recommendation". The New York Times. p. 16.
  5. ^ Paddleford, Clementine (July 1945). "Food Flashes". Gourmet Magazine. Archived from the original on 2011-06-13. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
  6. ^ https://www.google.com/books/edition/Mildred_Murphy_How_Does_Your_Garden_Grow/QdsVypw7tcAC?hl=en&gbpv=1&bsq=constant%20comment, retrieved 2020-09-21 Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links[edit]