Thursday, January 31, 2013

"My Mother Loved Tea" by David C. Bigelow

Today, I'd like to pay tribute to an amazing woman, gone for decades now, who made this world a considerably happier place for many of us tea lovers, Ruth C. Bigelow. I just got through reading her son David's 2008 book, "My Mother Loved Tea," and I was so surprised and inspired by what I found inside!

The R.C. Bigelow Company got its start, David says, when his mother, Ruth Campbell Bigelow, created the famous Constant Comment blend of tea. In 1945 only black tea was available in most grocery stores, so that was the only choice that existed. "Believe it or not," says David, "there was no such thing as a specialty tea to be found and in Ruth Bigelow's mind, this was wrong." Ruth was originally an interior designer and her husband, David Sr., worked in the publishing industry, but during the Depression both their careers took a hit and they needed another livelihood. Ruth's idea was to come up with a successful food product for them to sell, and at first that product was a Chinese seasoning they sold to restaurants.

Eventually, her thoughts turned to her first love, tea. David says that his mother learned from a friend about a tea that had been popular in the South (!) during Colonial times, a blend containing orange peel and sweet spice. The story goes that after experimenting in her kitchen for weeks, she shared this new blend with a friend who served it at "a social occasion" and reported back, "Ruth, your tea caused nothing but constant comments." Ruth latched onto the name, and a tea star was born! The story of Constant Comment's rise to fame is a fascinating one. For one thing, even Ruth's husband found it hard to believe the tea would be successful, and grocers were reluctant to take on an unknown product. Through sheer persistence and belief in her tea, Ruth got her Constant Comment in grocery stores, department stores and gift shops, bringing to mind that classic old saying about how "the one who says it can't be done should never interrupt the one who is doing it!" The business eventually grew to include Ruth's son David and his wife Eunice, and in later years, their daughters Cindi and Lori. It's really incredible to imagine what might have happened if Ruth Bigelow had not had such a passion for tea. Would specialty tea ever have made its way into mainstream American culture, and if so, how long would it have taken? Thanks to her, we don't have to worry about that, so today I lift a teacup full of gratitude to Ruth C. Bigelow!

15 comments:

Linda @Friendship Tea said...

I love tea trivia. Great post! Thanks for sharing.

Lavender Cottage said...

Thanks for sharing this information Angela. I'm glad we have flavoured teas these days as I rarely drink plain old regular tea any more.
In Canada, our household tea brand was Red Rose.
Judith

Auntea said...

I am so glad you posted about this book. Somehow I missed it, how did I not know about it? Shame on me. Well I have rectified the situation and quick ordered it! I can't wait to curl up with a pot of tea and this book. Constant Comment is actually the first tea I learned to drink. I always made coffee, but had a friend who only drank tea, and that is his favorite. I began buying it to have at the house for him, and, you know the rest of the story. Thank you so much for sharing this today.

Joy said...

Sounds like a great book about a great lady!

Bernideen said...

Great information and history!

Bernideen said...

Great information and history!

Antiques And Teacups said...

I have used Constant Comment, and their Constant Comment Green tea for years. I do love their teas! Great history behind a great company...and her name was Ruth...what can I say>> LOL!
Ruth

loralie said...

very interesting. Yes, I remember when tea meant Lipton. Constant Comment was one of the first flavored teas I tried.

Jenny said...

I love stories like this. We have some great companies in America with very rich histories like this. I'd never heard this one!

Rosemary said...

What a fun history. I didn't know the story of Ruth Bigelow, but I do know that Constant Comment was a very popular tea that we sold in The Rosemary House when my mother first opened the shop in the late 60's. It practically flew off the shelves, and we enjoyed it at home also.

Michele @ The Nest at Finch Rest said...

Hear! Hear!

How delightful to learn this, I would love to read that book soon.

Thanks a gain, Angela!

You make the world a better tea place!

relevanttealeaf said...

This book has been on my reading list for sometime. Now I just HAVE to get the book! Thanks for sharing. My mother-in-law drank Constant Comment, and I always associate that tea with her.

Anonymous said...

What a great review, Angela! I've always enjoyed this tea but did not know its history. Ruth sounds like an amazing woman. I love the quote you use, 'don't interrupt the one who's doing, what can't be done...' Very inspiring story. My Mother is a big fan of Constant Comment. Thanks for the review, Joanie

Ginger said...

I've heard the story before, but it's nice to be reminded of a great American businesswoman.

Marilyn said...

What a fascinating story. I had not heard this before, but remembering discovering this tea and just loving it. I drank it for a long time and still if offered it is like coming home to an old friend.