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A President, A Monk, A Heist And A Duchess… And Other Times Tea Appeared In History

Okay, so maybe history wasn’t everyone’s favorite subject in school, but when it comes to tea—and its thousands of years of history—there are definitely some interesting stories to tell. So, grab a mug of your favorite Bigelow Tea flavor and enjoy these fun tales of tea from centuries past!

  1. The story behind afternoon tea: Many tea drinkers may think of afternoon teatime as a British tradition (even though the post-lunch, pre-dinner cup and nibble has roots across numerous cultures). Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford is the woman to thank for the traditional English teatime as we know it. In 1840, Anna started partaking in the light meal to help stave off afternoon hunger pangs in between lunch and the typically late dinner hour of the time. Hey, whatever is necessary to avoid getting “hangry,” right?
  2. How about some ice for that hot tea? Richard Blechynden has often been attributed with making the first iced tea at the World’s Fair in St. Louis in 1904. As sales for his hot tea dropped while summer temperatures rose, he purportedly poured tea over ice to entice fairgoers. Some dedicated research tells another story, though, with iced tea’s roots reaching as far back as 1879, when Marion Cabell Tyree created a recipe for green tea over ice, which was published in a community cookbook called Housekeeping in Old Virginia. Later, in 1884, another recipe for iced black tea surfaced from the Boston Cooking School.
  3. The oldest book on tea! Long ago—in 1211 to be exact—a famous Buddhist priest by the name of Eisai wrote what is known to be the oldest book on tea in Japan: Kissa Yojoki (“How to Stay Healthy by Drinking Tea”). Kind of cool to know that even in the 1200s, tea was a part of a trend of healthy living…
  4. When tea wasn’t considered patriotic: Letters between John and Abigail Adams mention tea. One from July 1774 describes a hostess only serving coffee since tea (during the American Revolution) was considered unpatriotic. Fortunately, Americans came back around to this delightful beverage—and not just for throwing it into harbors.
  5. Tea in tombs: Experts now have what they believe is physical evidence of tea’s existence in two tombs that are 2,100 years old. Leaf buds found in these tombs resemble the finest tea. To prove their hunch, researchers compared the chemistry of the buds to modern tea samples. The presence of caffeine was helpful, but not conclusive, evidence. A few other plants also contain caffeine. Finding theanine was “the clincher.” The investigation also supported the belief that tea has long been highly prized and sought after, as one of the tombs –in western China – belonged to an emperor. Sounds like the humble cup of tea has some pretty lofty ancestors!
  6. Even a heist! According to Smithsonian magazine, in 1848, the British East India Company sent Robert Fortune on a trip to an area of China that was forbidden to foreigners. Disguised as a Chinese merchant, his mission was to steal the secrets of tea horticulture and manufacturing. (No need for thievery these days, we put our best blends right in the teabag for you to enjoy.)

Whether it was the subject of scandal, a sought-after noble treat or a target of old world corporate espionage, tea has a storied history that could give the likes of James Bond a run for his money. So the next time you’re confronted by a historical fact and feel your eyes threatening to glaze over, just think about how tea was probably livening things up behind the scenes. Do you have a favorite tea-related story to tell from your own history? Tag #TeaProudly on social media and share it with us!

From Ruth Bigelow’s Kitchen To Yours: 6 Facts About “Constant Comment” Tea

The awesome story of Bigelow Tea begins with “Constant Comment”®, the iconic blend of orange and sweet spice created by Ruth Campbell Bigelow in her kitchen in 1945. But how much do you know about the very beginning? If not a lot, that’s about to change right now!

  1. A Fresh Start
    Picture this: in the early 1940s, Ruth and her husband, David Sr., decided to start a tea business. But, that’s not where they began. Initially, Ruth had owned an interior design company called Ruth Campbell Design, and was very successful. But when the Great Depression hit, both Ruth and David Sr. lost their jobs. It was then that she decided to make tea.
  2. Manhattan Roots
    When they started to talk more seriously about tea, the Bigelows lived in a small apartment in Manhattan. They felt strongly that, for the company to be a success, they needed a home where they could begin. Searching the local streets, they found a brownstone, just off Second Avenue, which was in terrible disrepair. Optimistic, they bought it with the last of their life savings, and plastered and repainted it themselves—talk about fixer uppers! It was in this home, in 1945, that Ruth and David Sr. opened the doors to the new Bigelow Tea Company. Little could they have imagined that their dream would one day grow to be America’s #1 Specialty Tea company!
  3. Orange and Spice, and All Things Nice
    Inspired by an early Colonial recipe, Ruth spent several weeks of trial and error blending black tea with orange rind and sweet spices. Finally, she created her own special blend and shared it with friends. Anyone who tasted it couldn’t stop commenting—the name “Constant Comment”® was a natural choice for the tea.
  4. That One Shop
    Ruth knew she was on to something with her blend and took “Constant Comment” to every store she could. One shopkeeper told Ruth that he had been opening the container for customers to take a whiff of the incredible aroma, and it was flying off the shelves! Ruth took this idea one step further and set up a jar of “Constant Comment” in each case of tea, with the directions to “open and whiff.”  Shops across the country placed this little jar by their cash registers and sales grew.
  5. All in the Family
    Jump ahead more than 70 years to today, where Ruth’s granddaughter, Cindi Bigelow, serves as the third-generation president and CEO. If you’re a fan of “Constant Comment” tea, Bigelow Tea or tea overall, you’ll love hearing Cindi Bigelow herself tell this story of this original creation while sharing more about her personal (and professional) love of tea! In a month that celebrates mothers around the world, it’s heartwarming to know that this love for tea runs strong through three generations – from the mother of “Constant Comment” all the way to Cindi today.
  6. Shhh… It’s a Secret
    To this day, “Constant Comment” is a secret recipe that only Cindi’s parents, Bigelow Tea Co-Chairmen Eunice and David Bigelow, know and blend. It has stood the test of time and continues to fill cups, kitchens and hearts.

Every Bigelow Tea flavor is blended to be remarkable, but it’s the very first that got so much talk it still carries the famous name. What was the first “comment” you had when you tried “Constant Comment” for the very first time? Tag #TeaProudly with your memory!

Brew A Brilliant Cup Of Bigelow Tea

We love our friends across the pond. And, clearly, there’s a shared passion for tea. But have you ever wondered what exactly sets England apart from the United States of America when it comes to brewing a pot of tea? Well, a couple of things. Bigelow Tea has the scoop.

For starters, though, a bit of history.

The tea culture in America is an important thread in the fabric of the history of the United States. Tea was originally imported by early Dutch settlers in the 17th century, and became very popular. Over time, most tea was imported through Great Britain and the large population of early English immigrants passed their tea drinking customs to the colonists. However, tea and tea taxes soon became a point of contention between the American colonies and Great Britain. In 1776, angry Colonists dumped the tea cargo from British ships into the Boston Harbor (The Boston Tea Party), which became a precipitating event of the American Revolutionary War. And for a while there, tea drinking was considered unpatriotic. Fast-forward several hundred years to today, where 82% of Americans drink tea—that’s more than 158 million people who count tea as a top beverage choice.

Talk about #TeaProudly!

Anyhow, today, both Brits and Americans often steep a tea bag (an American invention, by the way, no biggie) in a cup of hot water. And while Americans are more likely to enjoy their tea over ice (can we get a pitcher of sweet tea, please?), we can all agree that a splash of milk or sweetener is an acceptable form of deliciousness. Also, Americans are known to explore a myriad of flavors, whereas the most popular tea in Britain is a simple cup of black tea.

Whatever your tea style – whether you’re an Anglophile or an adherent to the Americanized trends of tea – you want to make sure your tea is brewed right. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Start with premium quality tea and fresh cold water. Cold water is essential to making a great cup of tea. It’s the oxygen in the water that opens up the tea leaf for full flavor extraction so always allow tap water to run for 30 seconds before filling tea kettle. If you prefer to use bottled water, shake the bottle to aerate (oxygenate) the water.
  2. Chill out (or off). When using a teapot, take the chill off the pot by rinsing it with hot water.
  3. Boil, baby, boil. For black, oolong, herb and rooibos teas, always bring water to a rolling boil then immediately pour over tea. For green and white teas, bring water just to the point where tiny bubbles begin to form then pour over tea.
  4. But, you know, whatever. All Bigelow Tea packages list recommended brew times but as a general rule, black is best enjoyed when steeped 2-4 minutes, green teas for 1-3 minutes, herb teas for 4 minutes, or whatever time you prefer!

Regardless of your preferences, we think it’s fair to say that tea is warm and cozy; it soothes souls, connects people, invites conversation and makes memories. So, whether you’re taking builders tea in England or waking up to a mug of herbal bliss in the U.S. of A., raise your cup and share the experience with those close to you for a drink we all love. Tag #TeaProudly with your favorite way to enjoy a cup!

Stay Pinch-Free With Bigelow Green Tea (And These St. Patrick’s Day Facts May Keep You In The Clear, Too)!

bigelow tea st patricks mug

Let’s face it, you don’t want to be subjected to pinches (legend has it that leprechauns would pinch anyone they could see not wearing green) while carrying around a mug of tea… consider a green scarf, at least. Besides, St. Patrick’s Day is a great reminder of how awesome all-things-green are—starting with green tea. And a cup of Bigelow Green Tea may just be the thing to enjoy while reading about these rad St. Paddy’s Day facts.

Celebrated on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day is an annual feast day recognizing the patron saint after whom the day is named. It’s the national holiday of Ireland, but has become incredibly popular around the world. Maybe you’ve heard of it?! It’s a day when everyone wears green, eats corned beef and cabbage, and searches for four-leaf clovers to bring them luck. But, here are a few facts you may NOT be familiar with… Sit back with a cup of green tea and enjoy.

  1. Luck of the… Welsh? St. Patrick was not Irish. He was from Wales.
  2. We hear those New Yorkers love a good party. The very first documented St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in New York City in the 1760s.
  3. Green everything? Err… or blue? For many years, blue was the color most often associated with St. Patrick. Green was actually thought to be unlucky.
  4. How about that Chicago River? Each year in Chicago, the Plumbers Local 110 union dyes the Chicago River green. It takes about 45 minutes for them to dye the river, and the green color lasts for about five hours—just enough time for the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade.
  5. Take it with a “grain of salt.” Some people think corned beef and cabbage has corn as an ingredient. It doesn’t. Instead, it’s a nod to the large grains of salt that were historically used to cure meats, which were also known as “corns.”bigelow tea green tea box

Now about that green tea? Well, green tea is made from Camellia sinensis leaves—the same leaves that make black and Oolong teas, too. However, the difference is in the production process; green tea is the least processed, thus providing higher amounts of the antioxidant polyphenols known as EGCGs, which is why so many make it part of their healthy lifestyle. Green tea is made by immediately steaming or pan-firing the newly harvested leaves, rather than exposing them to air. This process ensures that no oxidation occurs, and this special handling makes for a more delicate brew that is typically lower in caffeine than black and Oolong teas. Pretty interesting, huh?

Whether you’re sporting green or sipping it, enjoy the fun of St. Patrick’s Day! With such an interesting history, you’d be unlucky to miss out on the festivities. And hey, you can always take a tea break to relax. Tag us with #TeaProudly and share how you’ll be celebrating!

Travel, Profit and 100 Billion Cups of Tea…A Historical Look at Tea!

bigelow tea cup

As you most likely know, Bigelow Tea has been a family tea blender since 1945 where creating tea flavors continues to be our passionate pursuit. Perhaps that’s why we love exploring the role tea has played in various cultures throughout history. We recently discovered this fascinating map that was published in 1934 by Fortune Magazine and written about on Atlas Obscura, a website that guides readers to wondrous and curious places in the world. The map shows the size of countries based on how much tea was consumed in the area.

bigelow tea map

It displays China as about equal to the British Isles, but in reality the article details that the population of China was at the time, nine times bigger than that of the U.K., and the country’s inhabitants drank nearly twice as much tea as the Brits did!

The map also demonstrates that each person in Britain consumed around 6 cups of tea a day, adding up to 485,000 pounds of tea per year. That breaks down to one hundred billion cups of tea, total – clearly, the British do love their tea!

Also interesting is the discussion of how the British made quite the profit from their tea habit, with earnings from the tea trade leading Britain into colonizing one third of the world! The map text even quotes, “Where Britain goes, tea goes with them.” The article goes on to explain that Britain grows and sells four-fifths of the world’s tea, though part of this large tea industry took place in India, where the British grew and sold Indian tea.

Finally, if you notice the red lines drawn on the map, you’ll see the many routes of where tea traveled during the time period. The information shows the U.S. consumed 95,000 pounds of tea annually.

One last historical nugget: the map was created not long after the 1929 Wall Street crash, as the article points out. This crash caused tea prices to drop, and in 1933 tea companies in India, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) and Indonesia (then the Dutch East Indies) came to an agreement to lower output, leading to a slow price increase that was more profitable for all growers and sellers.

Tell us: do you have interesting tea historical tea facts to share?  Please do and tag with #TeaProudly so we can learn too!

Third Generation President and CEO Cindi Bigelow Shares Fascinating Facts About Tea

bigelow tea cindi bigelow

Tea comes in a myriad of flavors and types, but there’s so much more to this drink than meets the eye. Third generation president and CEO Cindi Bigelow sat down with Naturally Savvy, a website focused on natural and organic living, to share some interesting tidbits about tea that you might not know. Here are some of the highlights:

The theanine in tea is what gives you that relaxed feeling.

Studies say theanine  (also called L-theanine) can stimulate the immune system as well as the mind, leaving the body with benefits similar to yoga. Theanine actually binds with the caffeine in tea, which is what makes the tea-drinking experience so different from the jolt you get from coffee.

The benefits of theanine are found in tea bush leaves.
Theanine is a component of the camellia sinensis plant, so it’s found in green teablack tea or oolong tea. While herbal teas, such as chamomile, don’t contain leaves from the camellia sinensis plant, these teas can also be very relaxing because of the herbs used.

The tannin levels in a tea can affect people differently.

It’s not necessarily the caffeine that some people are sensitive to in tea- it might be the tannins. This natural component of tea that gives it its color may not agree with some people when the tea is consumed on an empty stomach. A high amount of tannin can taste astringent, and in general, a high quality tea will be lower in tannins, providing a better flavor.

Not all tea ingredients are the same. 

Sourcing is very important when it comes to making quality tea. Bigelow Tea sources many ingredients from family farms that have not only known the Bigelow family for decades but also provide high quality ingredients like the mint and the lemon used in a variety of Bigelow tea flavors.

Making time for tea everyday can be a great way to relax and revive as shared by Cindi Bigelow. How and why do you incorporate tea into your daily routine?

Bigelow Tea Uncovers the Mysteries of Chai

bigelow tea vanilla chaiWe love to respond to Bigelow Tea fan questions and this was a good one so we wanted to share it with you as well.  A reader asked. “What is Chai?”  The easiest definition of Chai is spiced milk tea, but let’s look a bit more closely at this historical brew.

Chai originated in the East and dates back to thousands of years ago as a concoction sipped by Eastern royalty, though it did not actually contain tea leaves at the time. The drink grew in popularity when the British set up tea plantations in India in the 1800’s, leading to widespread variations across the country and eventually the rest of the world.  Chai was often used as a healthful tonic for common ailments such as colds or indigestion.

Chai is typically a blend of rich black tea, ginger, cardamom, cloves, peppercorn, nutmeg and cinnamon.  It may also be made with green tea.  Spices and sweeteners may vary based on preference so if you are up for a tea change,  check out our Spiced Chai (also available in Decaf), Vanilla Chai, Green Tea Chai,  Chocolate Chai (Yum!), and Caramel Chai as they will be sure to keep you coming back to the kettle for another cup.

Now, how many of you hesitate to talk about how much you love Chai as an alternative to morning coffee or an irresistible beverage any time of day just because you are not exactly sure how to pronounce it?  Is it “ch I” or “k I?”  The answer is: ch I.  In fact, Chai is actually the word for tea in many languages.

bigelow tea chai tea

So now that you have some history and Chai and you know how to pronounce it, which Bigelow Chai flavor will be your first choice to try?

Bigelow Tea Shares Favorite A Few Interesting Tea Facts

At Bigelow Tea we love discussing and sharing interesting facts and history about our favorite beverage- tea! The folks over at Mental Floss put together this quick video of thirty-six of the most interesting facts about tea. Here’s a few to sip on:

  • Tea is the world’s 2ndmost popular drink. Water comes in at number one which coincidentally, is a crucial ingredient in making any cup of tea!
  • 85% of the tea sold in the US is iced tea per Mental Floss. At Bigelow, we sell a variety of special iced tea blends but we always encourage our fans to be creative and experiment with brewing their own iced tea at home with any Bigelow tea flavor!
  • Contrary to popular opinion, iced tea did not originate at the 1904 World’s Fair. A recipe can be found from an 1877 cookbook.
  • “Chai Tea” is redundant and actually means “tea tea”. We’ve put a modern twist on this ancient classic with Bigelow Caramel Chai.
  • In 1901, two American women invented the modern tea bag. Just 44 years before our founder Ruth Campbell Bigelow started Bigelow Tea in her kitchen in New York City!
  • If you find yourself in Zillah, WA, keep an eye out for the service station shaped like a teapot! Sounds like the perfect road trip to us!
  • English tea parties became popular around the 1840s when Queen Victoria and her friends would host tea and snacks between lunch and dinner. Check out our tips for hosting the perfect tea party here.
  • The London Tea Auction was a staple of tea trade for 300 years. Today there are actually E-auctions in India!
  • The British Standards Institute has a guide for preparing tea. Bigelow third generation president and CEO Cindi Bigelow also has her very own guide for the perfect cup of tea!

To learn more fun facts about tea, watch third generation president and CEO Cindi Bigelow’s video where she shares her tea expertise!

Bigelow Tea Takes A Look At The Craft Of Reading Tea Leaves

bigelow tea earl grey bag

As a third-generation, family-run business for 70 years, Bigelow Tea knows that history, tradition and even folklore can be a part of your daily cup. Tea leaf reading is one tradition that intrigues tea lovers around the world … so brew your favorite cup and join us for a little lesson on reading tea leaves!

For centuries, humans have embraced various practices of fortune telling, seeking a look at what the future holds. Some people believe that the tea leaves in your cup of tea are telling you something. Tasseography or tasseomancy is the practice of reading tea leaves to draw insights into a person’s life and events.

In the Victorian era in particular, the acceptance and practice of tasseography grew quickly. Fueled by a widespread interest in the occult, as well as the work of Sigmund Freud, Victorians were quite fascinated by the idea of self-analysis. Tea-leaf readings and fortunetelling became so popular, that many households owned specially-designed tea sets painted with symbols to facilitate readings. Victorian ladies would host tea-centric gatherings that included not only drinking tea, but also painting teacups and fortunetelling with tea.

Today, telling the future with tea is still practiced. Some people enjoy organizing parties featuring a modern-day tasseomancer, ready to give guests a reading.  Of course, as with any practice relating to fortune telling, tasseography may not be everyone’s cup of tea. While some people take their tea-leaf readings to heart and others simply enjoy it as entertainment, there is one thing on which everyone can agree on: the pure enjoyment of sipping a good cup of Bigelow Tea!

 

Bigelow Tea Reminisces About Tea Innovations Through The Ages

bigelow tea novus chamomile

From field to cup, tea takes a remarkable journey—one that has changed in fascinating ways with innovations in the tools used to prepare it for consumption. Nature provides the precious tea leaves, but human ingenuity and imagination make brewed tea possible. Bigelow Tea is proud to be celebrating 70 years as part of this great tea tradition!

Legend has it that a Chinese emperor discovered how to infuse tea more than 4,000 years ago when the wind blew leaves into the water he was boiling. As NPR notes in this excellent historical overview, people all over the world have been thinking up new ways to make and enjoy tea ever since. Tea was once pressed into cakes that were broken into pieces (then roasted and boiled), powdered and whipped, sipped from bowls, and incorporated into ancient Chinese rituals requiring up to 25 objects for the tea service. Invention of the tea bag was a happy accident in America in the 1900s when a merchant began selling tea leaves wrapped in silk pouches. Rather than remove the tea leaves as intended, customers put the bags right in their teapots instead. Genius!

Fast-forward to today. As a third-generation, family-owned tea company, Bigelow Tea embraces tradition while also striving to stay at the forefront of tea innovation. Hence the Bigelow team has worked to develop the signature foil pouches that protect the freshness and flavor of every Bigelow tea bag.

Bigelow Tea introduced another novel tea bag with the Novus line of premium full-leaf teas from the world’s finest tea estates. Each Novus tea is enveloped in a pyramid-shaped sachet that allows the delicate leaves to unfurl completely when steeped for a cup of tea that offers perfection in every sip! No wonder it’s a favorite of many Bigelow Tea fans—like @z_inita, who tweeted her love for Novus Citrus Chamomile Herb Tea.

Which Bigelow Tea variety do you prefer in your modern-day mug?