Like most tea companies, Bigelow Tea has a unique history.
Ruth Campbell Bigelow, one of the original founders of the tea company, is credited with creating the first specialty tea in the United States. The brew of “Constant Comments,” made famous by this trail blazer of tea brands, is named after the comments Ruth received when sharing the new brew with others.
Ruth’s blend was inspired by an old Colonial recipe she worked to perfect, as the only tea available in the region at the time was black tea. Ruth felt customers wanted more variety and flavor in their tea, and for 30 years, Bigelow was famous only for its “Constant Comment” tea.
Today, the company remains a family business, as its CEO is Ruth’s granddaughter, Cindi Bigelow. Also, Ruth’s son, David Jnr, along with his wife, Eunice, are responsible for the large varieties of the fresh foil packages we see lining so many shelves today. Once available only in specialty and gift shops, Bigelow tea is now available at most grocery stores and health food shops, selling 1.6 billion bags each year.
In the 1970s, the tea company was inspired to add more flavors to its line. It was also in this decade that the family decided to take a gamble and move the tea from containers to individual tea bags. The gamble was a success, as restaurant owners found it easier to offer the teas to customers, and the Bigelow family found it easier to make even more flavours. Today, the Bigelow brand can be found in 120 assorted flavors!
With so many flavors, guarding the recipes became a top priority, and the family holds their secrets to this day. In fact, Eunice Bigelow (Ruth’s daughter-in-law) still works in quality control, overseeing the taste testing. She tastes tea every day in their Connecticut blending facility. Though they still use teabags they were so cautious about releasing generations ago, they also sell loose tea for those who prefer their tea whole.
“Today, Bigelow tea can be found in 120 assorted flavors!”
Bigelow Tea – Firsts
This was a ground breaking company in the US for many reasons. In its rich history, it was the first to do many things. Some of them are listed below.
- This truly inspiring tea company produced one of the first flavored black teas in the US market.
- They were the first tea brand to use foil packaging. This helped to ensure freshness.
- They were the first tea company to offer wooden tea boxes for presentation at restaurant tables.
The Charleston Tea Plantation
Wadmalaw Island in South Carolina is home to America’s tea plantation, Charleston Tea Plantation. Commonly now called Charleston Tea Garden, it is the nation’s largest functioning tea garden. In 2003, Bigelow Tea Company purchased this plantation that is 60 square miles of property adorned with beautiful Camellia Sinesis (tea plants). The garden is available for events and tours, and provides an educational experience about the plant we’ve all grown to love so much. You can even enjoy a ride through the tea fields on a trolley, or tour the factory that produces the American Classic Tea brand.
120 Types of Tea
Bigelow produces a large selection of teas, up to 120 varieties. They offer black teas, green and herbal teas in both caffeinated and decaffeinated varieties. Most of their flavors are available in a number of blends. For example, blueberry is available in three different blends, all with Acai berry. They also have caramel, chai, chamomile, chocolate (including white chocolate), cinnamon, cranberry, ginger, 32 varieties of hibiscus, lemon, lemongrass, mango, mint, orange, peach, pomegranate, pumpkin, raspberry, 22 blends with rose hips and a few blends of vanilla as well. Some notable flavours include Pumpkin Spice tea, Charleston Tea Plantation – Plantation Peach Tea, Organic Chamomile Citrus decaf, Lemon Ginger Herbal Plus Probiotics, Peppermint Bark Herbal Tea and Chocolate Chai Tea.
From the early days of Ruth Campbell Bigelow perfecting an old colonial recipe to owning the country’s only functioning tea garden, this classic American company has come quite a long way. Gone are the days of the family meticulously watching every penny to ensure their business stayed afloat with their single product. It’s no longer a gamble to release a new flavor. Today, with its comforting aroma of cinnamon and citrus, Bigelow tea’s Constant Comment remains the top selling flavored black tea in the US.