Welcome to Tea Toast & Trivia.
Thank you for listening in.
This is a podcast in the series called, “It’s all about tea.”
I am your host, Rebecca Budd, and I’m looking forward to sharing this moment with you.
So put the kettle on and join me for Tea, Toast. and a little Trivia, where we will discuss the mysteries and adventures of tea: their origins, stories, aromas, and delicious tastes.
I’m making a special cup of tea today, one that is a reminder of friendships, past and present, and the conversations in between. This story dates to the early 1970’s when I moved from Winnipeg to Edmonton. It was a time of beginnings, and I was eager for new adventures. For me, the 1970’s meant change and forging new possibilities and opportunities. I was ready to meet new friends, live on my own and embark on an academic journey at University of Alberta.
Canada is a huge country. There are 1,304.8 kilometres between Winnipeg and Edmonton, which according to my Google sources takes about 13 hours and 21 minutes to drive. It was no small move.
Tonight, as I wait for my tea to steep, I take a backward glance over forty years and congratulate myself on choosing a city that changed the trajectory of my life.
Edmonton was where I was introduced to a famous blend of tea flavoured with a secret recipe (of course it would be secret) of orange rind and sweet spice. Oh, the aroma was marvelous. It was also a nod to my favourite young Canadian poet, Leonard Cohen.
“Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river You can hear the boats go by, you can spend the night forever And you know that she's half-crazy but that's why you want to be there And she feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China”
Ah, Leonard Cohen. Did Suzanne really serve him tea and oranges that came all the way from China? Yes, she did! According to many sources, including NPR, when asked this question Leonard would reply: “She fed me a tea called Constant Comment, which has small pieces of orange rind in it, which gave birth to the image.”
Constant Comment became my constant companion those years. Even now, I keep a stash of Constant Comment teabags, wrapped in colourful foil, that when opened, releases a feel-good cinnamon and orange fragrance. Ahhhhh!!! And I say this, without any prompting from The Bigelow Tea Company.
Speaking of “feel good” sensations, the legend behind Constant Comment adds to the enjoyment of taking tea. You may think that a tea connoisseur fashioned the blend. After all, Constant Comments remains one of Bigelow’s most popular product. It was an interior designer, Ruth Campbell Bigelow, who was the mastermind. For more on this story, I invite you to link to Alan Bisbort’s article “Bigelow Tea – A Connecticut Tea Party” in the Connecticut Explored magazine.
But what to name the tea? Here is where serendipity stepped in.
A July 1945 Gourmet Magazine article by noted food writer Clementine Paddleford in her column Food Flashes tells this story about the origin of the name.
To this day, the formula is unchanged from the original created by Ruth Campbell Bigelow. It remains a closely guarded secret.
The idea of an interior designer creating an iconic tea blend is a reminder that anything is possible. Two women who shared a love of tea and offered their idea to an unknown destiny changed the trajectory of their lives, much like my move to Edmonton those many years ago.
Life has a way of evolving in ways that surprise and delight. We are born for exploration. Our curiosity and imagination have the power open doors of possibilities.