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Constant Comment It's All About Tea Podcast TTT Season 4

Season 4 Episode 25: Tea & Oranges

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.   

So, until next time, dear listeners, safe travels wherever your adventures take you. And don’t forget to bring along tea.

Tea and Oranges Tea. Toast. & Trivia.

By Rebecca Budd

Blogger, Visual Storyteller, Podcaster, Traveler and Life-long Learner

35 replies on “Season 4 Episode 25: Tea & Oranges”

Oh, Rebecca, that is such a sweet post and I’m so happy our trajectories have met! Though a coffee person myself, I do love and appreciate the process of making a nice cup of tea. Just so you know, the aroma of your tea blend has reached across the ocean!
Love and many hugs.

Liked by 4 people

I think that we should get together to discuss art and coffee. I have a note to connect with you the beginning of July!!! Tea needs to steep and coffee needs to percolate, must like our creative spirits. The aroma of your coffee has come over to my side of the world. Sending many hugs and lots of love!

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Rebecca. I just got up and I start my day with coffee. But I will end this day with a nice cup of tea.

I enjoyed this podcast very much. I love knowing how things are made and how things came to be. The background stories of how the simple pleasures in our lives were discovered/created always command my interest. To know that, at one point, someone was practicing a recipe that eventually became a staple and enduring brand, is fascinating. The connection to my new home state is an added bonus.

Now, a bit of trivia for you. In the late 1970s, I made the trip from Seattle to Montreal when I moved to Connecticut from Washington. I had driven to Seattle across the US, and I wanted to experience Canada on the way back. I traveled through Edmonton to Winnipeg (with an overnight stop in Saskatoon)I can easily imagine going the other way. I can also relate to the thrill of starting something new.

I hope you have a wonderful week.

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Thank you Dan for listening in and for sharing a cup of tea with me at the end of the day with me. Whenever I watch a British TV show, like Vera or Shetland, I look for the times they talk about making a cuppa. It is usually when there is a intense conversation is about to happen. Tea calms the discussion. I thought of you when I was reading the Connecticut newspaper.

I share your enjoyment of discovering how things are made and how things came to be. The background story is essential for understanding where we are now. Consider the evolution of the camera? And I just read a Smithsonian magazine article on how the paint tube came to be which allowed impressionist such as Claude Monet to create their works of genius. But I digress.

And your trivia about travelling Canada was serendipitous. We could have passed each other on the highway. I love Saskatoon! Their university is located on the South Saskatchewan River. And the University of Alberta in Edmonton is by the North Saskatchewan River valley. Rivers bring us together. You see how easy it is to digress and head down the rabbit hole?

Your visit and comments are very much appreciated.

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Thank you for relating the beginning of a history and a story of a famous new tea!. For many, coffee had been the favorite drink (My parents in Nebraska and other families in USA and Canada) However, now there was this new and tasty drink, called Constant Comment! The drink that was so good, but no one knew the ingredients, a great secret that no one could discover or purchase! Now this special tea is kept in tea bags in most households and treasured almost daily. Thank you, Ruth B, for this new tasty tea. The war years had been terrible, this new tea was a help for many families to adjust to the new order after the terrible war! ! Now, let us go make a cup of this tea! !

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Very nice podcast, Rebecca! Learning about the history of Constant Comment was so interesting — as was your “posh” accent for a couple minutes when reading those words about CC. 🙂 I’m not much of a tea drinker, but I’m now seriously considering buying a certain flavor next time I go to the grocery store.

(I assume the constant comment about Constant Comment ends when people are asleep, but, who knows, maybe tea aficionados talk about it in their dreams. 🙂 )

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I am so pleased you enjoyed this podcast, Dave. I love finding the back story. Tea has been a mainstay in many books and stories. Consider Chamomile Tea (one of my next tea research projects) and Peter Rabbit. “Peter was not very well during the evening. His mother put him to bed, and made some chamomile tea: “One table-spoonful to be taken at bedtime.” Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Peter Rabbit. And then there is the Mad Hatter, The Hobbit, the Bennett Sisters, Winnie the Pooh. Remember MMA Ramotswe from the #1 Ladies Detective Agency who loved red bush tea? I am exploring the back story on these teas because these teas must have been and essential in the lives of the writers. I am currently The Woman in Red by Diana Giovanazzo which discusses Yerba Mate. Going back to Alice – it really is going down the rabbit hole.

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HI Rebecca, this is an interesting post about tea. I have never seen this brand in our shops, but them I am not that adventurous about tea preferring the normal black tea and a splash of milk. I really enjoyed this history and your comments about the poet, Leonard Cohen. PS it takes about 14 hours to drive to Cape Town from Johannesburg.

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I love finding the backstory to the story. It is like going down the rabbit hole with Alice. I have never been able to add milk into my tea, but I have been very interested in the controversy of when to add the milk – before and after. I just read an excellent article on this question, which is still hotly debated!!! LOL

https://amp.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2014/oct/03/how-to-make-tea-science-milk-first

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