Ruth Campbell Bigelow invented Constant Comment tea in her kitchen more than 60 years ago, and by his reckoning, Phil Stewart, an SEO copywriter and Editorializing reader in Independence, Mo., has been drinking it for more than 20. His loyalty to this product is so strong that it survived a major packaging shake-up (and price hike), which he wrote to us about in response to November's "Wish We'd Written That: Something to Chew On."
In his vivid account, Phil refers to Constant Comment (made by Bigelow Tea, presided over by Ruth's granddaughter Cindi Bigelow) alternately as "ambrosia," "nectar" and "liquid heaven," and confesses to being a year-round iced-tea addict. Still, when he discovered one day that his loose tea, packaged in an old-fashioned oval tin, had become a teabag-only commodity (each bag ensconced in the now-familiar foil packet), Phil balked. For one thing, how could he be sure these teabags actually contained the ingredients he'd come to rely on? And if they did, how could he, at his level of consumption, justify the extra cost?
Having received confirmation from the store manager and other area markets that his beloved tin was indeed history, our hero threw caution to the wind and bought one of the newfangled boxes of 20 "doses," then performed exploratory surgery on a teabag.
Our hero threw caution to the wind and performed exploratory surgery on a teabag.Inside was the same mélange of mountain-grown black tea, orange rind and sweet spice to which he'd grown accustomed. What's more, it occurred to him that the teabag was actually a more precise delivery system. Previously, he notes, "if anyone in the family besides me were to get the tea out of the tin, there could either be too many spice bits or not enough to create the proper blend." And the hit to his wallet (which still "sticks in his craw")? He's addressed this by "cutting the Constant Comment with Lipton's regular tea 2 to 1." Don't you just love a happy ending?
Postscript: At some point, Bigelow began packaging Constant Comment as a loose tea in so-called "round canisters." None of the local grocers Phil queried about the switch from tin to bags mentioned this option, nor has Phil ever seen it on the shelf. This disconnect between Bigelow's ideal consumer and his ideal Bigelow product, while surely another story, is something the tea purveyor's marketing department may want to look into.