12.31.2006

"Only Available in Canada?...Pity!"

Albert Brooke founded Brooke Bond tea who eventually bought Red Rose

A wonderful article by Sean Paajanen that I reproduce here in full (since it is the ONLY article I have found that encapsulates Red Rose tea history so well, and who knows if it will be online for the long-run...) about one of my great simple pleasures in life - RED ROSE TEA...
Red Rose is a well known name in tea, especially in Britain and Canada. The company started in Canada, but in more recent years has split into a US version and a Canadian version. Some say the tea is the same, but many think the Canadian Red Rose is superior. I have to agree, and I'm not just saying that because I am Canadian.

The company was started in 1894 by Theodore Estabrooks. He dealt in the import and export of various commodities, but felt that tea was his future. During the first year of business, he only sold $166 in tea. Even with such weak beginnings, he did not give up. In just 6 years, he was selling over a thousand tons of tea per year.

The Red Rose brand was born in 1899 when Estabrooks met M.R Miles (who was a member of a prestigious tea-taster family in England). They came up with the idea to create a blend of Indian and Sri Lankan teas, rather than the more common Chinese and Japanese teas. The result was a rich and flavourful tea, that they sold under the name 'Red Rose'.

Their tea quickly became a household name around New Brunswick and Nova Scotia (their company was located in Saint John, NB). And Red Rose's popularity also spread down into the New England states. They were so successful, that they expanded their product line in 1901 to include coffee.

In the 1920's, Estabrooks met Gerald Brooke, of Brooke, Bond & Company. They became friends and when Estabrooks made the decision to retire, he sold his shares of the T.H Estabrook company to Brooke, Bond & Company. He wanted his share of the company to go to someone with the ambition to carry on the Red Rose legacy.

After WWII, Brooke Bond expanded to create Brooke Bond Canada. This new company established new packing plants in Montreal, but kept the original facility in New Brunswick.

Unilever acquired Brooke Bond Canada in 1984, and the plant in Saint John, NB was closed. The plant is still there as a heritage building. The remaining US business of Brooke Bond was acquired by Red Rose USA Management, who was then bought out by Teckanne in 1995. I won't pretend to understand the nuances of big business, but the end result was that Red Rose had become two separate entities, a Canadian one and an American one.

Even non-tea drinkers, would recognize Red Rose as the company who made those little figurines that people are still trading and collecting today. My grandmother had a collection too. I wonder what ever happened to them?
Note of Confusion: I am not the only one that is confused about Red Rose Tea history!!