Red Rose Tea, a delicious Canadian Brew established 1899
An international favourite, Red Rose Tea was blended and sold first in New Brunswick. Estabrooks was one of the first to introduce the simplicity of tea in bags in 1929.
On a cold December 24, 1861, Theodore Harding Rand Estabrooks was born to Stephen and Judith Estabrooks in Wicklow, Carleton County, New Brunswick. One of seven children, his father was a Registrar of Deeds and Wills, and Probate for Sunbury County.
On graduation from Kerris Business College in 1894, Estabrooks went into business, according to the Red Rose Tea, website, finding a commercial site on Dock Street in St. John, New Brunswick. He was a business leader, importing and exporting goods, and thought that tea would be a good commodity. The first year of tea sales was not as profitable as he hoped – less than $200 worth of tea was sold.
Red Rose Blend of Tea
In 1899, Estabrooks met a gentleman by the name of M.R. Miles, a renowned tea-taster, and together they developed a delicious blend of Sri Lankan and Indian tea leaves, something different from the usual oriental blends of the time. Estabrooks registered the trademark for his tea in Canada, naming it Red Rose Tea. The result of the blend “was a rich and flavourful tea.”
Red Rose Tea International
Sales of Red Rose Tea soared across the Maritimes and into New England in the United States. Within six years, Red Rose Tea was selling over a thousand tons of tea a year. Red Rose Tea began shipping tea to stores across the border in the 1920s, being sold in Buffalo, Detroit and elsewhere.
Estabrooks Used Tea Bags
Originally packaged as loose tea that needed to be scooped into an infuser for brewing, Estabrooks began packaging the tea into cup-size portions in small bags in 1929. The Red Rose Tea company was one of the first to make use of tea bags, so that having a cup of tea was a simpler, cleaner and tasty event for their customers.
Brooke, Bond & Co Tea Company
Ready to retire in 1932, Estabrooks sold his tea company to Arthur Brooke of Brooke, Bond & Company in England. (There was no Bond, only Mr. Brooke who liked the sound of the name.) Brooke, Bond & Company had been in business since 1869 and had expanded from a single tea shop into an international tea wholesaler. Red Rose Tea did not suffer under its new owner, in fact it continued a steady growth. In the late 1940s, the English tea company opened a branch in Montreal, Quebec, Brooke Bond Canada. The original Red Rose Tea company continued to operate out of St. John, New Brunswick. In the 1960s and 1970s, Red Rose began including figurines and collectibles with its tea packages. The collectibles were hugely popular, and, though decades out of production, are still being traded yet today.
Red Rose Tea Bought and Sold
Unilever Foods purchased Red Rose from Brooke, Bond & Company in 1985, and then “sold the rights to the Red Rose brand in the United States to Redco Foods,” according to the Red Rose Tea history webpage, “retaining the rights in Canada and other parts of the world.” In the United States, Red Rose Tea has been produced in Little Falls, New York since 1988. The New Brunswick operation was finally closed and is now a heritage building. In 1995, Redco Foods was sold to a German company, Teekanne.
But back to the founder of Red Rose Tea… Theodore Estabrooks married Mary Emily Crothers on September 6, 1886 and they had six children – five daughters and one son. Estabrooks died in St. John, New Brunswick on April 5, 1945 and he was buried at Fernhill Cemetery in St. John, NB. His delicious legacy of ambrosial tea lives on across Canada and around the world.
This article first appeared on Suite101.com in 2013. (C) Susanna McLeod 2024