Catherine Felegi is the founder and author of the blog Tea Love, a blog dedicated to all things tea-related. You can find this post and others on her page, http://cafelegi.wordpress.com/.
Those who read my Facebook have read my latest post regarding my friend Jon, who received a sea horse figurine when buying Red Rose Tea. Though he was admittedly confused by the gift, he took it with gratitude and made sure to forward me a picture of this cute little surprise.
While, of course, most people don't like looking a gifted horse in the mouth, I don't mind looking a gifted sea horse in the mouth. Why did my good friend receive such an unusual, yet delightful gift?
Well, in order to do that, we have to look at the history of the Red Rose Tea brand. Red Rose started in Canada in 1890, when founder Theodore Harding Estabrooks decided that the public deserved a cup of tea that was consistent cup-to-cup. According to the Red Rose Web site, "Before that, tea was sold loose from tea chests by local merchants and quality varied a great deal. Mr. Estabrooks' innovation meant that tea lovers could count on the quality of tea in every Red Rose package — a tradition that continues to this day."
Initially, his tea was sold in Canada but in the 1920s, his business expanded into the US and, in 1929, he made the monumental contribution to the tea world - tea bags.
Estabrooks sold his tea company in 1932 to Brooke Bond & Company of England. Red Rose continued to grow at an astounding rate under the company's guidance. According to Red Rose, "In 1985, Unilever NV acquired Brooke Bond Foods, Inc. Shortly thereafter, Unilever sold the rights to the Red Rose brand in the United States to Redco Foods, Inc. retaining the rights in Canada and other parts of the world." In 1967, as part of a promotion, Red Rose started giving away Wade figurines, figurines that fit into the palm of your hand. At first, they were only distributed in Quebec, Canada and were only meant to be a short-term promotion.
Little did Red Rose know that the promotion would be a huge success, eventually spreading across all of Canada. In 1983, the figurines were offered in the United States as well. Now, it is estimated that over 300 million figurines have been given out to date!
These figurines are given out in series and, at the end of each one, consumers can purchase the entire set via the Red Rose Web site. Currently, they are in their nautical promotion series.
Per the Red Rose Web site, "Today, Red Rose is blended with the same care that Theodore Harding Estabrooks established more than a century ago. Red Rose contains high-grown black teas from Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Kenya, India and Indonesia. The result is a blend that produces a full-flavored cup of tea for the tea lover. We think Mr. Estabrooks would be proud."
Personally, I know I would love to open up my tea box full of fresh, delicious tea and find a tiny sea horse looking back up at me :-) Start a collection - buy tea!