In the late 1960’s my mother learnt to hate Brooke Bond tea.
It had nothing to do with the quality of the tea – which has stood the test of time to be as popular today as it ever has been – but everything to do with these specific tea cards.
You see I was 7 when these cards were first introduced and they really caught my imagination. I remember using 6d of my pocket money to buy the album and then pestering her like mad to buy some tea bags (as opposed to loose-leaf tea) as there were always 2 cards in those boxes as opposed to only one in standard tea. In fact if my memory serves me right the bigger the box of tea bags the more cards they put in!
Even as an 7 year old I was able to work out that the quicker we “ran out” of tea the sooner we would have to buy more and I’m told that it was whilst collecting these cards that I started drinking tea – just to speed up the process!
The pressure I was putting on my mother to buy more and more tea bags so I could get the complete set was a marketers dream at Brooke Bond. In our house the collection not only bought brand loyalty but persuaded families to start using the more profitable tea bags.
These tea cards were the first cards I ever traded and swapped with my friends at school and in the playground. Needless to say even with my best early attempts at commerce getting some cards just seemed impossible and I remember the United Nations (card 50) and Argentina (card 42) were extremely problematic and difficult to get hold of.
How can I remember this so clearly 45 years later? Having stocked up on enough tea bags to last until I probably left home my mother wrote to Brooke Bond and acquired (for a few pence each) the 2 missing cards and gave them to me as a present on my 8th birthday. It was one of the best presents I ever received and I still have the completed album – with all of the cards stuck in – to this day.
What made these flag cards different to others produced by other tea companies, such as Lipton Tea, is that not only is the flag of the nation shown but also the emblem of the country. At that time it was a very unusual as kids were not easily exposed to graphical information such as this.
The popularity of these particular cards can be seen in the fact that after the original series (with a blue back) was printed in 1967 by Berkshire Printing Company and a further reprint was done in 1973 but this time with a black back. By 1968 the Berkshire Printing Company, on behalf of Brooke Bond had printed a staggering 720 million tea cards for worldwide distribution. The choice of countries chosen by Brooke Bond to be depicted in this series are fairly uncontroversial and contain the main countries of the Commonwealth and allies at the time but the exclusion of China but the inclusion of the United Nations flag probably had some political overtones associated to it.
The flags and emblems included in this series were: