In the 1950s and 1960s, packets of Brooke Bond tea included illustrated tea cards, usually fifty in a series, which I avidly collected. One of the most famous illustrators of these cards was Charles Tunnicliffe, the internationally acclaimed bird painter. Most of the initial series were wildlife-based, including ‘British Wild Animals’, ‘British Wild Flowers’, ‘African Wild Life’, ‘Asian Wild Life’, and ‘Tropical Birds’.
The first series was introduced on 23rd October 1954 and featured British birds but the first set that I have and can remember was from 1958 – ‘British Wild Life’. It was my dad who collected them really and I can remember sitting at the kitchen table while he used a bottle of gloy glue to stick them into place; I was only four or five years old and he wasn’t going to trust me to do the sort of job that he aspired to himself. Later I used to collect them for myself and paste them into the books (which used to cost 6d) but I never made such a good job of it as he did.
Collecting the cards was exciting, I can recall the moment when mum would buy a new packet and I would open it to get to the card, down the side of the packet and covered in tea dust (these were tea leaves and not tea bags). At the beginning of a new series the collection would build quickly but after twenty of thirty cards it was always disappointing to get a duplicate and this meant having to go through the negotiation process at school to do swaps. There always seemed to be a couple of cards that were difficult to get and sometimes this meant sending off to Brooke Bond to buy them which sort of defeated the object of collecting them and felt a bit like cheating.
I still have my Brooke Bond albums and a couple of years ago I was certain that they must be worth a fortune but a quick visit to ebay knocked the wind out of those particular sails. Never mind, they are priceless to me because it leaves me with fond memories of childhood and my dad who had a passion for collecting all sorts of useless things!