New class action calls out Bigelow for pushing unpatriotic tea

We’re Number … 35?!

We never really thought about it before — we’re coffee people, all right? — but the United States doesn’t really make tea.

We’re just not situated for it. According to Tea Association of the U.S.A., most tea is produced 3,000-7,000 feet above sea level in regions “situated between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn in mineral-rich and acidic soil.”

We’re as “America #1!!!” as the next guy, but the rest of the world wins this one.

American Bucolic

Except … there is one tea plantation in the United States. The Charleston Tea Plantation (CTG), located in Charleston, South Carolina, is a storied enterprise with roots going back to the 18th century; its most recent owner, Bigelow Tea Co., purchased its share in 2003. It’s a beautiful property — check it out.

Now, just because Bigelow owns the tea garden doesn’t mean it uses the tea that’s grown there for its own products. CTG has its own brand lines, as its FAQ attests: “Bigelow Teas are not made from any of the tea leaves grown or harvested here at the Charleston Tea Plantation. Charleston Tea Plantation Teas are the only teas made from the tea leaves produced by the Camellia Sinensis plants grown in the fields of the Charleston Tea Plantation.”

The Takeaway

That sentence — along with several others made by CTG and Bigelow itself — landed Bigelow its own class action suit.

According to a complaint filed in California’s Central District in mid-July, Bigelow has been slapping Made-in-the-USA claims on its packaging, despite the fact that it does not use the tea made on the only plantation in the country. The alleged offending tags are straightforward: “Manufactured in the USA 100% American family owned” and “America’s classic.”

The individual charges are as diverse as Bigelow’s tea brands and include several California state code violations under the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act, False Advertising Law, Unfair Competition Law, and Breach of Express and Implied Warranty.

Bigelow has yet to respond in the docket.

It is interesting to note that many of the links to CTG’s various pages provided in the complaint are anchored at a different domain name — While these links now resolve to pages on CTG’s website, the change may be a response to the suit.

We’ll keep you posted.