All around the house leaves are unfurling, and the landscape has the fresh appearance of bright green new growth and white blossom. The horse chestnut trees are alight with candles, the hawthorn is in full bloom, and the apple blossom is fat and full of the promise of fruit to come.
I picked up a set of old Brooke Bond tea cards depicting British trees in an Aladdin’s cave of ordinary and everyday treasures in Camelford last November. Its previous owner had collected the complete set of 50 cards, starting with Larch and ending with Ash; all illustrated and worded by Michael Youens.
There are two cards for each tree: one depicting the tree itself, the other its flowers and fruit.
The idea of including promotional collectors’ cards in tea packets was borrowed from pre-war cigarette cards. Brooke Bond, which had established its own printers (the Berkshire Printing Company) to print its tea packets, took up the idea to boost sales once tea rationing ended in the early 1950s. This set, with printing in blue on the back, was issued in 1966 and a reprint, with black printing, was issued in 1973.
Of course today we are more likely to turn to the internet if we want to look something up, or find out more about something that interests us. But tea cards, with their distinctive illustrations and fascinating facts, left a memorable impression on me as a child. I still remember the anticipation of opening a new packet, breathing in that wonderful aroma, and seeing what card lay inside.