Note: This story is from the September-October, 2013 issue of the Gypsy Journal.
You don’t have to be British to appreciate tea. Just ask the folks at Celestial Seasonings in Boulder, Colorado!
Started by hippies gathering herbs in the Rocky Mountain foothills in 1969, with a vision of making the world a better place by sharing their knowledge of the health benefits of natural herbs, today it is the largest tea company in America. Yet, the company has remained true to its founders’ mission to consistently provide superior products that help people live healthier lives while still maintaining high ideals like farmer-friendly trading practices and the use of sustainable materials.
We spent an afternoon at Celestial Seasonings and took the free factory tour, where we learned more about tea then we ever thought possible.
When we arrived at the Visitor Center we were handed tea cups and invited to sample as many flavors as we wanted from the multiple urns stationed on counters while we waited for our tour to begin. There were also displays, photographs, and information on the company and its philosophy to keep us occupied until tour time.
In the beginning, the company’s first package was a simple muslin bag with a one color stamp on the front. Loose whole herbs were scooped, weighed on a scale, and funneled into the bag. The original sewing machine used to sew those early tea bags is on display in the Visitor Center.
Today the company uses natural fiber, chlorine-free tea bags that don’t contain starch or gluten and are biodegradable and compostable – making them better for the planet. The unique pillow-style tea bag doesn’t need a string, tag, staple or individual wrapper, keeping 3.5 million pounds of waste from entering landfills every year!
They even had an evening gown, shoes, and hat, all made with tea bags, on display!
The tour started with a ten minute video about the company’s history, and then we donned hair nets (and face nets to cover facial hair) and a very nice young lady took us through the plant.
No photographs are allowed in the factory, but it is a very interesting process, with lots of automation, which is needed due to the huge volume of product made and shipped every day.
The smells of all of the teas and other herbs used in the different blends were intoxicating at times, and almost overwhelming when we went into the peppermint storage room. A couple people had to step back out into the hallway because their eyes started to burn while in the peppermint room.
Quality teas start with quality ingredients. Celestial Seasonings purchases more than 100 varieties of the finest teas, herbs, spices, and fruit from over 35 countries. The company’s botanical experts travel the globe to personally sample and select everything that goes into their distinctive teas. In many cases, the company has purchased from the same family owned farms for three generations.
Each herb and spice has its own distinct flavor, from tangy hibiscus to delicate chamomile, sweet cloves, and spicy cinnamon.
Once the ingredients arrive in Boulder, they are inspected and tested for quality. If they fail to meet any of the company’s strict standards for cleanliness, purity, freshness and flavor, they are rejected. Under the strict eye of Celestial Seasonings’ blendmaster, the ingredients are then carefully blended, insuring that every cup of tea will have the same quality and taste. This commitment to authenticity has made the company one of the largest specialty tea manufacturers in the North America, serving more than 1.6 billion cups per year.
Green, black, and white teas all come from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. How tea leaves are handled after they are picked determines the type of tea they become. Green tea is gently steamed or pan-fired right after picking to preserve its bright green color and fresh taste. White tea is made from very young tea leaves and buds that are minimally processed after picking. Black tea is allowed to oxidize slightly before being dried to bring out a richer flavor.
Herbal teas are not true tea because they contain no Camellia sinensis leaves at all. Their flavor comes from a combination of herbs, spices, botanicals, and natural flavors. Since they contain no tea leaves, herbal teas are naturally caffeine free.
Celestial Seasonings offers teas with a wide range of caffeine content, from naturally caffeine free herbal teas to green and black teas with naturally occurring caffeine.
More than simple boxes, the company’s packages are works of art. Once a tea flavor has been determined, nationally known artists are engaged to create the package in a full sized painting. The essays and quotes that appear on every box are selected to complement each tea’s personality. The boxes use 100% recycled paperboard and can be recycled again when empty.
After the tour we browsed in the gift shop for a while, where they have more kinds of teas and herbal products on display than I’ve ever seen in one place before.
We were impressed with the tour and with Celestial Seasonings’ commitment to producing quality products while maintaining the standards the company’s founders’ set so many years ago. It’s proof that success can happen while still having a corporate conscience.
Celestial Seasonings is located at 4600 Sleepytime Drive in Boulder, and factory tours are held Monday – Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tours start on the hour and take 45 minutes.
Parking is limited to passenger vehicles, and large RVs would have problems. For more information, call (303) 581-1202 or visit their website at www.celestialseasonings.com.
Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of my friend Ken Rossignol’s Pirate Trials: Famous Murderous Pirates Book Series: THE LIVES AND ADVENTURES of FAMOUS and SUNDRY PIRATES. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.
Thought For The Day – Always be true to your teeth and they’ll never be false to you.