On President’s Day weekend, A and I drove up to the Lyons/Longmont area for an overnight/explore trip. We spent most of Saturday in and around Estes Park. If you haven’t read any of my other posts about Estes Park/Rocky Mountain National Park, you may do so here, here, or here. (And I just noticed that not only did we do a mini trip last year for our anniversary, but also this year as well…on the SAME weekend! We just love going up there so much!) We weren’t able to do a lot of hiking (we just did a small 1.2 mile round trip hike) because I was still under some pretty strict walking restrictions. I had thought that I could do more but of course, I had to look it up again and was disappointed to find that I couldn’t do what I had thought. A was very disappointed.
But this post is supposed to be about Celestial Seasonings, right? So on Sunday, on our way back home, we drove the scenic route to Boulder. Celestial Seasonings, the tea company, has its one and only production factory in the world in Boulder Colorado AND they offer free tours. And free before-the-tour-tea samples. And free tea bags which also serve as your ‘ticket’ into the tour.
Our tour started at 11. The first part is a short 10 minute video about some of the history behind the company, how they got started etc and the rules and etiquette behind the tour. For example, all participants including employees must wear hair/beard nets no child under the age of five may be present, stay within the designated areas while on tour etc.
We set off into the factory. (I don’t have any pictures of this part because photography inside the factory is strictly prohibited). We saw the custom-made production lines for both the US and International. International boxes are about hold the size of US boxes because of limited shelf space international grocery stores have. With the exception of Canada.Oh, and for some reason the Bengal Spice tea is the most popular in Canada, followed closely behind the world’s most popular tea Sleepytime.
We learned that the company does five to six trips a year to various parts of the world, checking up on the farmers they work with to get their ingredients. There are over 150 different ingredients the company uses to make their teas and all of those ingredients (including the white, green, black and oolong tea leaves) are gathered from over 35 countries and 10 states within the US. Some of there ingredients (like Chamomile) come from multiple places. I think the tour guide said Texas and Mexico both provide that.
We got to see and smell all the bags of ingredients within the first part of the tour. The guide also passed around a few samples of the different stages of lemongrass for us to see, feel, smell etc. It is quite amazing the difference from start to finish! Also, they process their tea blends with some gas – I think it is oxygen but I can’t remember – because if they did it with water… then they’d have too much yucky-tasting tea on their hands! Makes sense to me. We also stepped into the Peppermint Room – boy did it clear out the sinuses! My eyes started to burn and sting as soon as the door was opened.
The tour ended in the tea shop. We bought over 10 boxes of tea, as well as a tea + espresso latte cold drink to try and a gift for a friend. The boxes in the store were cheaper than just buying it in the regular grocery store. I also got a few postcards to send.
Lastly, I have a slight confession to make. I was at first apprehensive about drinking their tea and then touring the company. A really likes the blends Celestial Seasonings has. I didn’t grow up drinking this brand (my dad is a Twinings guy). I honestly thought this brand was a ‘hippie-type’ brand. But a few months ago I started drinking more of it as A kept buying it. And I discovered I really enjoyed the Lemon-Ginger Zinger and Sleepytime blends.
After touring, I became even more impressed with this company. They are very conscious about connecting with an supporting the farmers they work with as well as the local community here in Colorado. According to both the tour guide and the website, the company supports seven non-profits. The employees regularly support and give back in other charitable ways within their own communities and the company is a member of several organizations including the American Botanical Council, The Organic Center for Education and Promotion and the American Spice Trade Association. Win-win in my book!
Tours fill up quickly and on a first come first served basis. Over 2.1 million visitors have come through their doors. Arrive for the earliest morning tour if you want a smaller group and your preferred time.
Saturday/Sunday tours are still informative but you won’t see the factory in action, unless touring during their busiest season which usually falls October-January. As I mentioned earlier, children under five are not allowed to tour for safety reasons. No photography is permitted either.
DEFINITELY buy tea from the store. It is slightly cheaper than in the regular grocery store here, but it may be far less expensive for you, depending on where you live. We learned that in some parts of the world the half sized tea boxes can gather anywhere from $3-10!! Currently there is a tea called Fastlane that is only available at the tea store. It has added caffeine (110 mg per cup as compared to coffee’s 90 mg per cup!). I haven’t tried it yet but we did buy it.
If you tour M-F, be sure to visit their cafe! It was not open on the day we went, but upon looking at the menu, prices are reasonable and the selections sounded delicious! We might go back one day just for lunch.
Try out as many of the teas as you can beforehand.The tasting room is open up to an hour before the first tour of the day. There are approximately 105 different blends made at the factory. If there isn’t a tea already pre-made that you would like to try, just ask the person behind the counter and they will open a box of the one you would like to try! We did that with the Coconut Zinger blend. Sounded good but (to me anyway) tasted awful. I’m glad we didn’t buy it blindly.