Last week I had the opportunity to go on a super fun trip to Boulder Colorado to visit the headquarters of Celestial Seasonings. I’ve been drinking their tea for years so it was fun to learn more about the process of making tea and meet the wonderful people behind the brand. The trip started with the warmest welcome (the employees greeted us outside, cheering and holding signs with each of our blog names on them!).
I drank about a million cups of tea (Sweet Harvest Pumpkin is totally my new favorite). After that, my highlights of the visit were: listening to Kay Wright (the Director of Botanicals Purchasing) talk about her travels sourcing all of the various herbs, touring the facility (in stylish Tyvek suits & blue hairnets), and tasting (more tea) with Charlie Baden, the Senior Blendmaster.
I found Charlie’s job so fascinating. Even though Celestial is a fairly large company, blending the tea isn’t an exact science. Depending on seasons, regions, and other growing variables, individual ingredients taste different every time (cherries can be more tart, hibiscus can be more or less bitter, etc…)” so he personally tastes and adjusts each blend in order to make sure every box of tea tastes consistent. “The zingers have to zing,” he says.
These are some of my favorite tea facts:
– Black tea, green tea, and white tea are all made from the same plant: Camellia Sinensis. It’s a white-flowered evergreen bush native to China and India.
– The difference? Black tea leaves are allowed to oxidize which causes the leaves to darken and bring out a full-bodied flavor. Green tea leaves are steamed immediately after they’re picked so the leaves don’t oxidize (which is why green tea is more mild in flavor). White tea comes from only the first few tender leaves and new buds and it has the most delicate (slightly sweet) flavor. Herbal teas (unless they’re blended with tea leaves), are not actual tea.
– Celestial Seasonings was the first to bring green tea to the mainstream US market in 1995. They began mixing it with white tea in order to make a smoother tasting green tea.
– Independent artists & illustrators are commissioned to create all of the artwork for the tea boxes. (I actually used to save mine and store my art supplies in them)
– The ingredients in Celestial Seasonings Teas come from all over the world, but the teas are blended in Boulder. Many ingredient suppliers have been part of the Celestial family for more than 30 years.
– Celestial Tea bags don’t have strings, tags or individual wrappers which saves 3.5 million pounds of waste from entering landfills each year.
– The Celestial Tea Tour is open to the public and is Boulder’s #1 tourist attraction!
– Use filtered or distilled water. (the water you use affects your tea’s taste).
– Don’t over-boil your water for green tea. Bring it just barely to a boil, and remove the tea bag after 3-5 minutes or your green tea will become bitter.
– Watch the clock, not the color. 3-5 minutes for green & black teas, 4-6 minutes for herb teas, 6 minutes for wellness teas.
– It’s ok to squeeze the bag to get the most flavor from your tea.
After the tour, I had just a few minutes to stroll around Boulder before we headed to The Kitchen, for a tea-inspired meal. Some of my favorite dishes were: a beet & hazelnut salad with orange tangerine tea dressing, chai roasted squash with wheat berries, and for dessert: rooibos tea sorbet.
I can’t wait to recreate some of the dishes myself. But for now – a tea-tail recipe! Before we left Celestial, they served these cocktails (and some others) for happy hour. This recipe is by Conor McDermott, from Salt who recently won Boulder’s Best Mixologist. At the event, this was served as a non-alcohol drink… of course when I made it later at home I added some bourbon.