My younger son is a PhD student at UC Boulder (astrophysics of all things) and visiting him has given me the opportunity to explore this pretty little city recently. It’s got some nice attractions, especially it’s close proximity to the Rocky Mountains and a great summertime farmer’s market. But there are many Americans who think of tea when they think of Boulder. You heard that correctly — a tea factory in America’s heartland.
Celestial Seasons may not be the biggest distributor of tea in the USA but it unquestionably has the most devoted following and is the country’s largest supplier of herbal teas. I know several people who would have trouble going to sleep at night if not for a cup of Sleepytime® tea. The Celestial Seasonings factory and world headquarters in Boulder is easy to find and you can take a free guided tour of its production plant.
When you arrive at Celestial Seasons, head straight to the Factory Tour desk and get tickets to the next available tour. You’ll likely have to wait 30-60 minutes for tours that run every hour, on the hour, with a maximum of 45 guests per tour (first come, first served). During your waiting time you can sample (free) a variety of brewed tea in the waiting area, a great way to try some of those flavors you might have been uncertain about buying, and an opportunity for the company to promote its newer brands…
The waiting area also has a fascinating collection of original art (used on the tea boxes)……unusual teapots (see photos at the end of this post), and a brief company history.
Like many things in Boulder, the company has hippy era origins. In 1969, one of its founders handpicked wild herbs from the Rocky Mountains and used them to make Celestial Seasonings first tea. In the following years the company focused on developing its herbal brands, selling them in hand-sewn muslin bags. By 1972, two blends were introduced: Red Zinger® and Sleepytime®. Sleepytime is the bestselling specialty tea of all time and was a cornerstone to the company’s success. Today Celestial Seasonings is served in almost 2 billion cups a year. Their product catalogue includes over 100 types of tea sourced from over 35 countries. And all this sprang from a young entrepreneur picking herbs in the nearby mountains — a great American success story!
The tour lasts about 45-minutes and you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at how tea is made. It starts with a short video, followed by a 30 minute walk through the factory (unfortunately, no photography allowed). The difference between green, black and white tea is defined (they all come from the same bush-tree plant), and how these teas differ from herbal teas (which are made from a variety of plants, but not the tea plant). They explain how tea is blended and where all the different ingredients come from. Most interesting to me was the “Mint Room”. Because of it’s strong volatile nature, peppermint needs to be stored in a totally separate sealed room away from other tea ingredients so that it’s flavor won’t interfere with the other ingredients’ flavors. When you enter the mint room, there’s no question what flavor tea will be made from its contents.
The tour ends in the Tea Shop where you have the opportunity to buy any of the company’s large variety of tea products, tea cups and pots and gift packs. I’ve always found tea makes a great gift. A fun thing to do when visiting the Denver area.
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, right arrow to advance slideshow)