The Good: Informative, Fun, Clears the sinuses, Great shopping opportunity, Educational, Freebie
The Bad: ? I haven't found any!
The Basics: Seriously one of the most wonderful places on Earth, at least for tea fans, the Celestial Seasonings Factory Tour illustrates how a good company works!
I've reviewed virtually every other place I've been in the last few years, like the Spam Museum (reviewed here!), so I think it’s time to review one of my favorite places for an annual visit. Given my legion of Celestial Seasonings tea reviews, it's about time I review the Celestial Seasonings plant in Boulder, Colorado, one of the few free things for a progressive to do in the heart of Mountain Country!
The Celestial Seasonings Factory is located at 4600 Sleepytime Drive in Boulder, Colorado. If you need the address again, check out any box of Celestial Seasonings tea! For those not familiar with Boulder, Colorado (and I am one of them), Sleepytime Drive is a little street off of a few other little streets away from virtually every major route. However, with that address, it is remarkably easy to find the Factory using MapQuest or any other major mapping website.
The Celestial Seasonings Factory is a series of interconnected buildings that is essentially a giant factory, gift shop, lobby and storage facility. It is set on several acres of otherwise empty land at the foot of one of the mountains in the area. Seriously, for those of us from the Eastern parts of the United States, there is something impressive and fun just being around huge mountains and the Celestial Seasonings Plant lays in the shadow of a pretty impressive mountain with a field filled with prairie dog holes (also a novelty for us Easterners!).
The buildings are essentially a lobby where the tour begins (with a little movie theater), an adjacent factory and storage warehouse and a gift shop filled with Celestial Seasonings teas and merchandise.
Ease Of Local Transport/Parking
Sleepytime Drive and the Celestial Seasonings Factory are impossible to find if you are not looking for it. Seriously. This is a little street off another little street off a slightly larger street type scenario. It is very easy to get around, though because it is so far out of the mainstream. I've gone to the factory three times now and never once has there been traffic for anywhere within ten miles of the plant.
Parking is free (people work here, so duh!) and there are enough parking spots for at least a hundred cars. The last two years, I have made it to the factory for the earliest tour of the day and had no problem finding parking. Interestingly enough, the facility has never seemed terribly crowded to me during my yearly summer visits, but whenever I have left the Celestial Seasonings Factory, I have found that the parking lot is rather full.
Well, the point of visiting the Celestial Seasonings Factory is the tour. No, it's not for me anymore, but let's pretend it is (see shopping below!). The Celestial Seasonings Factory Tour is a free tour that is conducted daily every hour on the hour, starting at ten A.M. and going until four p.m. (until 3 on Saturday and Sunday, from eleven on Sunday). In all seriousness, the Celestial Seasonings Factory Tour is fun, but it is not the defining reason to return to the Celestial Seasonings plant year after year. The tour has fairly low repeatability, though it is fun once or twice in a lifetime.
The tour is exactly what one might expect, plus a little bit more, when visiting a food production facility. For those utterly ignorant to food and tea, Celestial Seasonings is one of the world's leading manufacturers of tea. They produce all-natural teas with an environmentally responsible worldview and (up until recently) incredible artwork on the boxes that easily distinguished them from other tea producers in the United States.
The tour begins in the lobby where there are free samples of (usually) six to eight flavors of tea. While waiting in the lobby, visitors are given the chance to try the brewed teas of the day for free while looking at one of the most ornate collections of tea pots ever assembled. The walls here are adorned with several panels of original artwork from the tea boxes, as well as cabinets of products from the Hain Food Group.
Visitors are then ushered into a theater to watch a little propaganda film about Celestial Seasonings and the Hain Food Group, which purchased Celestial Seasonings some years back. Through the film, one gets a brief history of the plant, the Celestial Seasonings company and the Hain Group. One learns about organic food and the environmentally responsible and health-conscious philosophies of the Hain Celestial and Celestial Seasonings companies.
Following the film, tourists walk through the actual plant. There, the visitor sees where the employees eat (not the high point of the tour) and then they are let into the actual plant. Here, one sees the stockpiles of tea leaves, vats where ingredients are mixed. Visitors walk through the vast machines which make tea bags and the conveyer belts that package the tea bags and box them up for shipping. There are several rooms filled with ingredients where tourists may see the impressive quantities of all-natural ingredients used in Celestial Seasonings teas.
The high point for me of this tour was the mint room. It's exactly what it sounds like. Peppermint has to be isolated from the other herbs because it will overpower them with its happy menthol oils. As a result, there is a room with palates and crates filled only with mint. It's like a trip to Willy Wonka's factory for tea drinkers! Anyone with respiratory problems needs only visit the mint room and it'll clear you right up. It's amazing. I could have lived there if only my tour guide the first year had looked away for but a moment! It's a pretty incredible room.
Then there is the boxing robot which moves boxes of teas around and assembles and wraps palates full of teas . . . gosh, you have to be a complete tea geek to want to go on this tour! But hey, I am and it's pretty cool!
Throughout the tour, the guide tells visitors about different types of tea leaves, how they are harvested and even some hints at what is currently in development. Those who love tea will be intrigued and when the tour is over, it ends in front of the gift shop where visitors are given a package of four free tea bags. At the time I visited, they were giving away Tangerine Orange Zinger (reviewed here!) samples. For a free tour to get something free, that's pretty wonderful.
Of course, they end the tour at the gift shop, so they must be pretty certain people will not leave without buying something more. They are (at least in my case) right.
On premises, there is the cafeteria and a little cafe that serves lunch. Honestly, I've never eaten at either because I've been hoarding my money for the yearly tea stock up. Besides, why buy tea to drink when there are so many free samples on the tour?!
Yes, shopping is THE other reason to go to the Celestial Seasonings Factory in Boulder, Colorado! First, they sell Celestial Seasonings teas on average for $1.00 less than in the retail outlets around the country. Yeah, transport drastically alters the price of tea. This might not seem like a great amount of savings, but when one goes with a $75.00 tea budget, the number of boxes that can be purchased for $2.69 as opposed to $3.89 adds up quickly.
Second, there are a plethora of flavors of tea that the average supermarket will not carry, available right there at the gift shop. For example, when I went this year, I snagged one of the first boxes of the Breast Cancer Charity Tea Tropical Grapefruit (reviewed here!) and actually had to bug the webmasters at Celestial Seasonings to get it onto the website! As well, this year I discovered brand new lines of Saphara and dessert teas that are not available anywhere near me. In addition to different types of Celestial Seasonings, the gift shop also offers more significant quantities of Celestial Seasonings teas at impressive by-the-case savings.
In addition to walls of boxes of teas, there are thousands of related merchandise products at the Celestial Seasonings gift shop. These include all types of tea pots, teddy bears ("Sleepytime" themed merchandise is irritatingly prevalent in the gift shop), magnets and other souvenirs. Tea fans will definitely need to go to the shop with a budget!
There are very few places on Earth I go back to year after year. For the last three years, I have gone to Las Vegas, Nevada for an annual Star Trek convention and all three of those years, I have stopped at the Celestial Seasonings factory. And at this point in my life, I'm fairly sure I don't want to have to choose which one I'd give up if I could only go one of the two places. But if I had to choose today . . . well, Celestial Seasonings would be happy.
For other fun places to visit, check out my reviews of:
Aquarium Of Niagara
The Mall Of America
For other travel reviews, please be sure to check out my Travel Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2012, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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