Expert Interview: Charlie Baden of Celestial Seasonings

Celestial Seasonings is a brand that looms large in our most nostalgic childhood memories. We grew up with Celestial Seasoning herbal teas, sipped with lots of milk and honey. Well, Celestial Seasonings is turning 40 this year, and they offered us a chance to interview Charlie Baden, their blendmaster — he's the man who has been mixing their teas for over 25 years! Read on for Charlie's favorite herbal tea ingredients, his memories of this Boulder, Colorado, company's early days, and for a very special surprise that he sent us.
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Charlie has been working for Celestial Seasonings since 1975! He has been blendmaster since 1984, and he chatted with us about a few of his favorite teas and ingredients.

How did you first start blending herbal teas?
Honestly, I was just looking for a job and the opportunity arose at this start-up herbal tea company named Celestial Seasonings. I started working for Celestial Seasonings in the fall of 1975. Working in production, I developed an interest for the art of tea blending and was promoted to the position of blendmaster in 1984. To this day, I still carry that position and responsibility.

You've been blending teas for a long time! What are some of your favorite memories of Celestial Seasonings teas over the last 30 years?
In the 70’s, it was a daily communal lunch, free for all employees. It was also common to shut down the factory early and play volleyball for the rest of the day if business allowed. Vintage blends from the past such as Pelican Punch, Lemon Mist, and Cinnamon Rose are occasionally recreated to enjoy a little blast from the past of our nostalgic blends loved by many.

What do you enjoy most about herbal tea?
Herbal teas are all natural, caffeine free, great tasting, and good for your health. We sell the #1 tea in the category, Sleepytime. I think there is nothing more soothing to mind and body then a cup of Sleepytime before heading to bed. We have recently launched our first flavor variation in over 20 years, Sleepytime Vanilla.

Talk about your favorite ingredients to include in herbal teas.
Hibiscus is an ingredient that adds pizzazz to fruity based herbal teas and it is what gives our Zingers that “zing” in blends like our Acai Mango Zinger. In addition, chamomile, lemon grass, peppermint, and spearmint are healthful, soothing ingredients that “marry” well together with other botanicals. They also taste great as a “single” brew.

What's your favorite blend to drink?
I have many favorites, but I will have to admit to drinking 4-6 cups of English Breakfast throughout the day to keep me energized and loaded up with antioxidants for increased health benefits. In the summer, it’s Tangerine Orange Zinger iced. It is very refreshing on a hot summer’s day! In the evening, it’s Sleepytime Vanilla. It is a perfect tea to wind down the day with.

Thanks, Charlie! We love your teas.
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And on a final note, Charlie created a little packet of our own favorite discontinued vintage tea from Celestial Seasonings. Pelican Punch was a tea that they marketed towards children. We love it terribly, and have missed it. It has gentle chamomile and mint, with sweet notes of carob and licorice. Charlie sent us a little bag of freshly made Pelican Punch, recreated from his own vast catalog of notes and archives of Celestial Seasonings teas.

It tasted just like we remembered, and we were so grateful for the chance to taste that tea again. It brought back a lot of memories; this is just such a nice, well-balanced tea, too. Maybe our final question for Charlie should be: Why don't you bring back Pelican Punch?

Happy 40th birthday Celestial Seasonings, and here's to 40 more.

• Visit Celestial Seasonings online or at their headquarters in Boulder

Do you drink Celestial Seasonings? If you do, what's your favorite variety?

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(Images: Celestial Seasonings; Faith Durand)

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