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From time to time I have difficulty in sleeping, not for any particular reason, but so much so that I have been avoiding coffee in the afternoon and evening - and I really love my coffee. Recently when at a friend's house for dinner I mentioned this when offered a cup of coffee, and my friend gave me a box of Sleepytime Herbal Teabags by a company I had not heard of - Celestical Seasonings. She told me to try a cup at bedtime with a little honey in it to sweeten it and see if I had a better night's sleep.
Well when I got home that night - rather late and having consumed a bit of wine, I duly brewed my tea - put the tea bag in a mug and poured boiling water over it and waited a couple of minutes before removing the bag and adding a small amount of honey. The resulting tea was rather pleasant - not the bitter taste that I had previously associated with camomile tea and the addition of the honey made a really soothing bedtime drink. Well, I went to bed and instantly fell asleep and did not waken until my alarm when in the morning! Now this could have been due to the tea or it could have been due to the very late night and the rather good bottle of Rioja that we had consumed earlier. Not convinced that it was totally due to the tea I brewed myself another cup at bedtime the following night and again I had a good night's sleep. I have been drinking a cup each night since and must say that I have been sleeping a lot better.
Sleepytime's comforting aroma and perfectly balanced flavour are achieved by blending soothing herbal ingredients from around the world - including floral Egyptian chamomile, cool spearmint from the Pacific Northwest, and lively Guatemalan lemongrass. This global synergy is only fitting, since all over the world, generations of tea lovers have wound down their day with Sleepytime."
The ingredients are Chamomile, spearmint, West Indian lemongrass, tilia flowers, blackberry leaves, orange blossoms, hawthorn and rosebuds, which all go together to give a restful night's sleep.
In 1969, a group of passionate young entrepreneurs founded Celestial Seasonings upon the belief that their flavorful, all-natural herbal teas could help people live healthier lives. They harvested fresh herbs from the Rocky Mountains by hand, and then dried, blended and packaged them in hand-sewn muslin bags to be sold at local health food stores. By staying committed to their vision, the founders of Celestial Seasonings turned their cottage industry into an almost overnight success.
Today, Celestial Seasonings is the largest specialty tea manufacturer in North America. They serve more than 1.6 billion cups of tea every year, and they source more than 100 different ingredients from over 35 countries to create delicious, all-natural herbal, green, red, white, chai and wellness teas.
Herbal tea is made from many plants using not just the leaves, but also the flowers, roots, bark and seeds. Blending the flavours of different herbs results in an infinite variety of healthful taste sensations. The majority of herbal teas naturally contain no caffeine at all, which accounts in part for their mellow, soothing personality--and their growing popularity in today's hectic, high-pressure world
Sleepytime tea comes in a box of 20 teabags and costs £1.99. The box had a sweet picture of a bear in a night dress and night cap dozing in front of a roaring fire with his cat asleep beside him and a tea pot and scones and jam on a small table.
I really don't know what it is about tea with me. Perhaps because when I was young and would get sick, a cup of tea was one of those comfort foods that my dear departed mum used to give me. And perhaps one feels that when it's something warm and comforting.
But the years have gone by since my youth and I've become a very heavy coffee drinker (mostly to keep my very low blood pressure up to standard). Still, there are times when coffee is just too heavy or harsh for how I'm feeling. And when I'm looking for something to drink during those times, I often look for an herbal tea. And if it's an herbal tea, then my first choice has got to be one of the many fascinating and interesting teas sold by Celestial Seasonings (which I'll write as simply "CS" from now on).
I first became acquainted with CS teas back in 1979 when a colleague at work always made sure that our coffee and tea area always had a box of Red Zinger tea on hand. This was apparently one of the first teas they marketed over 20 years ago. Every morning I was greeted by this bright red box with a picture of a teacup that had streaks of red and yellow lightening coming from it. One day, my colleague offered me a taste. This particular flavour tea is made up of rose hips, hibiscus and lemon grass. Back then, I recall having to add some sugar to this tea. But today - after many years of teaching myself to prefer less sweet things - I find that these are naturally sweet and need no sugar at all. But you might find that a squirt of honey or a dash of sugar might be in order. Still, I'd suggest you try them without sweeteners first. You never know, you might that these teas which mostly contain no calories whatsoever are just what your diet was looking for!
Now I don't usually talk about packaging, but part of the fun of these teas is the packaging itself. One of the first things you'll notice about CS teas is the colourful boxes that they come in. Moreover, these boxes are chocked full of information and tidbits. First of all, you'll see on the top of the box their famous logo. Underneath this will be some interesting picture which is intended to depict the tea inside. Below that you'll find the name of the flavor of tea. On the front of the box you'll see a larger version of the picture on the top, with the name of the illustrator below this. On the bottom of the box you'll probably find one or two small quotes - some relate to the tea, others are just random quotes - but they're all fascinating. They also have a thank you message from CS asking you to write to them, the "best before end" date (to be used on all correspondence related to the product), the claim of the manufacturer and their address, as well as a notice that they print all of their boxes on 100% recycled paperboard which is apparently made up of 55% post-consumer materials.
But that's not all. On the back of the box you might find one of their "consider today" quotes (not all of the different types of teas have the same packaging as the example sitting next to me at this moment). This is usually a longer quote by someone you may or may not know that is just plain interesting to think about. On one end of the box you'll find the nutrition facts and ingredients, and on the other end you'll find a detailed description of the tea inside the box. All of this is very artistically illustrated with whimsical paintings (check out their website to see more of them and how you can purchase the paintings themselves!). And if this wasn't enough the inside of the top as well as the inside tabs have more information including a blurb about their website, an advert for a different type of tea and directions for making the teas both hot and cold. It will take you more than the time it takes to finish your cup to read and look at everything on this box!
Inside the boxes you find that these teas are packaged in a folded over waxed paper or foil lined paper (depending on the type of tea). The strong aroma of the teas inside will grab you when you open this inner package. It is because of this that they recommend you keep this inner package closed. Once opened, you'll find that the teas are in perfectly square bags with two bags attached together at one end. These are easily separated because of the perforation in the material that the bags are made of.
When you put one of these bags into a cup and add freshly boiled water, you'll need to wait a few minutes - anywhere between 4 and 6 - before you can remove the bag in order to get the full flavour of these teas. I know some people find these to be so strong that they can actually enjoy two full cups from only one bag. I, however, like things strong and robust (like my men, of course!) and I almost never take the bag out of the cup until I've drained the last drop. Usually this might mean that the dregs turn sour, but not with these herbal teas. However, I can't vouch for all their teas in this same manner.
You see, CS has a very large range of teas, and not all of them are herbal ones. Rather than give you the descriptions of each and every one of these types of teas, I suggest that you check out their products on their web pages which explains each of these which can be found at http://www.c-els.com/default.asp?sn=E121220010060014
Leave it to suffice that almost all of these teas are caffeine free, with the exception of the Black teas and some of the Green Teas. One of the items that I found while researching this review was the iced teas. They also now have Latte and Chai teas, and a whole line of African teas called "rooibos". And as for their wellness teas, they have an Echinacea tea with licorice that although I'm not totally thrilled with the flavour, I have to say that it's helped me feel better whenever I've had a cold. Unfortunately, they discontinued their "Sunburst C" tea which was also high in vitamin C, and which I liked the taste of better.
Since there are so many flavours and I've only had the opportunity to sample a few of them, let me tell you about my (or rather, our) favorites. First and foremost must be Wild Berry Zinger. This one has all sorts of flavours that combine to make a very, very naturally sweet tea that is purple in colour and with mostly a raspberry and strawberry taste to it. My husband's favorite has to be the Decaff Green Tea Mint. He always needs to drink decaffeinated teas in the evening or he'll toss and turn all night long. However, he still likes to have the anti-oxidant properties of regular teas that are also present in green tea, so this is the flavour of his choice. We've also tried Lemon Zinger, Mandarin Orange Spice, Raspberry Zinger, and several that have been discontinued such as Cranberry Cove and Lemon Berry Zinger. Way back in the early days, I tried, and didn't much care for some of their teas such as Sleepy Time because of the chamomile or the ones that have roasted nuts or barley in them.
This is, of course, a matter of taste, and CS hasn't stopped making them because my household doesn't buy them. It seems to me that with their huge variety of teas, that there must be something suit everyone's taste - from Devonshire Breakfast to Organic Peppermint to one of the Wellness Teas to Cinnamon Apple Spice. I truly defy you to not be able to find at least one tea that you wouldn't want to have in your cupboard on a regular basis. And for all of you who are worried that they might not like a particular flavour and be stuck with a whole box of something you despise, you can start by buying one of their sampler boxes of teas and try a whole bunch of different ones to see which you like best!
But there are problems with CS teas, and I will be forced to mark them down on for these. Firstly, with the wide variety that they have and all the different types of teas they make, you may find that you just can't find your favorite tea at the shop when you've run out. Yes, this can be terribly frustrating and I cannot tell you how upset I can get if I end up going weeks without finding at least one of their teas that I adore. Mind you, this does make one ponder at the shelves a bit and sometimes forces one to try something new, so it's not totally a "bad thing". And sometimes they'll discontinue one you like but never fear, for they have a list of alternatives to their discontinued teas which you can find here: http://tinyurl.com/fu37z
However, the (almost) unforgivable problem is the price. These are possibly the most expensive teas on the market today. And while I realize that they are imported all the way from Boulder, Colorado in the USA this doesn't completely excuse them from charging so much for something so natural (we are reminded of the statement that the upper classes do like to take third-world food stuffs, slap a fancy name on them, charge thousands times their worth and call them "fashionable"). Well, I don't want to be fashionable, I just want to drink a good cup of tea. So, sorry CS, you're only getting four stars from me. Still, I have to recommend these products highly since I cannot tell a lie - they really are marvelous!
Thanks for reading. Now, feel like a cuppa? I know I certainly do after writing all this!
Davida Chazan © October 2002, updated July 2006
I looked for these teas on-line and found through www.edirectory.co.uk and http://www.goodnessdirect.co.uk/cgi-local/sect_gen/DTHT.html that these seem to cost about £1.10 per box of 10 bags. I also found that at http://www.ngfds.supanet.com/celest1.htm sells this for only £1.85 plus postage for boxes of 20 bags.
Distributed in the United Kingdom by Euro Food Brands Ltd,
1 Kimbell Mews
Boughton, Northants NN2 8XB, UK
011 44 1 604 821200
011 44 1 604 845667 (fax)
CS Teas generally have no calories, no fat, and no (official) nutritional value, no gluten and are suitable for Vegetarians, Vegans and are also Kosher.
By the way, I noticed they now sell a teabag squeezer on their web page - what a great idea! Especially because these bags have no strings attached (literally and figuratively speaking)!