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A Day in My Shoes
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Episode 10, Part 3 - A Day in My Shoes - Cindi Bigelow

Monday, July 1st 2013 @ 12:00 AM

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A Day in My Shoes – Episode 10, Part 3 of 4
Cindi Bigelow, President, Bigelow Tea

http://www.bigelowtea.com


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Welcome to A Day in My Shoes – a blog and sometimes vlog as The Tea House Times publisher, Gail Gastelu, puts herself in another person’s shoes for the day – going behind the scenes in the tea industry!  If you are just joining us, go to the Archived entries in the left column to catch up - beginning with January 2013.  OR

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EPISODE 10 PART 3 of 4 - May 13, 2013

 

 

George Fahrenholz is the Corporate Blending Equipment Manager at Bigelow and he took me through the first part of my tour. What is very cool about all of this is that if you have ever been to a tea processing facility in another country or read about or seen photographs, the buildings are all set up for various processes to happen on different floors.

 

Starting at the top – this is what it was like at Bigelow. ..

 

The fifth floor of the building holds storage silos.  When tea comes in (from Sri Lanka, India, or China), it is brought in on a lower level, mixed with air and, for lack of a better word, vacuumed or suctioned up to the fifth floor silos.

 

Each tea produced by Bigelow has its own special recipe. When they are ready to prepare that recipe, the computerized system calls up the amount of ingredients needed from each silo. The tea comes out of the silo onto a scale to be weighed and dropped down to the fourth floor for mixing.  For recipes calling for additional herbs or flavorings, those are added by hand at just the right stage as the system blows a horn when an ingredient needs to be added.  40,000 pounds of tea are processed in just one shift at the plant. By the way, Constant Comment is still a family secret. When the tea needs to be blended, a family member takes care of it….David, Eunice, Cindi, or Lori are the only ones who know the recipe.

 

Down to the third floor bagging room and on to storage where half a million pounds of tea are held (not for long!) until the next step. Some of the tea will be sent out to other Bigelow locations, some of the tea will go into the plant for processing into teabags, boxed and placed onto pallets ready to ship out. 

 

Of course I saw several quality control labs throughout the tour.  When tea comes in initially, it is tested to be sure it meets the standards of what was expected and that the tea matches the pre-purchasing sample.  It is checked for taste, moisture balance, pH, etc.  At other stages in processing the tea will go through other quality control checks…to see if the blending procedure was done correctly, if the teabags are running properly, shaped properly, packaged properly, etc.  Of course the machinery also checks for some discrepancies in the teabag process, but there are several manual quality control measures taking place at every stage.  I can tell you that I have never before seen such incredible and impeccable quality control in any food or beverage business I have been exposed to over the years.

 

Jim Gildea is the Plant Manager.  Once I finished touring the blending operations, Jim walked me through the area where the iced tea bagging machine was working away, and other tea bagging machines were running various types of tea.  At this point we were running a little behind schedule – completely my fault - for asking a zillion questions earlier with George, but Jim provided a great rundown on how the machines operate, how the teabags are formed, tagged, and packaged. Following the line from the teabags to the boxing operations to bulk packaging to full pallets and finally mass storage, it was just completely mind blowing.  When you see it and really stop to think about it; I cannot even comprehend the small price we all pay for tea when it has passed through so many hands and stages until we finally get to enjoy it at home, work, or out for a great meal somewhere. 

 

Elaine Gavoli, who I mentioned earlier, handles communications, public relations, press releases for Bigelow and email with consumers.  She also assists in organizing the community involvement of Bigelow such as the 5k Road Race held each year.  Elaine told me that the company is committed to Zero Waste to Landfill.  Less than 4 percent of their waste goes to landfill. Bigelow Tea is considered a leader in the area of greening and sustainability. Some of their efforts include the installation of 880 solar panels, a composting program, recycling, and so much more. Details of these programs may be found at the BigelowTea.com website.  In a statement written by Cindi Bigelow, “It is the Right Thing to Do”.  You may read it at their website or by clicking here: The Right Thing to Do

that’s all for this week… Next week is the final episode of my experience at Bigelow Tea and focuses on the time I spent with Cindi Bigelow, President and CEO.

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