WHAT'S WRONG WITH this picture? A 33-year-old mustachioed quasi-philosopher in Boulder, Colo., every day rides his 10-speed to work, where he makes a variety of herb teas that are packed in pretty boxes of lavender and pink with pictures of bears in nightshirts on the top. During his commute he uses his Sony Walkman to hear courses in effective management.
Wait a minute. Effective management? That's a far cry from "Rocky Mountain High," you know. Where's this guy coming from?
He's coming from the 1960s, that's pretty clear. But Morris (Mo) Siegel has more facets than Sleepytime has herbs, and being intrigued by big business is one of them. So he's invoked the Japanese idea of work teams among the 160 employees at the Celestial Seasonings factory. Twenty-seven groups made up of vice presidents, purchasing agents and tea bag stuffers meet regularly to suggest changes in everything from inefficient machines to tea flavors. As a result, Lemon Iced Delight will get a flavor boost and hit supermarket shelves next spring as a new, improved product, says Siegel.
So there's nothing really wrong with the picture of the hippie-philosopher-fitness freak-businessman. It's an eclectic picture, to be sure, just as the CS herb tea packages are eclectic--a combination of quotations, advice, recipes, pretty pictures and postcards--and the teas are eclectic--combining leaves with flowers, with blossoms, with grasses. Even the art is eclectic--the original painting for Almond Sunset combines "realistic fantasy" (that's what Siegel calls the style for such boxes as Cinnamon Rose) with Impressionism.
If your life is anything less than your wildest dreams, you're being shortchanged.
That's just one of the little quotations that appear on Celestial Seasonings packages (this one from the Country Apple Herb Tea) which, among the 60 or so flavors, include quotations of Confucius, songwriter Laura Nyro and actress Sophia Loren (well, it was a pretty good quote -- "The world has lost its taste for simple things like the love of a woman for only one man."). Siegel says he's "sort of a philosopher," and the quotes came with the very first hand-sewn muslin bags filled with three ounces of Mo's 24. The art a decade ago was a little less "realistic fantasy" and more along the hand-stamped, monochromatic, line-drawing style.
Mo's 24 ("To live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often"--Cardinal Newman) is the combination of spearmint, comfrey, peppermint, alfalfa and blackberry leaves with red clover blossoms and hibiscus flowers that Siegel concocted after many months of experimenting while he ran a health food store (what else) in Aspen (where else). Since then, business has blossomed and Sleepytime has become the most popular flavor, followed by the relatively new Mandarin Orange (the CS answer to Constant Comment).
"Try not to be a person of success, but rather a person of virtue" --Albert Einstein.
Sleepytime exemplifies Siegel's zeal for a better world through herb tea--it contains no caffeine, and the Sleepytime trademark includes the phrase "A soothing tea for a nervous world."
Siegel doesn't actually believe herb teas will cure the world's ills. "I think every herb in Sleepytime is a sedative to some degree," he says, and with no caffeine it certainly won't keep you up at night. Red Zinger contains rose hips and therefore contributes a little vitamin C to the diet. But herb teas "won't cure leukemia," he adds. Some soothe, some settle the stomach, and some are just "non-harming."
He says stress is the most destructive of this country's diseases and that caffeine's association with stress seems clear-cut. CS used to carry three caffeine-laced teas. Now it sells only one -- Morning Thunder -- and Siegel says even that "may not be around much longer." CS hasn't promoted the tea in years and may just let it fade, he says.
It comes around again to the hippie/business philosophy. Siegel says it would be a "piece of cake" to sell black (conventional) tea and CS has the equipment to do it. But the vice-president of marketing--an ex-Pepsi-Cola employee -- nixed the idea as antithetical to the CS philosophy. Like, what's a herbal tea company doing pushing all these stimulants, you know?
"Without a worthy follower, a worthy dream vanishes." --Charles Edwards.
For the time being, CS will continue the attempt to improve the flavors of its existing teas and change the writing on the boxes every six months. ((Siegel's just finished "War and Peace" so we may be in store for a few pithy phrases from Tolstoy). Future plans point toward growth in the health care line, as opposed to the food line.
For the time being, however, CS fans continue to wonder what to do with the boxes -- it seems a shame to toss them out with the trash. Siegel, wearing his conservation-oriented hippie hat or his cost-effective businessman's hat, certainly doesn't have the answer, and he's exacerbated the problem by making CS tea tins, so now if you keep your tea in the tins you won't be using the cardboard boxes with the pretty colors and the pretty pictures and the sayings and the recipes and the "Please write, we like to respond."
Maybe the boxes should include recipes of foods you can pack inside to give as gifts.
The most sensible arrangement, then, is to fill the boxes with something that would taste good with herb tea. Below are a few suggestions. Line the boxes with aluminum foil, pack them with goodies and maybe a few teabags, and tie them with ribbon that enhances the colors on the box. NOT SO SWEETS (Makes 4 to 5 dozen)
There are a variety of filling option. Two are mentioned here. Pastry: 1 cup butter, softened 8 ounces cream cheese, softened 3 tablespoons sugar 2 1/4-2 1/2 cups flour 1/4 tesapoon salt 2-3 tablespoons sour cream Filling: 1/3 cup chopped raisins 1/3 cup chopped nuts 1/2 cup brown sugar 2 teaspoons cinnamon
Cream butter, sugar and cream cheese together until light and fluffy. Sift flour and salt together and then add gradually to mixture, cutting it in with knives, pastry cutter or hands as for pie crusts. Mix in sour cream, a tablespoon at a time, tossing with a fork until the dough just holds together. Form into a ball and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Mix all ingredients of filling together and put aside.
Roll chilled dough -- one half at a time -- on a board dusted with powdered sugar to a thickness of 1/8-inch. Cut into triangles about 3 inches across at the widest point. Spoon about a teaspoon of filling on each triangle and roll it up from the wide end to the point, thus forming a crescent.
Place about 1 1/2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet and brush with a little beaten egg yolk. Bake at 350 to 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on your oven. Then cool on a rack and store in the refrigerator.
Instead of the raisin-nut mixture, you can use any jam or preserve -- apricot is especially good.
Pack in foil-lined tea box or tin. MUNCH MIX (12 cups) 3 cups rolled oats 1 cup sesame seeds 1 cup sunflower seeds 1 cup buckwheat groats 1 cup chopped almonds 1 cup chopped walnuts 1 cup raw cashews 1 cup dried peaches 1 cup chopped dates 1 cup raisins
Spread the oatmeal on a jelly roll pan and place it in a 300 degree oven. Toast for a few minutes, then remove it from the oven and give it a stir. Toast until it is light brown. Pour the oats in a large bowl and then place the sesame seeds on the jelly roll pan. Proceed as with oatmeal, then repeat for sunflower seeds, buckwheat groats (which are optional, they can usually be found in health food stores and are quite tasty), almonds, walnuts and cashews. Meanwhile, chop the peaches (substitute apricots if you wish) and dates. Add these, along with raisins, to dry ingredients. Toss to mix and pack in jars. Or line the herb tea box with a plastic bag and fill with Munch Mix, then tie it securely. CHEESE CRACKERS (20 crackers) 1 cup shredded sharp cheese 4 tablespoons butter 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
Work together all the ingredients until the mixture is homogeneous (this is especially easy but not necessarily done in a food processor). Press together to form a ball and press the mixture into a 8 by 11 baking dish. Cut into squares. Place in a 350 degree oven and bake 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and pack in foil lined tea box or tin.