Bigelow Tea on YouTube Subscribe Follow Me on Pinterest Follow Us on Instagram

Archives for the ‘Cindi’s Message’ Category

Service With Smiles In Appalachia


What an amazing week with amazing young adults and fellow advisors…I just got back from Man, West Virginia, where I spent a week helping work on a home that was an ASP project. The Appalachia Service Project has been a wonderful experience for me over the last eight summers.

This year, 220 of us got on buses or loaded into vans to make the drive down. We then split into three different ASP centers in different West Virginia locations. My group of 75 was assigned to Man. From there we break up into teams – two adult advisors and five high school youths. Our assignment was a trailer that had been worked on for the three weeks preceding our arrival. Our week had us finishing up some insulation under the trailer (only a little, thank heavens), installing underpinning around the home, re-siding a side of the home, and straightening out an exterior door that had been installed the week before.


Planted a very special garden

Well I am delighted to say we accomplished our entire mission (something I don’t always get to do) plus added a garden at the end of the trailer as a little extra. The family was so appreciative and was out there every chance they could helping us. The young children on my team were just so proud to see what they had accomplished. Two of the girls on my team were there for the first time and were clearly so touched by the process (one said it was the best week of her life). Funny, how can sleeping in a classroom, eating cafeteria food, crawling under a trailer, working in brutally bright sun wearing jeans and heavy boots be the best week of your life? Well, that is the beauty of the week…I can say it actually is one of my best weeks of the year, every year!


Getting ready to put insulation under the trailer

I think it is the spirit of the people who go down there – from the moment we wake up at 6:45 am till we close our eyes sometime after 11 pm, everyone is so kind and loving. Everyone smiles, laughs and just is so happy to be down there doing this work. Just think about it, we are taking young children from a very fortunate community to one that has many, many issues of poverty and health…and we have one mission, to help make a home a little bit safer, warmer and dryer. Pretty nice in my opinion…everyone just feels so good about what they are doing and that they are even fortunate enough to be able to help others. Yes, it is an amazing week with amazing people. I am of course glad to be home, but I still feel the glow all around me of one of the most loving weeks of the year!

Cindi Bigelow


Bigelow Tea is terribly misrepresented about lead and not much I can do but watch…


Cindi Bigelow, CEO, Bigelow Tea

Wow what a heck of a week it has been.  I think I have not stopped looking at my computer for one week straight (as many on my team have also been doing). It is amazing how one “off- comment” can truly be so harmful.  I could never say what they did was to scare people but that was the net effect.  This one company called, that is paid to do studies (they do not disclose who pays for each study) did a report on comparing green tea pills versus green tea bottled drinks versus green tea (in teabags and loose)-okay that is fair and actually something we welcome.

Results are interesting and  seem logical…. They have the same results our years and years of testing of many brands of bottled tea and tea in both bags and loose  have shown.  The report finds  what we would have expected them to see, that bottled teas really have very little of the antioxidant EGCG, and yes tea (bags and loose) have much more.  However, an important point is missing, EGCG varies per crop so that what is found in the tea will change the next time it is tested.  And they also made a completely inaccurate statement that teabag paper somehow filters out heavy metals. (Heavy metals can’t release out of the leaf.) also tests the pills, bottles and tea for lead (which is smart as pills can have issues in this area), and the study clearly states that all the bottled teas and brewed green teas are clean from containing any significant amount.  The reason for that is very simple.  Lead, as well as most heavy metals,  can be found in the soil and can get into the plant.  However, lead does not release from the leaf into the water so virtually nothing infuses into the cup. (The teabag paper has nothing to do with it.) But for some reason the president  of decides to mention that Bigelow and Lipton have lead in the leftover teabag.  But what he was focusing on was completely irrelevant, for as his study stated, all the brewed cups of tea were clean. Trace amounts of lead remain in the leaf, and the brew that you drink is clean.   This fact that the cup is 100% safe has gotten buried by the attention he has drawn to the leftover leaves!   People who love tea are inappropriately concerned that some brands are not safe.  Because of this side bar statement, some people are associating the words Bigelow tea and the word lead!

That started a firestorm that I could not believe unfolded in front of my eyes.  And the most unfortunate part is that there are people that read that statement who might not drink our tea because they are scared of what they read.

An important fact to know is that both the tests and our independent labs show that a brewed cup of tea has (at the most) 1/5 the amount of lead allowed by the EPA for bottled water!  The bottled green teas tested (which most likely were made from China green tea as over 70% of all green tea sold in our country is from there), are also safe from lead.  However, the recap of the study makes another irrelevant  comment when it states that the origin of the tea could be a significant factor affecting the amount of lead in the leaves since the brewed beverages are clean. The leftover leaves used for brewing bottled teas most likely will have some lead in the leaf but the fact remains that it does not release into the beverage.   So although EGCG can vary, especially from bottled to teabags, (a point brought out in the paid study), lead is never an issue when consuming either product.

It is just hard for me to watch all this go on around me knowing how much care we take to ensure we only sell lovely tasting and safe products and I will never understand why this individual singled us out to talk about lead in the leaf  but he really scared a lot of innocent people unnecessarily.

Not much more I can do now, just continue to always test our teas and only sell what we know is 100% safe for my own family to consume….such is the world of social media,  you have to take the good with the not so good!

Cindi Bigelow

President and CEO

Third Generation, Bigelow Tea


Bigelow Tea Supports The Imus Ranch For Kids With Cancer




The Imus Ranch, founded in 1998 by Don and Deirdre Imus, is a unique organization that provides kids with cancer, and other serious illnesses, the opportunity to have fun again and regain their perspective.  More than just a respite, it instills pride, restores dignity, a sense of achievement and self-esteem through a real life “cowboy experience.”

Bigelow Tea has been a proud supporter of the Imus Ranch Radiothon, the ranch’s annual fund raiser, for each of the past 15 years.

“It’s always great spending time with Don and Dierdre Imus on the Radiothon,” says Cindi Bigelow. “I love the event because of all the amazing stories about these kids and their experiences on the ranch. They are doing some fine work.  Bigelow Tea is glad to be a part of it!”

To watch today’s segment of the Imus Radiothon which includes Cindi Bigelow pictured above, visit here and click on “Cindi Bigelow on Support for Imus Ranch.”





Cindi Bigelow Travels To Sri Lanka Journal: Homeward Bound

This is my last journal entry. We certainly documented a lot of what happened on this trip. But believe me that was not everything. I tried to balance giving the reader a real feeling of going along with us into this special land as well as to catalog the trip for future generations. It was hard to pick and choose what to share, but I did my best to mention as much as possible.

So now we are flying home. As I said before, we left the hotel at midnight and got to the airport a good two hours early. I fell asleep in a chair while John worked. On the plane we went, our first four-hour leg to Dubai. That is when the journal writing began!  The same was true in Dubai airport where we have a 2.5-hour layover and then onto Emirates Air once again to fly back to New York.

Writing, writing and more writing. I had so much to share. John worked tirelessly to review over 2,000 photos and videos that we had taken, to pick out which ones were best to capture our journey. So many memories for such a precious trip. How could we do it justice?

Well we can only hope we did Sri Lanka proud and we were able to share the message of how proud we are to be the number one importer of what we consider to be among the finest teas in the world.

Thank you, “Serendib,” little gem of an island now called Sri Lanka, for welcoming us with open arms. We are honored to share your fine teas with the United States of America.

Forever grateful,
Cindi, John, the entire Bigelow family and all our wonderful employees

Cindi Bigelow Travels To Sri Lanka Journal: Winding Down

Back to the Hilton hotel (where we had stayed when we first arrived in Colombo) for another quick stay. We said our goodbyes to Ishanka. My only regret is that I didn’t know his language so we could have communicated more. I had so many questions I wanted to ask him and really wasn’t able to.  I think he knew how much we appreciated what he had done for us and how we enjoyed our time together. Maybe someone will translate this and read it to him. Thank you Ishanka for taking such good care of us.

At the hotel we were met by our new friend, Anuradha; he was what is called a journey ambassador.  He had greeted us the first night and had taken amazing care of us from that first meeting forward.

We told him we had only 10 minutes to get ready for our next meeting and he quickly shepherded us to our own rooms. It really was like greeting an old friend when we saw him!  “Hello” I shouted when we saw his face (in my rather loud American voice). He just smiled and let us know he was happy to see us.

Up to the room and down in no time, ready for our second-to-last  meeting of the trip. This was another longtime partner that we had never met face to face. Idris Shabbir of Adam Expo was there in the lobby with a huge warm smile. The only problem was that at this point I was starting to run on empty. It was after 3 and we needed to be back here at 6 p.m. for one last meeting. Idris was bright, eager and well prepared with a comprehensive agenda. In the car we went, heading to his tea blending facility. Unfortunately the Colombo traffic, which was starting to cause me to have a slight version of PTS, was extremely heavy. What should have taken only 15 minutes took over 45. My brain was racing. How could we see two plants, hold a business meeting, drink teas and be back in two hours when drive time was one hour each way?

Needless to say Idris had to substantially shorten his agenda. I knew he was disappointed but there was nothing we could do;  we were flying out that night and I desperately needed a few hours’ sleep.

Bigelow Tea VP John McCraw and I got a lot out of the meeting and a lot of good follow-up points, but I couldn’t help but feel bad that we had so shortchanged Idris. Over time he will see that it was not the case. Our understanding of what we saw would benefit him over the long run, but that wasn’t going to make me feel better at the moment. (Sorry Idris … please forgive me.)

But as tough as it was to accomplish we were back at the Hilton by 6 p.m. There we were once again greeted by our friend, Anuradha. And once again we had to tell him we had another meeting in 10 minutes!  He just laughed. I am sure he thought “those crazy Americans,” and if he did he would have been right.

Up to the room I went to try and freshen up a little when the phone rang. It was our dear partner, Niraj. He was unable to meet us at 6. It was a disappointment that we wouldn’t say goodbye in person. This man had taught me more about tea than I had ever imagined, spending countless hours imparting his knowledge of tea and of this beautiful country. I will cherish my time with him forever, and I pray our paths will cross again so I could let him know what he has done for me, my family and the business.

But I took a sigh of relief. It meant that we would have a little more time to relax before departing the hotel at midnight for a 3 a.m. flight out to Dubai. Now it was time to rest and process. Now it was time to reflect. Now it was time to be alone.

Cindi Bigelow


Cindi Bigelow Travels To Sri Lanka Journal: Heading Back

Down the winding roads we went, turning, turning, turning. I will have to say the drive, while having stunning views, was not for the faint of heart.  Both from the car motion as well as the style of drive. I truly felt the drivers in this country have a language of their own.  Passing and honking at a level that would be considered completely out of the question in the US. But here, well, they just kind of knew what they were doing, and more importantly the other drivers seemed to know too.  Many a time our wonderful driver, Ishanka, would have to slam on his breaks to avoid a steer or oxen in the middle of the road. Or dart away quickly from a “tuk tuk” (small motorized vehicles that fill the streets in Sri Lanka). But we trusted Ishanka.  Although he spoke no English, we knew that he knew exactly what he was doing.

Finally, six hours later we arrived in town. We stopped at a small stand on the roadside to enjoy a king coconut.  There, all four of us got out and John and I watched in amazement another old tradition. The owner of the stand took out his machete, cut off four small orange coconuts from a branch freshly off the tree, then passed it to his wife who took a knife to chop off the top.  They placed a straw in the hole they had created and handed it to us.

The locals do not drink coconut in the middle of the day as it is thought not to be good for you in the heat of the day, but Prassana and Ishanka joined us as good hosts. When we finished drinking the coconut water, they hacked open the entire coconut, first cutting a small piece of the side of the shell to form a scoop. We then used that scoop to remove the coconut gel in the middle of the nut. It was quite an experience and certainly on “the bucket list” of things to do while in Sri Lanka.

It was now time to drop Prassana off at his home where we met his warm and welcoming mother-in-law. She of course invited us in to chat. After a short visit we said our heartfelt good-byes to our most wonderful guide, partner and friend.  We were going to miss him!

John and I didn’t have much time to dwell on that fact, however. We were already late for our next meeting. This trip literally had us on the go non-stop!

Cindi Bigelow


Cindi Bigelow Travels To Sri Lanka Journal: Beautiful Nayabadda Mountain

Woke up at 4:50 am to the sound of Buddhist monks chanting in the distance. Seventy percent of Sri Lankans are Buddhist and this is how they like to wake up before work. They believe the pleasant sound or waves go into your body and make you more positive. So although I would have preferred a few more hours’ sleep, I enjoyed waking up to their chanting.

We gathered for breakfast: John, our VP Blending and R&D, and Prassana, our export partner in Sri Lanka.  I wanted to finish this trip ensuring I was experiencing as much of this country as possible, so I had a very authentic meal of a porridge called Kenda made from kurukan (a wheat-like plant) with jaggery (a cube of sap from the palm tree), that you bite into before each sip.

Alongside were string hoppers (made of rice), and chicken curry.  Oh yes, we were finishing in style.  I tried to savor every bite. When we finished we packed up the car and said our goodbyes to the staff.  As usual they were warm and made you feel like family.

As we headed down the mountain roads we were once again surrounded by tea fields as far as the eye could see. The British brought tea to this country back in the 1860’s, when blight wiped out coffee plants. As I looked out over vast gardens that employ over a million people on this island, I could only think how much this country has done to develop that concept, and how the Sri Lankan people nurtured this industry to make Ceylon tea renowned as one of the world’s finest quality teas.

As we continued our descent, we passed by stunning natural waterfalls running down the mountain side, sometimes seeing as many as one every few minutes.  On the way down I asked Prassana to stop if we saw monkeys so I could photograph them.  Well within a short period of time, we were pulling over to see a family of these adorable little creatures sitting on a fence. Of course I wanted to get out and pet them but was quickly dissuaded when I was told they most likely would attack me.  I didn’t want my trip to end on that note so I proceeded to talk to them through the open window while they were just a foot or two away. They definitely had a funny look on their faces as I talked to them like we were friends.

Cindi Bigelow


Cindi Bigelow Travels To Sri Lanka Journal: More On The Art Of Tea

We headed toward the Ragalla Estate where we had another incredible learning experience, focused mostly on the processing and tasting of these delicate teas. Each plant processes a little differently to get the exact flavor they want to represent their gardens, much like wine.

After a few more hours we headed to a hotel in Bandarawela.  We just dropped our stuff off and headed back out to visit the Nayabadda factory to see their night manufacturing.  Well that was an experience! Up windy roads with few signs in the pitch black of night. Turning and turning, we made our way to this large, hundreds-of-years-old factory on top of a hill.

The crew greeted us with huge smiles. There, the learning process began once again, with an understanding of how they have operated for over 150 years to gently process this tender leaf to create the perfect light, bright cup of Ceylon tea.

We finished up and headed back to the hotel for a late dinner.  Completely exhausted at this point, I flopped into bed to catch a few hours’ sleep before waking up early to head back to Colombo. As I lay in bed my mind was swirling with information and emotion. I felt so connected to this wonderful country and, to be honest, with the realization that this could be the last time I came to visit. So I was happy and sad all in one.  This was truly a trip to cherish for a lifetime.

Cindi Bigelow


Cindi Bigelow Travels To Sri Lanka Journal: Our Visit to Pedro

Off we went to our third plantation. We were now heading up to 6000 feet to the top of the mountain to our third (and one of our company’s favorite plantations that produces teas for our blends).  It is called Pedro.

As the gates opened up and we pulled into the lot, I was about to experience something that would profoundly impact me. The fields were filled with color as the Sri Lankan women in bright color clothing were in the fields busily plucking the freshly grown shoots off the bushes. I asked if I could join them and, after a nod from the manager, I ran down the steps and into the fields where the ladies were working.   When I came upon the first woman I asked her name and then happily shared mine.

After a whole bunch of smiles exchanged she started to work again. I just watched with amazement. She moved so quickly with such skilled hands. I, of course, tried to duplicate what she did and could only laugh at the results.  So did she.

After a few minutes I moved on to another lady and then another. We had the same exchange. Many smiles and it gave them great joy each time I tried to accomplish what they were doing with such ease. Even the manager joined in to coach me!

After that I followed the women to the weigh station. Every two hours of collecting the tea leaves they head down to designated areas to have their prize possession weighed. As they lined up smiling and chatting, quite curious about who I was, I had the manager explain how my family has been selling for 67 years the teas they pluck, and how my grandmother had fallen in love with Ceylon tea back in 1945.  We have been devoted purchasers ever since.

 That their garden was one of our favorites. And with that I started to walk down the line of beautiful women shaking their hands and saying “nan dri,” which is “thank you” in their language.  I couldn’t help myself as tears came down my cheek. When they asked why I could only say because I was so happy. So happy to witness this historical profession with my own eyes. Something never done by my family before. I was representing three generations whose entire lives have been centered around tea. It was a moment like no other.

After close to an hour in the field we went up to the “tea room.” There we got to see all the amazing work being done at Pedro. This plantation is certified Fair Trade, ISO 22000, ETP, Rain Forest Alliance and has built new homes for all their 800 employees.  So many of the plantations in Sri Lanka are moving in this direction in order to keep this historical profession sustainable into the future. They know they have to take care of the worker and the fields if they want these gardens to prosper for hundreds more years!

After many hours of learning and tasting we headed out. But my experience at Pedro will never leave me. It was a profound moment in my life. Back in the car we went, waving goodbye to some truly wonderful people.

Cindi Bigelow


Cindi Bigelow Travels To Sri Lanka Journal: Onward and Upward

From there we left to continue our journey through the mountains, once again through windy roads, through miles and miles of tea bushes, headed for the Dessford plantation. Eventually we arrived at Dessford. We were late, my MO (Modus operandi) for the entire week, but they received us with huge smiles and great warmth — the usual Sri Lankan way!

This time we got to see how they processed their tea. Each facility being slightly different to create their own unique blend. We finished up drinking their freshest tea which had been carefully hand-picked only a few days before.

They shared with us nuances of tea tasting that I could have never imagined they could pick up. These people made me realize why my grandmother fell in love with Ceylon teas (from the country now called Sri Lanka), more than 70 years ago because no one knows more, has more history and has been as dedicated to this delicious product.

Ceylon teas are the most expensive on the world market and I clearly knew why. It was the people. Yes the Camilla sinensis grows all around the world. But on the top of these mountains, the soil, the conditions and the people were what truly made Ceylon teas so exquisite.

We finally finished up after 7 pm and headed back to the Grand Hotel N’Eliya. When we arrived we were pretty exhausted. So we had dinner around nine and feel asleep around midnight. Visions of tea bushes filled my head. The memories of the day were overwhelming. It was a day like no other. And the good news was I got to have another one just like it the following day.

Cindi Bigelow