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Archives for the ‘Cindi’s Message’ Category

Cindi Bigelow Travels To Sri Lanka Journal: Heading up the Mountain

Since we didn’t go to bed till 1am after dinner with the ambassador, morning came kind of early when the alarm went off a little after 5am.  We were ready to start up for the mountains at 6am. Prassana, with whom we had spent our first full day in Sri Lanka, was there with a welcoming smile. Behind the wheel was a lovely man named Ishanka. In the car we went, first heading out of Colombo and then slowly climbing up. Traffic was nuts. Of the 20 million people who live on the island, 2 million live in the city.

I knew we’d be passing by Pinnawala, the renowned elephant orphanage, on our way up. We just had to stop there!  So after about three hours out of Colombo we came to our first destination…the orphanage for elephants. It was so wonderful. This place was nursing back to health or just raising elephants of all sizes and ages that had been wounded or orphaned.  The first thing I got to do was feed a bottle to a four year old elephant. It was amazing. The elephant actually wrapped his trunk around me and the bottle. After that we walked around and saw two babies at 4 and 7 months of age. They were so sweet and never left each other’s side.

Then we headed toward the lake where they were all going to spend two hours being scrubbed and just having fun in the water. On the way there, they asked if I wanted to ride one. Me??  Sure!!!  So next thing I know I am on a 50 year old female named Guiena (or something like that).  Me!  On an elephant!! Are you kidding me? It was a most enjoyable ride. She was so gentle. But it was pretty crazy to be so high up on her back!  After that outrageous experience, smiling ear to ear, we started back up the mountain. We had two plantations to visit in the same day.

Slightly smaller than its African cousin, the endangered Asiatic Elephant grows to between 6.6 to 9.8 ft and can weigh 2.25 to 5.5 tons.  It can be identified by its smaller, more rounded ears.  They are fascinating animals.  I encourage you to find out more about them.

Cindi Bigelow


Cindi Bigelow Travels To Sri Lanka: Dinner with the Ambassador

Previously, we shared that Cindi Bigelow was heading to Sri Lanka to explore tea fields and tea auctions.  Cindi shared her first full day and her experience of a tea auction and the importance of long term ethical tea partnerships.  In today’s post, she shares her experience of having dinner with the Sri Lankan amassador to the United Nations.

Sri Lankan ambassador to the United Nations, Dr. Palitha T.B. Kohona

We finished the evening having dinner with the Sri Lankan ambassador to the United Nations, Dr. Palitha T.B. Kohona.  That was another experience beyond words. To spend hours listening to the ambassador (who by the way was the foreign minister before this current position), talk about the history of this little gem of an island country they also call “Serendib,” was a true gift. The history, the people, the culture, and global influences he shared with us were so eye opening.  I learned more than I ever could have dreamed. Then his nephew joined us, Kasun, who (yes, you guessed it) was a tea trader. So of course that spurred another whole round of “tea talk.” We ate and chatted till midnight.  Then, completely overwhelmed with my new experiences and unsure how we managed to fit so much in one day, we headed back to our hotel, where we had to get up at 5 a.m. to head up into the mountains.

Wheeeee what a day!  Could not have prayed for more.  Okay tea gardens, here we come….

Cindi Bigelow Travels To Sri Lanka: The Importance of Ethical Tea Partnerships and Long Term Relationships

Previously, we shared that Cindi Bigelow was heading to Sri Lanka to explore tea fields and tea auctions.  Cindi shared her first full day and her experience of a tea auction. Today Cindi shares the importance of long term and ethical tea partnerships.

After attending the tea auction, we had lunch with Dushy Perera, the head of the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP), one of the organizations in the world working with the farms to ensure good practices both for employees and the fields.

He was fascinating and is doing such great work.  I am proud to say that all of the gardens we use in Sri Lanka are a part of this program.  Dushy has been in the tea business for 40 years.  Can you imagine his knowledge and passion to keep this beautiful industry strong and sustainable?

From there we went to visit another valued partner, Finlays, to continue our education of the Sri Lankan tea industry. The meeting was exceptionally touching to me because our time together started off with the long-time manager and friend to my family, Romesh Croos Moraes, who shared how much respect he had for three generations of the Bigelow family.  He said we were known for our unrelenting high standards for only the finest of their teas, and how much it meant to him being a man who truly loves tea and the tea industry.  Romesh told me how he always tells his team to never compromise when buying tea for the Bigelows. He tells them “they are real tea people. They know their tea.”  Needless to say, he and I had tears in our eyes.  There was a level of learning about what my family has meant to the tea industry that, to be honest, I didn’t fully realize until this moment. Of course I know my parents deserve all the credit for this rich relationship with these dedicated tea experts. And I know my parents have outstanding reputations in the industry. But this was still eye opening for me to listen to his words. Romesh was so sincere and so delighted that we came to see him, it was extremely touching.

Errol Bernard, Cindi Bigelow and Romesh Croos Moraes

After an unforgettable few hours, we had to say our good byes as we still had one more event to fit in!

Cindi Bigelow

Cindi Bigelow Travels To Sri Lanka: Tea Auction

Previously, we shared that Cindi Bigelow was heading to Sri Lanka to explore tea fields and tea auctions.  Cindi previously shared her first full day and below she shares the experience of a tea auction.  Enjoy!

Niraj de Mel and Cindi Bigelow outside the Tea Auction (no photos allowed once inside)

A real Colombo Sri Lanka tea auction…it was everything I had heard of and more! Three rooms filled with tea exporters all bidding on specific type teas. Rooms were dedicated to either low-grown teas of certain grades (leaf sizes like the famous orange pekoe, or OP as it is called in the trade), or medium-to-high elevation grown teas and the original type teas of Ceylon (or Sri Lanka as it has been called since 1971), the type Bigelow buys.

Rooms filled with so many buyers who have such trained palates and discerning eyes that they can look at the leaf and tell you where on the mountains it was grown!  With one sip they can tell you the plantation it was grown on and if it was processed properly. They can even taste if the harvesters have done a good job plucking the proper “two tender leaves and a bud,” not mature leaves that are not nearly as pleasant to consume.

Our stay during the morning was certainly noticed. There was not one trader who wasn’t checking out who these new comers were!  It was so fun.

Cindi Bigelow

A Bigelow Tea Holiday Message

During this special time of year, given all that has recently gone on around us, we need to make sure we take the time to remember what is truly important…our loved ones, both our family and our friends.

Sending you only the warmest of wishes,

Cindi Bigelow

With Heavy Hearts, Bigelow Tea Grieves For The Lives Lost Today

Our hearts go out to all the families that have been personally affected by this horrific crime in Newtown CT. A crime of this magnitude is unprecedented, both for our state and community. The aftermath of sorrow and pain is incomprehensible. Our deepest regrets for this horrendous crime go out to all. Our community will never forget the impact of what has taken place today. With heavy hearts, The Bigelow Family

(image via Flickr by Arne Hulstein)

Fairfield County Business Journal’s First Ever CFO OF THE YEAR AWARD Awarded To Bigelow CFO Don Janezic

Don Janezic

Recipient of the First Annual

Fairfield County Business Journal


OMG it was a wonderful event!  Please join me in congratulating Bigelow CFO Don Janezic on receiving Fairfield County Business Journal’s first ever CFO OF THE YEAR AWARD.  The Bigelow family and entire staff already know what a remarkably caring and diligent man Don is, but it’s especially gratifying to know that his professional peers outside the company recognize him with the same high regard that we do.  A consummate pro, it’s an honor to have him in our ranks.  Way to go Don!  We’re all so proud of youand wish you every continued success!

Cindi Bigelow


Cindi Bigelow Travels To Sri Lanka: First Full Day

Previously, we shared that Cindi Bigelow was heading to Sri Lanka to explore tea fields and tea auctions and it took many hours to get there. Enjoy Cindi’s account below of her first full day!

Sri Lanka Trip: First Full Day in Sri Lanka

OK, my first full day in Sri Lanka, it was better than I ever could have hoped.   Growing up in a 3-generation family tea business, I thought I already know a lot about tea but I learned so much! The people in this country are so passionate and so knowledgeable about this precious gem that they have been producing here since the 1860’s.  It is truly inspirational.

We spent the morning with one of our most long-time and treasured partners, Van Rees and their amazing team led by Niraj de Mel. He has over 30 years in the business and his knowledge of the industry was truly amazing. He is the quintessential professional, intelligent, poised, articulate and warm. He made our VP of the Tea Division John McCraw and I immediately feel at home. We felt as if we had known each other for years.

They took us through cup after cup of tea to share with us exactly what they look for when buying for us. Their ability to taste the smallest of nuances was both awesome and comforting.

These people could not be better partners. They knew exactly what we wanted and more importantly how the teas would hold up over time. That is of critical importance to my family. I could have listened to Niraj for days. Then we watched them prepare for a tea auction in which we would be attending tomorrow; I was so excited to being seeing a live tea auction!  Niraj, his associate Prasanna Panabooke and all the others on the team review 12,000 samples a week for color, for size, for quality; it is amazing to watch them in action.  It truly took our breath away to watch these guys work through the samples.  I could never have imagined how intricate and delicate a process it was for these wonderful people to consistently gets teas that match the Bigelow standard month after month. We were in good hands!

I also got to visit a Sri Lankan tea packer after leaving Niraj and was able to see their operation and their people packing different teas for various customers around the world. Different than us but valuable to see for sure.

In just a matter of a few hours, we had come to realize how much tea is steeped in centuries of tradition and what a global beverage it truly is.  I also feel so blessed that my family and i are a part of this tea community. After only one day in Sri Lanka i got a much better understanding of what tea means to the world. Now i could see first-hand how tea was the second most consumed beverage in the world (after water).

Back to the hotel we went for we needed to get ready for our next experience, dinner with our wonderful hosts.

We met up with Niraj and several of his associates at around 7pm. They took us to a wonderful Sri Lankan restaurant.  Besides the outstanding food that we enjoyed, the conversation with our Sri Lankan partners was fascinating. We not only talked tea but we talked global politics and Sri Lanka history. The conversation flowed and the evening flew by. It was the perfect end to the perfect first day!  This was clearly going to be a week like no other in my life.

Cindi Bigelow

Cindi Bigelow Travels To Sri Lanka To Explore Tea Fields and Tea Auctions

Ceylon tea, renowned the world over for its full-bodied taste and inviting aroma, is grown in Sri Lanka, an island country in the northern Indian Ocean off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent in South Asia.  Join Cindi Bigelow as she journeys to this far-away place to explore the tea fields and tea auctions of Sri Lanka, where this world-class beverage originates. 

Sri Lanka Trip: Getting There

Wow, my first trip to the tea fields of Sri Lanka and it’s been amazing. It takes 24 hours of travel to get to Sri Lanka. We went through Dubai and flying into that city was breathtaking.  Seeing the tallest building in the world was truly special. Then we took off landing first in the Maldives. The water was a see-through blue.  The weather looked outstanding.

Taking off from Mali

Just before the plane was getting ready to take off to Colombo (the capital of Sri Lanka) the attendant came up and said to us if we didn’t mind, they wanted to upgrade us to FIRST CLASS. Didn’t mind???  We almost fell out of our seats!  Emirates Air first class…never thought I would see that in my lifetime.  So our last part of our 24 hour journey was going in style.  Here we come Sri Lanka…..let the journey continue.


Bigelow President Cindi Bigelow, and VP of Tea Division, John McCraw, upon learning of upgrade.

Cindi Bigelow


A Bigelow Tea Note Of Thanks

I don’t need to tell you that Hurricane Sandy was a record storm that affected thousands in the Northeast and eastern seaboard region. Today, many families are still dealing with the unimaginable consequences of this devastating storm. All of us continue to pray for this entire area and hope for the best recovery possible.

Bigelow Tea, while affected, was fortunate when you take everything else into account. After being among the 97% of homes and businesses in the shoreline town of Fairfield, Connecticut that have been without power for nearly a week, I can now report that most power to the area has been restored and Bigelow Tea is once again fully operational and ready to serve.

I have to say, watching the service crews (from all over the country) driving down our roads to help restore our utilities and services was truly inspiring. I felt like I should honk and cheer as we passed them on the road to let them know just how appreciated they are after the 16 hour days they were putting into our community. I then watched the same kind of dedication from our amazing first-response team made up of Bigelow employees. These individuals worked long, exhausting hours to inspect our facility for safety and ensure systems were up and running before the full complement of Bigelow staff could return. These individuals are our true heroes in every sense of the word and all of us at Bigelow are so grateful. We are thankful for the leadership roles they demonstrated and for their ingenuity and perseverance and, even more important, for their camaraderie and concern shown to one another.

We are mostly grateful for everyone’s safety. At the end of the day, that is all that matters. Bless all of you that help mitigate the consequences of this challenging experience called Hurricane Sandy!

Cindi Bigelow