For more than three decades Bigelow Tea's Boise factory has been hard at work.
600 million tea bags are packaged at the Benjamin Lane facility each year. Three generations of the Bigelow family have operated the company on the East Coast, where headquarters are now in Fairfield, Connecticut. But in 1983, Boise's location was a welcome expansion.
"Well the story goes, they were looking for something on this end of the U.S. They had gone to Washington, and they had a layover here in Boise. They liked the look of the valley when they flew over and did a little tour. When they got home they recommended, 'hey let's look here instead,'" said longtime Bigelow Tea employee and trainer Stephanie Ball.
"Back then it was supposed to be just a distribution center to bring in some shipping for the West Coast," added corporate maintenance manager John Ashford.
Now, the Boise factory contributes a lot more to the company with its high tech manufacturing process and 59 employees.
The tea is first blended in Connecticut, then it comes to Idaho.
It's funneled down into custom machines, that weigh the precise amount of tea needed for each tea bag, fold it up in filter paper, tie on a thread and tag, and seal it all in a foil packet. Then it's boxed, packaged, and stacked on pallets, ready for delivery to grocery stores across the country. Technology has sped up the manufacturing process over the years, as machinery is continuously updated and automated.
Ashford has worked at the Boise plant since the beginning in 1983. His office displays the many Bigelow Tea products and flavors that have made their way through the factory. It can be hard to choose from the current 120 flavors of tea.
"My favorite flavor is vanilla chai," Ball said. "And the next one behind that is vanilla caramel. They're the two that I drink every day."
"I prefer black tea," Ashford laughed.
Both of these longtime employees say they're proud to work for Bigelow Tea.
"I started right out of high school and kind of worked my way up," Ball said. "There's a family feel to it here for sure. It's a family owned company and that definitely translates down through the company."
"I feel like I'm part of the family and they truly care about the customer and their employees," said Ashford.
For more information about Bigelow Tea, visit bigelowtea.com.