"SABOR" is a food & wine and lifestyle series that savors Latinos' zest for life and passion for home and family. 

For tea lovers, when you sip a cup of tea, the world seems to slow down for just a bit, and a soothing feeling of calmness comes over you. Now, imagine this temporary aromatic escape to serenity by having a honey vanilla chamomile, sweet coconut chai, peppermint or a zesty lemon, acaí mango, blackberry pomegranate or raspberry zing to it. The possibilities are endless, and your taste buds will thank you for it.

While many Americans are still catching on to many health benefits of tea, there is a whole other component to tea -- its impressive taste factor. If the right natural ingredients are blended together, then your taste buds will discover there are a multitude of flavor profiles of tea from around the world, including Guatemala and Mexico.

This has been tea-tasting guru and Celestial Seasonings Blendmaster Charlie Baden life's work in Boulder, Colorado, using his palette and expertise of tea blends to discover new flavor profiles and distinguish Green Tea, Herbal Tea, Wellness Tea, Sleepytime and Kombucha tea blends.

Latin Post caught up with Baden, who will be celebrating 40 years at Celestial Seasonings this September, to share what it's like to have a career tasting and blending teas for one of the largest specialty tea manufacturers in North America. Celestial Seasonings serves more than 1.6 billion cups of tea every year and sources more than 100 different ingredients from over 35 countries to create delicious, all-natural herbal, green, red, white, chai and wellness teas.

As a treasured Celestial Seasonings blendmaster for almost four decades, Baden has had a long relationship with tea that started when he was a child.

"When I was a kid ... being where it was hot and muggy in the summer, my mother would make iced tea. We didn't have a lot of money and even Lipton was even expensive for us, believe it or not. She always bought Red Rose," he explained.

"Americans are used to cheap-grade, ice-able tea. The American palate, if they taste a good cup of tea, they don't like it. Everyone grew up on Lipton and grew up on that cheap grade tea. Yes, I drank a lot of iced black, iced tea, but I never really thought of it being a career, that's for sure."

The South Maryland native, who grew up not too far away from our nation's capital, traveled the Northeast coast in a rock n' roll band in his 20s, lived in Columbus, Ohio, for six months, and then visited a friend in Boulder, Colorado, where he fell in love with the area and ended up making it his home.

In 1975, he began working at Celestial Seasonings as an herb cleaner, where he made $2.10 an hour sifting through herbs and blackberry leaves, removing rocks, and more. At the time, the company used loose tea before it was packaged by an outside manufacturer, and then later manufactured in-house.

"I didn't like the name 'herb cleaner' because it sounded kind of weird, so I called it the 'essential handler.'" he said.

In 1981, Baden became more and more intrigued by tea blends, ingredients and the tweaking of formulas.

"I got really interested and I started tasting and doing it on my own in the blending area. The next thing I knew, the Blendmaster job was offered to me, and I have been doing it ever since," he said.

"When I started here, the company was fresh, it was new. It was incorporated in 1969. We were pretty much just getting our act together and trying to understand how to make herbal tea," he said.

"It was a learning experience by everyone, even including our founder Mo Siegal, who had the idea in the first place. He initially went out into the Rocky Mountains here and collected the wild herbs that grow locally. You can get wild chamomile and rose tips. There are a lot things that just grow naturally here in the foothills in the summertime. That's how he started blending."

After tasting tea blends for almost 40 years, Baden's palette is anything but ordinary.

"Yes, I think that I have and always have had, I won't call them 'trained taste buds,' but they are taste buds that are a little bit more susceptible to delicate tastes and things like that. You have the ability to taste to do this job," he said.

"Most of it is after you know that you have that ability. You can distinguish from sweet, sour and so on and so forth. It's just starting to understand your ingredients and how they interact with those specific blends and then understanding the blends that we make -- the Sleepytime, the Red Zinger," he said.

"Really when you taste the same ingredients over and over and for years and years, you just become accustomed to what's what. Hibiscus grown in China doesn't have the same flavor characteristics as Hibiscus that is grown in Northern Africa."

He also pointed out that "different conditions in different climates create different flavor profiles, so you have to know and understand that aspect of it as well to be able to blend, to meet that gold standard and that flavor profile of all the products that we have."

"We constantly taste that gold standard against incoming material prior to displaying its wares," he said. "If it doesn't have our gold standard, or fit into our flavor profile, then we aren't going any further. ... A lot of it comes with experience."

Baden has helped Celestial Seasonings discover some amazing blends of flavors from around the world, including his favorite -- its line of zinger teas.

"They are fruit-based, citrus and berry fruit-based teas. The primary flavor profile base is a pretty sour hibiscus base," he said. "Hibiscus that's grown in certain parts of the world are more sour than in other parts of the world. In the zinger teas, we use a higher percentage of a more sour, bright, pop sour, zing-type hibiscus to add to the complexity of that flavor profile.

"We have a product development team who help put the blends together. It's my job that we keep it consistent, flavor-wise. I have to taste, evaluate and determine its usage for every ingredient that we use."

Baden is partial to the Red Zinger, which was "the first generation of zingers."

"It's a very hearty, fruity sour base tea that has a touch of peppermint to it. It seems like very out of the ordinary, but in my mind it really enhances it and makes it very unique," he explained. "I like Tangerine Orange Zinger tea. All of these teas, but especially the zinger teas are great iced. My kids grew up on iced Tangerine Orange Zinger iced and they would have withdrawal if they weren't available in the summertime."

Celestial Seasonings also sells Lemon Zinger Herbal Tea (with Guatemalan lemongrass) and Honey Vanilla Chamomile Herbal Tea (with Mexican varieties of chamomile).

"One thing that we are proud of is that we source our ingredients directly from the source and we made those connections 40 plus years ago. One of them is our lemongrass supplier in Guatemala," he said. "We have gone out there and have looked at lemongrass from Thailand and Asia and different parts of the world and the quality doesn't even come close to what we have been getting from Guatemala. Flavor-wise it is absolutely is incredible.

"Another item that we source a lot of is our chamomile from Mexico. It's one of the main ingredients that we use here. Chamomile is our number one ingredient in our Sleepytime tea (the company's best seller). So that tells you right there that we need to have a lot of tonnage from there. We have been sourcing our chamomile from Mexico, Egypt and sometimes Argentina since I have been here."

The company also gets some black tea from Argentina, but he points out, "We're not really a black tea company but an herbal tea company."

Celestial Seasonings' biggest international buyers include Mexico, Canada, Japan and Australia. Considering Mexico and Canada border the U.S., there is "good distribution," Baden said. Yet with the Japanese being "so quality-oriented," he pointed out, "They love buying our tea because of our quality."

Baden is especially proud of Celestial Seasonings' international ties, corporate social responsibility, and impact on the people of Guatemala, Mexico and the world.

"I look at it from a business standpoint and how we went in as an organization that tried to source directly source from the field, instead of going through two or three middle men. In the case of Guatemala, it substantially built the economy, at least around the area where the (lemon grass) fields are. A lot of people work there," he said.

"I can say the same thing about the growing regions in Mexico where we get our chamomile from. It's just creating an incredible amount of jobs and really just contributing to the economy in those areas.

Whether Baden is blending, tasting, being comforted by soothing teas or getting a boost from the zinger teas, there's nothing like being in a place where you can breathe fresh air and enjoy the natural resources of the Rockies. He's savoring earth's incredible gifts and surroundings, which is one of the best blends that life has to offer. 

"It's worked out well and there isn't any other place that I would want to live than in Boulder, Colorado. I ended up having a job that other people would love to have."