Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Tea, Mead, and Movies in Boulder

On Wednesday, February 27, we went over to the family’s condo in the morning, and Sarah tried to bake cookies. They turned out flat, gooey, and burned on the bottom. Ah, the perils of high-altitude cooking.

Late in the morning, we drove one and a half hours to Boulder, where we had tickets to the touring version of the Banff Mountain Film Festival. But first, we wanted to go to the Celestial Seasonings factory for a tour. After driving around for a while, we finally found the factory right before 2:00 when the tour started. It wasn’t full, so we snuck in at the last possible second.

We learned that Camellia sinensis is the plant that all tea comes from. Black tea, white tea, green tea – they’re processed differently, but they all come from the same plant. While decaffeinated tea is tea from which the caffeine has been removed, we learned that caffeine-free tea isn’t technically tea at all. “Caffeine-free tea” is a marketing term for brews of other plants and herbs. At first, they called these “herbal infusions,” but people thought that sounded like a shampoo, not a drink, so they changed the marketing term to “caffeine-free tea”.

Celestial Seasonings’ most popular tea is Sleepytime, but it was their third-most popular that made a memorable tour stop. That tea is made from peppermint, and the tour guide took us into a large room in which the peppermint tea is sequestered. The menthol smell was overpowering – it made your eyes water. Some people had to leave the room!

After the tour, we got to sample a dozen or so varieties of tea and coffee and participate in a blind taste test to provide our input into a future Celestial Seasonings tea.

At the factory, we found an advertisement for tours and tastings at Redstone Meadery. We’d drunk their mead before at the Renaissance Festival in Houston. Mead is honey wine, tasty stuff with a rich history that predates grape wine. We had no idea the meadery was located in Boulder, but when we found out, we had to stop by.

As it turned out, Redstone Meadery is a very small operation, located in an industrial strip between two auto mechanics. They have something like five employees, and all the mead is produced in a small room behind the even smaller tasting room.

We’d missed the last tour of the day, so we just did the tasting. Boy, do they have a lot of different varieties of mead! We started with tastings of three that came out of taps – carbonated “draft” meads. Since we only saw three taps, we thought that was the extent of the tasting. But then they brought out bottle after bottle of non-carbonated mead from a refrigerator. We tasted black raspberry nectar, juniper mountain honey wine, a couple of varieties of pyment (honey wine with grape wine), and lots of others that we don’t remember. Fortunately, the tasting portions were small, but Lisa still had to stop halfway through because all the alcohol was going to her head.

After that excursion, we headed to Pearl Street for dinner at the Mountain Sun brewery, where we found that February had been declared stout month! Of course, Brian had to sample the stouts – a cream stout and chocolate stout were both delicious! Dinner consisted of pub food – beef burgers and black bean burgers – and was delicious.

Finally, it was time to head to the Boulder Theater for the show. This showing of the Banff Mountain Film Festival consisted of eight films. Our unanimous favorite was “The Endless Knot,” a 52-minute movie about a climber Conrad Anker who survives an avalanche that kills his best friend Alex Lowe. The survivor winds up falling in love with his best friend’s widow, marrying her and adopting her kids. In memory of Alex, they open a mountaineering school for Sherpas, many of whom lack basic knowledge that could make them much safer climbers. The scenes of the Sherpa school are great – they show a Sherpa stuck who got stuck in a climbing training exercise, with a caption like “, summitted Everest five times, now stuck in a tree”. Another Sherpa performs a rap song and says it’s the “Nepali version of ‘Ice Ice Baby’”. It was a great movie – it was sometimes hilarious but also showed how two people decided to make a difference in the world.

They raffled off a bunch of prizes at intermission. Last year, at the traveling festival’s Seattle stop, Sarah won a new pair of hiking boots. Despite the fact that there were five of us this time, we didn’t win anything – bummer. Around 10 PM, the festival was over, and we headed to the car for the long drive home. At least we had XM satellite radio to entertain us on the way!

No comments: