Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Never Fear those Mountains in the Distance

From Kansas, I flew over to Denver, Colorado, to visit a chapter at Johnson & Wales University.  The journey to Denver was interesting.  My flight from Kansas City was delayed and it was pretty bad because I got there pretty early to begin with and it’s a pretty plain terminal.  But Kansas City has free WiFi, so I passed the time instant messaging some friends.  My Frontier flight to Denver was delightful. Normally I like to use travel time to keep to myself, think, read and/or sleep, but there was a nice lady on the flight who chatted with me for almost the entire flight. We talked about everything from Chicago to my job to her grandchildren.  She was so fascinated by my job and excited for me to travel so much to do what I do.  She mentioned her daughter is a sorority alumna, so I have a hunch that her daughter’s experience helped her understand a little more.  It was nice to meet someone new and chat.  When we got off the plane, she even introduced me to her daughter and granddaughter.

In Denver, I stayed with one of the chapter’s advisors. She is about my age going through some of the same things as I am, so it was very nice to meet and connect with her. She also has a really cute dog who made my stay that much more enjoyable.  Johnson and Wales University is different than any school I had visited before.  Many of the students there are in the culinary or hospitality industry, and the school is on trimesters.  The historic appearance of Johnson and Wales in Denver is deceiving.  Many of the buildings seem antiquated, but the school is only about 10-years old.  The school, which has campuses in Florida, Massachusetts, and North Carolina, purchased the land and buildings and made them its own.  Though it doesn’t matter who built the buildings, it’s neat to know a little bit more of the background.

Loved the blue lights!

A newly remodeled common space in a residence hall.

After some days of meeting with the chapter members and advisors, the chapter planned a sisterhood day in Boulder – which is beautiful! First we went to Celestial Seasonings Tea Company.  The factory was so interesting! We first walked into the tasting/waiting area, where there are tables, historical exhibits, and a counter where patrons can taste ANY of their teas. The Celestial folks would give ever patron a little tea cup and we would just walk up to the counter and state which we wanted to try.  It reminded me of wine tasting, only free and more inclusive because there is no need for a designated driver – so really, it’s better!  If I remember correctly, my favorites were the India Spice Chai and Honey Vanilla Chamomile. The only one I didn’t like was the Gingerbread Spice; I guess it wasn’t my cup of tea!

History of Celestial Seasonings

Where patrons are welcomed with free tea samples

Interesting tea kettles

More information on the company

Candid photo of the women

Posing with Sleepytime Bear

Before the tour departed for the factory, we all sat in a private room and watched a short video on the history of the company.  Though I don’t remember much, it was interesting to see the older photos of the company and hear about how popular the company is.  Most of their business is done in North America, which makes sense not only because of geographic location but also because many other countries where tea is popular produce their own.  It’s common sense, but I never really thought about it. They serve 1.6 billion cups of tea every year and source more than 100 different ingredients and herbs from over 35 countries to create their teas.

The tour of the factory began where the botanicals and teas arrive. They are then quality checked and then sent off to the blending department where giant mixers tumble the herbs together.  Then the herbs are sent off to packaging.  A special machine places the blend onto their own tea bagging paper which is sealed with a second layer – forming their unique stringless, tagless pillow bag.  The bags are then packaged into boxes and placed onto pallets for shipping.  Again, if I remember correctly, I believe they have two different boxing sections – one for tea being shipped in North America and one for tea being shipped across seas.  

Tea is actually a very interesting beverage with a boat-load of history behind it. Part of me wishes to become a tea connoisseur someday.  Some other fun things I learned while there:
  • Sleepytime, a soothing blend of chamomile, spearmint and lemongrass, is their number one seller.
  • Mint herbs are kept in a special “mint room” because if they are kept where the other herbs are kept, everything would taste like mint!
  • It’s not recommended to add milk to fruity teas because milk, a base, neutralizes the acidity of the fruit and takes away from the taste.
After our tea extravaganza, we went pumpkin picking at a local pumpkin patch. I didn’t purchase anything, but they had locally produced honey that I was thinking about. Looking back, I wish I would have bought it; I could have added it to my Sleepytime tea.

Can you even imagine this is the view the WHOLE time you're driving down the road?!

Cute country landscape all throughout the mountainous countryside

Simply breathtaking

A functioning tractor at the pumpkin patch

Pumpkin picking! (Again, just look at those mountains!)

Following the tour and pumpkin picking, we all went to a local shop in Boulder where fraternity and sorority members get their lettered shirts made.  This trip to an ordinary place was a little extraordinary because we were with the new members who were ordering their first set of letters.  The excitement was refreshing.   After this, the women took me on a brief driving tour through Denver just so I could see some of downtown.

Another place we went to dine (actually, I was lucky enough to go there twice during my visit) was Crepe and Crepe.  It was the most adorable little diner. The décor was amazing, almost as wonderful as the food! For breakfast I had a delicious crepe with pears and other sweet fixings.  When I went there a second time (for desert), I had a crepe with chocolate and Nutella. It was amazing.

Business picked up when we were there and it seemed like a pretty popular place.

This was so delicious!

Such a neat atmosphere! I felt so close to France.

I really lucked out with the timing of my visit.  It seemed like my visit was during the prime of the leaves changing colors.  All the trees were so bright and colorful, and the weather was the perfect fall temperature. Also to my surprise, the change in altitude didn’t seem to affect me.  I don’t know if I didn’t notice because I wasn’t working out in the elevation or if it’s because my body didn’t really feel a change.  Either way, it was nice not having an adjustment period.  Looking ahead, I could definitely see myself living in Colorado and breathing in the mountain air every day.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit with the women and the journey to Colorado.  The women were wonderful to me, and I feel like I brought some resources to them so they could continue to move forward. Hopefully I’ll get to visit them again.

P.S.  I visited Colorado in October.  Yes, I’m aware it’s now January into 2012; however, updating more regularly is a New Year’s resolution of mine. Wish me luck!

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