Mile Highs and Lows: Tea Alchemy

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This dispensary has closed.

As Colorado's medical-marijuana industry grows, marijuana dispensaries of all types and sizes are proliferating around the state. Some resemble swanky bars or sterile dentist offices; others feel like a dope dealer's college dorm room. To help keep them all straight, Westword will be offering a no-holds-barred look at what goes on behind these unusual operations' locked doors in "Mile Highs and Lows," a regular online review of dispensaries around the metro area and beyond. (You can also search Westword's directory of dispensaries for one near you.)

This week: The Wildflower Seed reviews Tea Alchemy.

Tea Alchemy 98 Highway 119 South, Suite 2 Nederland 303-258-3561

Hours of operation: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; closed Mondays. Owners: Sarah Schumacher, Sheri Hupfer and Ray Righi. Owners' statement: "It was always a dream to have a teahouse and apothecary in the beautiful community of Nederland. We really bring in the healing attributes of the marijuana plant; without it, our teahouse would never have survived." Opened: September 2009 Raw marijuana price range: $16 to $20 per gram for walk-in patients; cheaper for members. Other types of medicine: Teas, herbs, tinctures, salts, salves, real-food edibles. Patient services and amenities: Herbalism/health classes, nutritionist on staff, reflexology and addiction counseling.

Our take: Nederland is a sweet, small town, tucked just below Eldora in the mountains fifteen miles west of Boulder. But while the town is tiny, it's home to a half-dozen dispensaries -- including the wonderful Tea Alchemy. A conceptual teahouse/apothecary/marijuana dispensary nestled on a dirt road just behind Happy Trails Coffee Shop, Tea Alchemy has "herbal healing" written all over it -- metaphorically speaking -- in swirly-girly calligraphy, the "i" dotted with a cute little heart.

A decidedly feminine touch adds charm to this little teahouse, where the hostess served me the complimentary tea of the day in a quaint china teacup. The weather was blustery, and I was grateful for the warm gesture. She showed me to a set of comfy, overstuffed wingback chairs pulled up to an antique apothecary table in the cozy dispensary room at the back of the shop. There, the bud-tender and I opened jars and chatted in pleasant, circular tangents about natural health, growing marijuana and living in the mountains.

My bud-tender recommended S.A.G.E. for female clients and Durban for males. S.A.G.E. (Sativa Afghani Genetic Equilibrium) is a tough plant with a high THC content and a lovely sage scent perfect for mountain mamas; Durban is a strong African sativa strain with a licorice taste that can energize and activate creativity.

During my visit, the little shop filled up with locals, all of them clearly friends who gather there from time to time. Instead of feeling like an outsider (although I once lived in Ned, I no longer do), I was drawn into the conversation and completely welcomed by staff and clientele alike. The atmosphere was perfect for patients looking to purchase meds in a homey environment, especially since the place functions as a true apothecary and offers many different types of healing herbs and teas along with its marijuana.

But walk-in prices are pretty steep, even though prices along the Front Range are steadily dropping as dispensaries saturate the market. I gulped and ended up paying $20 plus tax for a gram of beautiful OG Kush (prices for members were much lower, and I decided to consider the hefty tab a tourist tax). The herb was kind, though, and very dense, with a light organic scent. And when I toked it later, I was glad I'd spent the few extra bucks for the great quality medicine.

I hit a few more shops while I was in Nederland, including the underwhelming Grateful Meds, which seemed more like a head shop than the others. I'd been hearing about this place forever, but my transaction there felt more like buying a pack of cigarettes than purchasing medicine.

The shop was cramped and the bud-tender downright unfriendly. When I sidled up to the counter, he wordlessly broke out a large glass jar full of herb, but said nothing while I checked it out. Finally I broke the uncomfortable silence by asking, "So, what do you recommend?" He replied, "I kinda just showed it to you," clearly a little annoyed at my ridiculous question. It was Cherry Slider, and I took a gram for fifteen bucks and left, feeling unwanted. Still, Grateful Meds' prices were the best in town -- which is nothing to cough at for locals and tourists alike. And while the herb was a bit on the wet side, it burned fine, tasted very nice and was super-well-flushed.

The difference between these two dispensaries was night and day. Tea Alchemy offered a wonderful environment that made me want to stay all day, and at least Grateful Meds got me in and out quickly. At both places, the herb was top-notch -- but I clearly got the service I paid for.

William Breathes and the Wildflower Seed are the pot pen names of our two alternating medical marijuana dispensary reviewers. Read their bios here.

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