There Will Be A Next Time

 

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Over the Summer, I made a trek to the Gulf Coast of Florida, and was mesmerized by the love for tea people have, and all the tea shoppes, markets, and displays all over the place.

St. Petersburg in particular was so good to me.  All my posts can be found from those captivating experiences can be found here.

One thing I neglected to mention over the course of January, is that it’s National Hot Tea Month.

While that shouldn’t change my posts for any particular reason, it should give me a reason to change up something.  I think you know what I’m trying to say here.

There’s so many stories that unfortunately are past the expiration date, or it’s the time of year where it doesn’t make sense or feel right to write about a certain time, place, or experience.  Those will either have to keep waiting, or it’s not meant to see the light of day, just yet.

I knew I had the amazing tea and experience from Haraki-Gordon,whom had a booth from the Saturday Morning Market sitting in my back pocket, just waiting for the perfect time.

Now is as a good as time as any.   It was a whirlwind of a day trying all the teas on a display.  And considering that this was June, of course I mainly sipped on iced teas, kombucha, and got a sweeter sensation.

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But when all is said and one, my heart will always be with the hot teas, the most natural of teas, and made of the most purest ingredients.  Haraki-Gordon had the most unassuming of stands, off to the side, and if you weren’t looking for it, you wouldn’t have given it a second thought, or paid it any mind.

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The couple who was there, were the actual makers of the tea, so it made for a more genuine conversation versus someone who would be at a stand because they had to be, or may not be so passionate for what they’re talking about.

They were so nice, and regardless of how warm is what, they made me want to sip on their green and red teas.  Yes I said red tea!

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They cultivate their teas mainly in Matcha form, which is as pure as it gets.  All items are available for purchase here.

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The Green Tea Powder, for this day, was a palate cleanser for one, but it was a spiritual one as well.  The samples were merely in tiny cups but it was enough to purify me in a way that I didn’t know until now, was even more important than I realized.

The Red Tea Powder, while more brownish in tint has a stronger taste that isn’t going to work well with everyone.  It’s higher in tannins but it will rejuvenate you in ways that you didn’t know possible.  I’m serious about this.  This was incredible.  Both teas are incredible.

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It helps where I was.  It was the summer, and the energy at the market was incredible.  Everyone seemed so friendly, so kind, so inviting, and so welcome.   What’s funny is you see that I took these teas to a nearby fruit stand, and soon as I took these pictures, it started to rain.

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It would stop raining and it would rain again.  It would be sunny and it would rain, and for a while it was just sunny and raining.  There’s symbolism in all this.  It was the only day I experienced this weather masterpiece.  And while I’m sitting huddled under a tent with people I’ve never met, may never see again, holding my tiny cups of tea; it all felt so real.  I was alone but I wasn’t.  I was with all these people but I was ok being alone.  I knew this is something that doesn’t happen often so I’m grateful to have experienced an atmosphere and energy I don’t always get at home.

And at some point, walking in the rain felt fine to me….

That’s the point of going away for a while.  I think it’s time to go away for a while again.

Everything about this was beautiful.

There will be a next time.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

Feeling A Little…

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When it’s this cold here in the Baltimore and DC area, it can be a challenge looking at the glass half full.   It can be a time of hibernation, which is good or bad depending on how you look at things.  I’m all for peace at any time of year.  I’m all for a good cup of tea and some good conversation any time of year.  I’m all for anything that’s genuine, any time, any place, and anywhere.

But sometimes you appreciate a little solitude and with our busy schedules it may be few and far between.   However, with anything in life, if you want to make time for the ones you care about you will.  And that includes the one you need to look out for the most, yourself.  That’s not a selfish statement whatsoever.  It’s one of where if you can take of yourself, then you take care of others and look out for the ones you care for the most.  That’s anything but selfish.  It’s the most selfless thing there is.

This is why, back in November, I took some time much needed and in the place I was in, some desperately needed time for myself.  Exploring charming towns, seeing new sights, and appreciating the universe around you is what makes this life so glorious, even if it’s a short drive away.

CaffeAmouriShoppe

Caffe Amouri of Vienna, VA fits the bill of something different and a place where it seems like community is a way of life.  It’s in the historic part of town where upon inspection seems to be a lot smaller than it once was.  I could be completely wrong but it’s an observation based on other small towns I’ve encountered in my journey, not just for my love of tea but for everything.

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The decor with musicians past and present is a great touch.

Leave it to me to always want to drink tea in a coffee shop. A few close friends tease me for that, but all in good fun.  I love a good coffee, but that story can be reserved for another time and maybe another blog.  Maybe.

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For all the vibe of the Northern Virginia and Washington, DC area being a bit stuffy, I didn’t get that here.  It’s all our perception and how we tend to view things, but I saw something beautiful.  And I can’t put my finger on it nor do I need to exactly.  Maybe as I keep writing it’ll come, but it doesn’t have to.

If I remember correctly, I actually had my sights set on a cup of coffee, but when I saw their collection of tea, I had to go in that direction.  How often am I here, and when would I actually be back?  So it’s funny that the tea that caught my eye was the Bourbon Street Vanilla.

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Where it came from I have no idea, but maybe this link or this one will help, if you would like to purchase some yourself.

You see, I went to New Orleans in the summer of 2015 and that vacation still has a profound effect on me to this day.  It was life altering that I’m still trying to come to terms with.  And by me writing this out, I still haven’t and maybe I’m not meant to, or maybe I’m afraid to.  Nevertheless, it was amazing.  But it’s not as if Bourbon Street itself was the highlight of the trip.  It actually wasn’t even near the top.  But when I find a tea that reminds me of something beautiful, because of the name or a picture, drawing, or something else symbolic, I have to try it for myself.

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The tea itself is fantastic.  I’ve said over the course of this blog that Rooibos teas have been such a joy to me, and if it wasn’t for these stories who knows if I would be such a fan.  It’s the discoveries I’ve made and the new things I’m learning about myself and my surroundings that have helped me grow, even if it’s been a slow process.

The almond pieces and vanilla flavor really made this tea a pre holiday treat.  And it’s perfect for these cold weather months and times ahead.  So there’s the half full part.  I was also in a place of peace and tranquility where I was able to relax, without a worry or care in the world.  Now that last part is temporary.  I do worry and I do care, maybe too much.  But at least for these few minutes, I was in an unfamiliar place, yet it felt like home.

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Home is wherever you want it to be.   Now I have some things to thing about…

For more on Caffe Amouri, here is their selection of coffees and teas (including the aforementioned Bourbon Street Vanilla) to purchase online, and contact information.

Have a blessed one.

Ideen

…The Highest of the High…

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If you don’t know then I’ll say it, The Land of Kush is a masterpiece in all areas.

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It took me over 3 1/2 years from discovering this gem, to actually walking and enjoying myself and my life.  What took me so long?  I have no answers, other than I wasn’t meant to go there until right around this past Christmas.  I honestly don’t know after that, but the universe had other plans for me now, and now the universe has brought me here.

This wasn’t a meal I was ever going to write about or share with you necessarily across this blog or wherever else I may write about things. And it wasn’t for any negative reasons, it just did’t come across my radar.  I was going to enjoy my meal, likely give a great review across multiple sites, then hopefully romanticize it enough to the point I’ll set myself up for a letdown the next time I came back.  That last sentence was a joke by the way, but I think you know what I mean.

Your first impression is the lasting impression, and like I said, I didn’t think I was going to be able to share with you.  But that was until…

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I saw their Sorrel (or Sorrell) on the drink menu which is fresh brewed hibiscus leaves, and nothing else.  And my favorite kind of drinks are the ones with the fewest ingredients.  And this was joy to drink, and it’s best drank cold.  You can see the pictures for yourselves and just picture how magnificent this is.  And it’s exactly that and all the other good vibrations that comes with it.

And I’ll have more good vibes to talk about shortly.

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I kept it simple with my order, which is something I’m guilty of when going somewhere new.  I got the Curry Chickun, vegan mac and cheese, and rice and vegetable medley.  And the meal is incredible.  I can only say so much, the pictures say it all.

I so badly wanted to like this based on what friends of mine had shared with me, and the aura of prestige that I bestowed upon this place, just because the years started to pass by and I still had yet to set foot in the restaurant.

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Damn this was good.  I didn’t expect to finish it all right then and there.  But I took my time and found myself in the most peaceful place I’ve been in some time.  And with all the commotion of life, the holidays, and and everything else that comes in our direction, any kind of peace and tranquility is welcome.  And I was so out at peace, I was so happy, and I was just so happy with everything.

This place felt so Baltimore, felt so local, but also felt unfamiliar, yet familiar all at once.  The feelings of familiarity and doing this somewhere before in a previous life were there.  I can’t quite put my finger on it.  I was transported myself into a different universe and felt transformed all at once.  And when I go to the next level; it’s not always about the food, and at many times it’s bigger than anything related to the restaurant itself.   It’s something bigger than us, out of this body, and out of this world.

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For about an hour, I felt like I was the only person on Earth.  And that’s a feeling that isn’t narcissistic, self indulgent, or any other bells and whistles like that.  It’s more of a feeling of calm, of zen, of what makes this life so great.

This food was so great, the simple service, the amazing staff, and that incredible music are all the perfect complement to one another.   Everything was vibrating off the charts in a way I haven’t felt in some time.

And about the music..  I haven’t heard a quality sequence of songs anywhere in years.  That includes going to bars, lounges, even live concerts, and the occasional pretentious club I’ve been to.   The latter part is kind of a joke but somewhat serious, ha.  But give me great beats, hip hop, neo soul, or whatever you want to call it, from the 90’s, and I’m a happy guy.

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I was already done with my food but the hits just kept coming one after another.  At this point I was afraid to leave.  I was afraid I was going to miss a song I hadn’t heard in years.  And truthfully, I didn’t have that big of plans later in the day that I had to leave.  I was happy where I was, I was grateful where I was, and I was where my feet were.  And it was a beautiful place.

This is a beautiful place.

LandofKushMenu

For more on Land of Kush, here is their story, their menu, upcoming events, and their contact info.

It won’t be three plus years until the next time.

Thank you Land of Kush.  This is a memory I’m so grateful for.

Happy New Year.

Ideen

 

 

The Joy and Peace of the Season

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I used a similar title once before (right here), in a different universe, where I was in a different place.  I was in a place of peace, of happiness, where I was younger (even though it was only three years ago), and everything seemed like it would go on forever.  All the while knowing that the life I’m living can’t go on forever.

And I’m not talking about a life full of partying, going crazy, and living in the fast lane, or whatever these cheeseball terms are.  I’m talking about spending time with the ones you care the most about, whether it’s over Christmas or any time of year.  We’re grateful for the moments and the time we have, feeling that time may stand still, we could do this all day, we want to do this all day, and we want to be where we are.

I’ve had so many moments like that in the past year, with the awareness that nothing lasts forever.   The fact that I’m expressing my thoughts about this is that I still haven’t come to terms, or made peace with this.  If I’m being vague, well that’s the point.  But the fact that I’m aware at least shows that I’m at least trying to come to terms with things in my life.

The peaceful, the relaxing, and the calming parts of the holidays will always be there, but for me, it’ll take on a whole new trajectory.   I feel like I’ve outgrown a few things that I maybe should’ve done a while ago but such is life.  And while I outgrow certain aspects, I embrace the simple, the companionship, the love, the community, from friendship and family that has always been, and will always be there.  At least I hope so.

This leads me to another community.  The Baltimore Coffee and Tea Company has been so good to this blog for the duration, (previous posts can be found here), and a much needed visit, which was again unplanned, to their Timonium location, brought upon me some much needed Christmas Cheer.

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And that Christmas Cheer lead into some Christmas Spirit, aha!  The Eastern Shore Christmas Mint Tea from the Eastern Shore Tea Company came at the right time, in a time where my this holiday season has been a bit off for me, and has seen so many rapid fire changes around me, that I wasn’t sure I would be able to cope with.

But we learn to adapt.  Whether it’s because we have no choice, fight or flight, or we just learn through experience, somehow life goes on.  And it’s going on my friends.

With all the commotion of the holidays, the running around, the shopping, the parties, the eating, the drinking, and all the other frenzy that comes with it; there’s these reminders in life to slow down.  I for one wish I didn’t need reminders, and should always live in as harmonious and as peaceful of a place as possible.  It’s more than doable, and while external situations can’t be helped, there’s still more than enough room for peace, that should be embraced and never taken for granted.

So what’s what I did here.  It was a busy day, but after I purchased my tea, I found a seat, and just was happy with where I was, nothing more, nothing less. Actually more yes.  More happiness and peace is good.  I brought a few chocolates, more for display than anything else, and got some photos with my new friends.

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But before I continue to lose sight of the point of this blog, the tea is tremendous.  But then again, in the place I was in, the mood I was in, and with this setting, just about any tea would be making me feel like a new man.  But this China Black Tea, with hibiscus and peppermint made me feel so warm inside, was so kind to my stomach, kind to me, but most importantly was kind to my soul and spirit.   For this window of time, I felt the joy and peace of the season, and it’s something we all yearn for and it’s not that we deserve it, but we deserve to be good to ourselves, to be good to our family, our friends, our neighbors, our community, and this universe.

After I stopped taking a few pictures, I just sat there, no phones, no distractions (well I maybe did take a picture of their beautiful Christmas tree), and a whole lot of just being,   This is not necessarily an art form, but it does take precision and practice.

What I got from this day is while things may be tumultuous at times, confusing at times, and trying at times, that I’m still here, I’m still breathing, and I have value to give to myself, my surroundings, and this great big world of ours.

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Even if this wasn’t the most amazing and beautiful of Christmases for me, it was still enjoyable at many points.  And maybe down the line I’ll look back at 2017 and realize this was more of a pivotal, transitional, or maybe life altering year then I even realize.

For more on Baltimore Coffee & Tea Company, here are their locations, their story, and their list of teas as well as coffees available for purchase online.

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I hope you guys had a Merry Christmas.

Ideen

 

It’s Beginning To Look…

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Yes it is.  It’s less than a week till Santa, Rudolph, and all their friends will be bringing joy to folks like you and me.

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And that includes some fine teas from Stash that perfectly embody what the holidays are all about.  Holiday Chai, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Morning are the three I decided to go.  I would’ve done more and I might later, but these teas scream fun, heartwarming, love, and all the joys of what makes this holiday season so bright.  The labels say so, so I have to believe it right?

This post may go the way of how many of our seasons are going, which is a frenetic pace with little rest.  However, if I find my stride it will settle itself.  And that truly applies to any time of year

Ha well here goes.

The Holiday Chai was different than the usual chai’s I’ve had in the past.  And that may sound like I’m reaching but after further review the ingredients speak for themselves.  Natural gingerbread and natural Jamaican rum give this black tea an added kick for the holidays.  Yet this can be drank at anytime.  I found this enjoyable and I’m not one to always find chai’s to be my favorite.  But this was really good.   And a little nutmeg never hurts either.

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We now fast forward to Christmas Eve.  There’s a deliberate order to this because I like y sentiments as cheesy as they might be.  Just like these cheesy mugs you will see throughout.  But when it comes to the season, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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Just like with the previous tea, the Christmas Eve has cinnamon as well.   And while there’s orange, vanilla, and other flavors, the major problem here is the spearmint.  It was too overpowering for me.  I wasn’t a fan.  And while I may like spearmint gum (and that’s not my favorite either), this did not work for me.

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And that’s a shame because I love Christmas Eve the day itself, but this tea didn’t work.  I envision some will like it, but I doubt I will be having this anytime soon.  It was, in my opinion, an ambitious effort that comes up short.

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Now we go to what was my favorite, Christmas Morning.  How apropos.  Didn’t you love Christmas morning as a kid.  And I mean the day itself.  You loved the simplicity of it, the time with family, opening gifts, the smiles, the music, the food, the smells, and all the other little things you can’t put into words.

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This is my kind of tea.  It’s a simple mix of black and jasmine green teas.  And while I love all the creativity of these tea blends with dynamic flavors, fruits, oils, and other essences of this universe; sometimes you just want a straight forward tea.

This is as straight forward and simple as it gets.

I remember drinking this thinking this is my dad’s kind of tea.  He got me into drinking simple black, Earl Grey, and eventually green teas.  This is just a blend of all those simple tea drinking moments with family.

This is the kind of tea that speaks to me.  Well all have things that hit home, in a spiritual sense that makes us something bigger than whatever it is that we’re eating, drinking, doing, and in this instance sipping.   I felt an out-of-body experience while having this cup.  And as I write about this, those feelings are coming back.

It applies to this tea, and I hope it applies to you and yours this holiday season.   This tea is beautiful and I hope the rest of your season is beautiful, through Christmas and beyond.

Here are my previous holiday posts on Stash, here and here.

For more on Stash Tea, here is their story, teas available for purchase online, and where to find their teas at a store near you.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

 

Festively Flavored

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I teased it last week and knew I was going to go back for a couple more from my old pals at Trader Joe’s.

When browsing their tea section, and looking for anything new I can get my hands on,  something told me to just walk around some more.  And when you’re at a store as captivating as Trader Joe’s, that’s not hard to do.

But after grabbing some free samples, at the corner of my eye in in the refrigerated beverage area, I spotted something new, something hopefully something inspiring, and most important of all, something perfect for the holiday, and the season.

They have recently introduced Kombucha to their already impressive repertoire of teas, and for that matter many of their food and drink products.   It was only a matter of time.  It never crossed my mind to think they would carry Kombucha until now.

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When I saw the two on display basically begging to be purchased, I didn’t hesitate one second.

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I will admit that when I saw the Gently Gingered Kombucha Tea, I thought it read Gently Gingerbread, which would be quite ambitious.  Could you in theory make gingerbread flavored Kombucha?  Of course you can.  But that’ll have to wait.   This is…

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This wasn’t good.  This is about as flat as a Kombucha I’ve ever had.  And it’s not that it was terrible.  Take out hoping that this would taste like the flavors of the season you love so much, it doesn’t take like much.

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If you’re not into fermented drinks, this is not where you want to go.  These are meant to be sipped, savored, appreciated, and and drank slowly like you would have a cup of tea.  But this was a struggle.   I usually save my Kombuchas for a while if they’re in protected packaging.  This is the first I’ve had in a can, and I don’t think that’s anything to really expound upon, other than the fact is I’m going to have a hard time wanting to drink this again.  But if was able to be sealed I may give it another chance.   And  you know what, I still might?

You taste ginger but it’s light, it’s lacking, and it’s missing the heart and soul I want from a tea and now the Kombucha I drink.   This was about $2-$2.50, so I wouldn’t dissuade you from not trying it.  You might love it.  But I would say proceed with caution.

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The Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s you see here and in the next display of sweet treats are mainly for display, as I still want to celebrate all the deliciousness that Trader Joe’s has to offer.

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All is forgiven and all is glorious, because their current offering, just in time for the holidays, the Organic Cranberry Spiced Apple Kombucha represents everything that’s right with the world, and that includes Christmas.  Especially Christmas and the holidays.

This makes me so happy.  The color tells one story, but the combination of cranberry juice, apple juice, and cinnamon within this black tea work-of-art is just what you want this month.  I would say you could have this year round.  Yes you can.

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Again, while this one is easy to drink, it’s one you take your time with.   The amount you see poured here is the amount I had.  Yet this one was kinder to my stomach , so you know the probiotics are working! I can’t rave about this one enough.   And at a little under $3, it’s worth splurging a bit on this.

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Can’t forget those Peppermint Joe Joe’s.  Again, this is not really a pairing but more so an homage to all the joys of this holiday.

This will not be it for Trader Joe’s, as my history has shown, I will always be on the lookout for whatever awesome item they will introduce next.  Just when I think I’ve done it all, I know I never will, nor do I want to.

This is a journey, it’s a marathon, and anything but a race.  It’s not a race against time or anything else.  Though the holidays may feel like all of the above and then some, it’s about enjoying all the moments you can, with amazing food, drink, and of course the people.   We’ve got a lot holiday left and I look forward to what’s next.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

Walking In A Winter Wake Up Tea

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I honestly thought I went through so many of the teas at Trader Joe’s, that I thought it would be a while till I got around to talking about one of my favorite stores in any capacity.   My fear is that this would go past the holidays and they would be left out in the cold.

Not a chance.  And there’s no need to worry.  Everything is going to be alright.  After all it’s the holidays.  This is where magic, hope, joy, peace, prosperity, and a universal feeling of love means the best of what’s around.  Yes I did just quote someone.

Here’s my Trader Joe’s history lesson.

Maybe a break was needed.  There’s so many teas from so many companies I’ve yet to get around to.  I may never get around too.  I have my favorites, I have my sentiments, and I have a soft spot for traditions and celebrations around this time of year.  Sometimes I share tea with the ones I love.  For this one, I went at it alone.   Well there were plenty of props and snacks too.

These two debuting teas are the Apple Cranberry and the Winter Wake Up.

But with the holidays that also means loads of sweet treats, unhealthy eats, and hopefully no feelings of guilt.

You will see some of the sweet treats I purchased pictured below.  Not all of them were used with these teas, and they may be used at a later time.  I just wanted to share with a little sampling of how creative and charming the flavors of the season can truly be.

In honor of the full moon that was this past weekend, I will be working backwards, but not really, as it only makes sense.   I think (no I know) the full moon had me going a little cuckoo as well.

First is the Apple Cranberry.  What stands out is that this is not actually tea.  The description even says so.  Yet it’s all natural and full of such life.  It tastes like hot autumn, but I think this would work chilled, and if you felt the need to add a little libation to it, that would work too.  But I didn’t tell you to do that.

No tea leaves are used, so there is no caffeine.  It’s the perfect drink to relax with and maybe even ease you into a lovely nap or deep sleep.  I feel quite comfortable as I write about this now.  Not quite tired but peaceful just the same.    The combinations of apples and cranberry stand out to make this a winner.  Throw in a little cinnamon and this screams autumn, the holidays, and all is right with the world.

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Well at least in the world of tea, this is the best non tea I’ve ever had.  It might be the only non-tea, tea, I’ve ever had but that’s besides the point.  As of this past weekend I saw this at my local Trader Joe’s, but it seems to headed towards clearance if not already.  So get on it if you have a chance.

The chocolate stars are a perfect complement to your home, and for any gathering.  Mine were simply for display.  Well maybe I had one or two, oops.

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And yes this display you might as well call Christmas Commotion!

The Winter Wake Up tastes and feels like breakfast, but could be had any time.  I’d be lying if I said I had it in the morning.  But it tasted good just the same.  Yes this is more in line of your traditional black teas with cinnamon, ginger, cloves, orange peel, and licorice.

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This is a great tea, but I’ve had so many recently, that I don’t know where to rank this.  It’s not fair to rank it.  What I’m saying this, if I had this in a different context, I may think this is up there with all the awesome teas I’ve had this year, and especially this season.  I may be over analyzing a bit, but I think I’ve been spoiled.   Nevertheless, I’ll be drinking this a lot this year.

And as soon as I say all this, the flavors that came out from this cup when shared with these Speculoos Cookies made this an incredible combination.  So in a way everything I said in the previous paragraph becomes augmented to a significant extent.  These cookies are incredible, and I need to revisit these again while paired with another Trader Joe’s tea or some kind of holiday themed beverage.

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We go from Christmas Commotion to a more relaxed affair.  But both teas helped relaxed me, but I found myself settled a bit with this display.  Hence the full moon and working backwards stuff I was referring to.

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So if you can get your hands on either of these teas, and I’d say grab a few.  At $2.50 it’s not going to hurt you too much. Hopefully there is a Trader Joe’s near YOU.

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With that being said, I’m hopeful and in all likelihood going to explore a couple more tasty delights from this store I love so much.   There’s a lot of time and a lot of holiday themed teas and drinks to explore, from Trader Joe’s and many other magical places. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you.

I hope you’re having a great holiday season up to this point, and wish you many great days ahead.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen