Oh Christmas Tea

alexandriateaoutside

I’m sad Christmas is officially over. From my perspective it felt like it went at a steady and solid pace.  With all the parties with family and friends, the food, the shopping, errands, and everything in between, it felt just right.  For me it felt like time stood still at times. And I’m all for that.  Time is always relative and for the most part it’s been moving at such a rapid pace, we often forget where the time goes.

alexandriateafront

I envision that for at least the next few weeks the tea discussion will pertain to the holidays, and at the very least winter.  But for now I feel I can safely talk about the Christmas Tea from one of my new favorite tea shops, Old Town Coffee, Tea, and Spice.

christmastea1

Yes indeed my travels bring me back to the town where I was born, Alexandria, VA.  And usually I get the opportunity to be here during the holidays, and even though this was post-Christmas, I feel that the universe had a different plan for me.

Some months ago a good friend of mine had wanted to bring me to this shoppe, which was at another location, only to see that it was closed.  The timeline could not have been more bizarre.  I came to find out that it was literally within their transition to their new shoppe. And the new location is literally footsteps from the old location.   How these things work out is something else.   I was not meant to experience this store until now.  Call it one of those Christmas Miracles or whatever, but I will always remember this holiday season for many things, but my time here (albeit brief) is one I will always treasure.

Even if other folks don’t find the sentimentality with this place, I can.

What I mean is, the place was busy.  Customers wanted their cups of tea and coffee in a hurry.   Maybe they’re regulars or just people shopping nearby looking for a quick pick me up.  If I wanted a coffee at a coffee shop I may be inclined to temper my excitement as well. But the teas and all the tea gifts, gadgets, and gizmos in stock made me feel like a kid in a tea shoppe.  Did you expect me to say candy?  I’ve had more than my share this Christmas.

You can’t help but be in awe of all the loose teas in house.   I mean we’re talking hundreds. I wanted a holiday or Christmas themed tea, and just when I thought I was going to give up, I see near the top their Holiday Tea.  Unfortunately it was sold out.  However, the gentleman working the counter, countered (see what I did there?) with an idea of mixing chocolate, peppermint, and raspberry teas, and calling it a holiday a tea.  That’s quick thinking and a man who is a master at his craft.   He said he can call it anything he wanted. I’m wowed by everything this happening right now.  He thought I wanted a bag.  For now, I was going to just get a cup.

christmastea2

And just when I was going to get this blend, I see the Christmas Tea Blend, and of course I went with that.

alexandriateaoutside3

How he brewed this tea I will never know.  It felt like a millisecond between opening the tea and heating that I never saw how he brewed this cup.  And I wish I got a picture of this, but he held the tea back with a toothpick.   He said the steeping time needed to be two minutes max or the hibiscus would become muddled.  This was all such a fascinating experience.

alexandriateaoutside5

I didn’t get a chance to ask what was in it but I suspect orange peel and cinnamon upon viewing and sniffing.   And with a sweet treat it only came out to a couple dollars and change.  I was just amazed by what I just witnessed that I almost didn’t want to share this. It’s a constant reminder that my love of a tea is also a forever learning process.

alexandriateaoutside4

It also made gave me a little closure on Christmas.  When one door closes, another one opens.  And I’ve opened quite the door.  This was my first, but nowhere close to the last time I visit this tea shoppe.

alexandria

If you’re in the area, and have never been here, I strongly suggest you visit.  It’s got this cozy and unpretentious vibe that reminds me why I love Old Town Alexandria so much.

And I don’t know how long their Christmas Tea blend will be available, but as you can see they had more than enough to go around.

There’s photos from the shoppe all across this post.  In addition, I’ll leave you with some photos of the surrounding area and some of the fun Christmas decor this city bestowed upon its citizens.

I love this town.  I love this shoppe.  And I love Christmas.

Hopefully your Christmas was awesome as well!

P.S. I loved this tea.

Merry and Happy to you!

Ideen

Pumpkin Parade

It seems like the only thing I’ve been writing about is pumpkins.  I’m going to enjoy these moments because as nauseating as it may be for some, I’m sentimental to it.  And I know many others that are too.

It’s November, the holidays are approaching, and it’s good to find the positives in this time.  As the weather gets colder, our drinking and eating habits will slowly adapt to those changes.   My tea sipping habits will be going through a transformation as well.  I made this more dramatic than it needed to be.  But I’m having fun here.

Spice&TeaAlexandria

This week takes us back to one of my favorite tea companies, The Spice & Tea Exchange.

I was lucky to find myself at the Alexandria location last month and the timing couldn’t have been better.

Spice&TeaDisplay2Spice&TeaDisplay

They had their fall display set-up and loaded with all kinds of fun teas, spices, and other various provisions for the season. When I walked into that I was sold.  But I also want to give a formal thank you to Jerome.  He was very helpful in showing me around the store and recommending season teas along with sugars to purchase.

There will be at least one follow-up post next week, and maybe the week after depending on how the rest of this month goes.  But I want to give credit where credit is due.  This was a fantastic experience.  Jerome and a couple of the other folks working were so friendly and let me feel like a kid in a candy store.

This week, from their Fall FesTEAvities collection, I will be talking about the Pumpkin Chai Latte Tea.

I had fun brewing it, sniffing it, but I didn’t love it.  I don’t know if it was how I brewed it or something in the atmosphere, but something didn’t click.

It smells amazing.  And I’m salivating at the thought of it now.  This has happened before.   The aroma doesn’t always translate to a winning taste.  It might be my tastes have changed.  I’ve had some good chai’s so that isn’t it.  I’ve had some that have let me dismayed too.  I’d put this somewhere in between.

I do have one thought.  Maybe the ingredients are all-natural that it tastes exactly how it should.  There’s no harmful additives or artificial flavors to augment the taste.  That part I love.  The ingredients are listed above. Like I said, it smells great it just doesn’t compute in my eyes.   Maybe it’s too much of a good thing?   I’m not sure about less is more.  I’ve had teas with a dozen plus ingredients that have been a staple in my life for years.

They all can’t be winners and by no means will this discourage me from purchasing teas and other items from here.  This store has been so good to me and my friends.   I can’t wait to come back and look forward to doing more positive write ups in the future.  And one will likely take place next week.

For your viewing pleasure I’ve photographed the brewing and steeping experience.

PumpkinChaiPumpkinChaiBackPumpkinChai1

PumpkinChaiBagPumpkinChaiSpoon

PumpkinChaiPrepPumpkinChaiSteep

PumpkinChaiSteep2

PumpkinChaiReadyPumpkinChaiReadyToSip

Can you see the steam in the last few pictures above? Pretty awesome!

PumpkinChai&Pancakes

The pumpkin pancakes totally complemented the tea and definitely heightened the flavors of my cup but it wasn’t the best I’ve had.   Maybe next time.

PumpkinChaiWithPumpkinPumpkinChai&PumpinPancakesPumpkinChaiSpread

And more next week!

Unfortunately these items are sold out online.  If there’s a location near you I’d highly recommend grabbing this and the other seasonal teas.  Just because I didn’t enjoy it as much as I hoped doesn’t mean you won’t.

For previous posts on this great company click here, here, and also here!

Best,

Ideen

It Was Raining

TeaismTeas

Two weeks in a row I find myself in Virginia.  And changing up the locations means finding a new spot or two to write about one of my favorite subjects.    Last week was a gem.  So how did this one fare?  Not as good.

Through my local travels,  I found myself in Alexandria, VA.  To say I’m sentimental is an understatement.  It’s the town where I was born, so any time I pass through here or plan a visit I get a warm feeling inside.  I feel like it’s a badge of honor.  It was meant to be.

TeaismOut

And Old Town is in the heart of it all.  It’s got it’s historic and authentic feel with its cobblestone streets, red brick sidewalks, cozy looking row homes, and small businesses.   It’s pure class that is worth visiting.  I prefer neighborhoods like this as opposed to the craziness of major downtown epicenters.

And there’s plenty of tea abound.   Unfortunately my visit here was not one to write home about.   I have visited Teaism in the past and never felt completely satisfied.   There has just been something off with my purchases, the energy of the establishment, or it could be my own goofiness.   But it’s a few visits and I’ve always felt a weird vibe.

It’s in a newer part of town that doesn’t feel historic.  It feels a bit more corporate.  That doesn’t make it a bad thing.  But it’s not necessitating the joy and fun I look for when I want a peaceful cup of tea.

TeaismOutside

It was pouring down rain on this particular visit.  And a soothing flavor was just what I had hoped to obtain.  I opted for the Berry Beauty and the Chai.  I’m not here much so I wanted to try a some I don’t often think to order.

TeaismBerry

The berry contained hibiscus which I usually enjoy.  This was not good at all.  I didn’t like the flavor whatsoever.  It tasted like the sweet and sour clashed, but then went off in another direction.  It just didn’t come as advertised.  I was disappointed.  I was hoping for something more delightful.

TeaismChai

The chai was ok.  I’ve had them from other places (tea shops, coffee shops, grocery stores) that tasted much better.  It wasn’t bad.  It just didn’t wow me whatsoever.

TeaismInside

The setup of the shop is puzzling to me.  I imagine some people like it.  It’s a restaurant, tea house, and contains a little tea store in the middle.   Additionally, when you order carry-out or in the restaurant, you have to walk to the back to pick it up.  I think it sound more complex in person.  Something about the dynamic doesn’t feel natural.  And the energy felt stuffy once again.

TeaismFunTeaismShoppe

The shoppe items looked cool but I didn’t have time to stay too long and peruse.

Their menu is interesting and seems all over the map.  I didn’t feel it was approachable either.   The staff was friendly for the most part.  The gentleman who was working the front seemed to be going through the motions.  That’s just my interpretation.

But with all that being said, I would like to come back.   Maybe I’ll bring a friend or two with me and see how they feel.   And there’s so many flavors to try and hopefully I’ll find a nice meal to pair it with.

TeaismFacadeTeaismSideTeaismFront

I think this place is much better than the experiences that I’ve had so I hope to be back within the next month or two.   They also have three locations in Washington, DC but that’ll come in time.  For now, any excuse to come to one of my favorite towns is good enough for me.

All the best,

Ideen

Blueberry Black Birthday Tea!

Tovolo

Well I just can’t help myself with the alliteration, can I?

I celebrated a birthday recently, and some dear friends got me some wonderful tea based gifts!  It made me so happy!

I’ve yet to visit the Spice & Tea Exchange.  It always seems to allude me.  I’m at nearby locations, either before it opens or past dark, including Alexandria, Annapolis, and Williamsburg.  It just hasn’t been meant to be.

So the store has come to me via my awesome friends!   Namely, the Ocean City, MD location, which has just opened recently!   Contact information pictured below.

Spice&Tea

The blog needed some spicing up (no pun intended) and some new tea implements, instruments, and gadgets will be making their way onto here!

So what’s that cool thing pictured at the top?  It’s a tea infuser from Tovolo!  This was also part of the gift package!  How beautiful is that!

BlueberryTeaBlueberryBackLabel

PrettyLeaves

And what about the tea that was used?  The Blueberry Black Tea really made my day.  It gave me chills.  And I don’t meant the tea was cold.  It literally gave me goose bumps.  This stuff was magnificent.  I’m getting a happy feeling just writing about it here.   I got a great picture of the leaves up close, as can be seen pictured above!  This was placed in the ball of the infuser before I closed it up  to be steeped.

TovoloTuesdaysTovoloOpened

What you see pictured above and below is the joyful process of using my new favorite item!  It definitely prevents a mess and dripping, as other infusers might do!   I’m in love with this thing and I’m in love with the tea!

TovoloPreSoPrettyTovoloMasterpiece

After steeping for just a few minutes, the color really shines and radiates!

BlueberryBlackComplete

It smells like a wonderful blueberry pie.   While I had no pie to complement the tea.  There were some delicious walnuts that I enjoyed with my cup!

TeaWithWalnuts

Going forward, many more loose teas will be featured from this wonderful store and with my cool new toy!

I love going through the Spice & Tea Exchange’s website. There’s much to discover and learn.   I see they’ve been around for just 10 years.  But they really have some fun teas and related items available. I can’t wait to visit myself.

This is how we get the Summer going in style.  I feel great about what’s to come.

Thanks so much.

Best,

Ideen