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.

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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

Sunday In The Summer Tea Party

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The calendar still reads September.  My love affair with Infused Tea Company concludes (for now) with what have been my favorite of the three.  Actually I can’t say that for sure. Each visit over the weekend told a different story, yet it also told something similar.

After knowing what to expect, my third visit was anything but ordinary and predictable. I just love not knowing what I’m going to order ahead of time.  A large menu with so many options helps.  It helps with expanding my palate, my horizons, and ultimately making this another endearing and perhaps out-of-body experience.

Saying I love tea is an understatement.   It’s been a part of my life since the beginning.  It will always be a part of me.  Whoever invented tea and the whole experience has created a way of life, that is way past the point of cultural.  It’s just a part of so many of us.  It’s become commonplace that I’m hoping the majority of us appreciate how beautiful the ritual is.  Because tea with friends, with family, with snacks, or with nothing at all is something so genuine that words will not always paint a picture of this joyous thing.

What also brings me joy is Matcha.   And over the past couple of years, via this blog, and other wonderful situations, it’s also become a staple of my life.

And this leads me to the conclusion of what has been a Summer to remember.  This was back in June, but the Infused Tea Company of my other adopted city St. Petersburg, FL.

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I didn’t even need to look at the menu this time.  On display for everyone to see (well it was kind of understated all the same) was a sign for Matcha Lemonade. I may have seen it the day before and kept it in on file, or this was a spontaneous and welcome surprise.

What a surprise this was.

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You might think that the dichotomy of flavors with how the powdery green the matcha tastes against the sweetness of the lemonade would be a disaster.  Not even close.  This blend worked perfectly.  And it worked that at least for me, it’s not something you’re going to drink quickly.  I took enough sips and enjoyed my time outside, that it felt like time stood still, I could do this all day, and I think I did do this all day.  Timeless..

I got another pastry to for display, and to complement my enchanting beverage. Seriously, how photogenic does this all look?

And once again the views and the weather could not have been better.  We’re in the 80’s to 90’s on this June day, which ironically wasn’t technically in the Summer.  Not that big of a detail but now that we’re in Autumn, the temperatures are basically the same, and will be like this for a while.  So while here in Maryland, lemonade and iced tea may begin to phase out, in beautiful Florida, you can have everything.  And everything is everything.

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But this Matcha Lemonade was one of those spiritually healing and invigorating kinds of drinks.  Again, I don’t know the exact words to give it, but this was special.  I can imagine having this at home, or somewhere local, still finding it special but maybe not having the same memorable experience.  Not everything is nor should it be.

This was my last day of vacation.  It was bittersweet (and I don’t mean the lemonade) but also a feeling of calmness came over me.  It was time to go home.  I saw some great friends, did some great things, ate some yummy food, and have some of the best tea experiences I’ve ever had in my life.

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The bikers I mentioned from last week were back and the crew looked bigger.  That’s a great life and that’s how I’m told the Gulf Coast does.  It’s all about outdoor activities and living a healthy lifestyle.  I was living vicariously through them, but in a way I was living vicariously through myself.   Oh man… I miss this city so much.

That’s it for now.  If there’s time I’ll throw in another post from this amazing place.  I love St. Petersburg so much.  I love Infused Tea Company so much.  I’m so glad I was invited to visit, and so grateful I got to experience such an amazing tea scene.

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I’ll be back and can only hope the experiences I’ve had thus far (my Florida experiences can be found here and here), can come close or maybe even exceed what I’ve seen thus far.

Here is the link to purchase their awesome teas, their accesories, and their location for those local or visiting.

Thank you so much Infused Tea Company, St. Petersburg, and Tampa.   It’s been a glorious time.

Fall and pumpkin themed teas as we head towards October, begin next week.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

 

Jasmine Pearls

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You sometimes don’t know where the best teas will come from.   I could go on some long winded rant about how the best teas could be loose, or in bags, or from other source.  And I might also say the best of the best may find you.   When you aren’t looking it just comes your way.  I’ve gone on and on about the metaphysical and spiritual aspects of tea drinking.  It’s a subconscious and conscious experience all at the same time.

The team I’m going to write about here is from a company I’ve never heard of, and it was sipped at a place I’ve never been to before, and in a place I would least expect.   Actually it wouldn’t be near the last place I’d expect, but it’s fun to say that for dramatic purposes. But it was at a place where it only seems fitting.

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I’m happy to say that the Haiku White Tea from The Jasmine Pearl Tea Company is one of those teas I’ll be thinking about for a long time.

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What makes this even all the more special is this was after appetizers, after wine, and after a fantastic dinner at Vin 909 in gorgeous Annapolis, MD.  And this location is as cozy, charming, and welcoming as it gets.  But more on this awesome restaurant later in the week.

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But this tea oh my goodness.  Maybe it was the setting, maybe it was the ambiance, the location, the meal, the energy, and the everything.  It doesn’t matter.  Good tea is good tea and great tea is even better.  This was on another level.

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I don’t talk about white tea enough.  I’m grateful I got to write about a expertly crafted one here. The white with natural peach, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean flavors makes this a unique medley of flavors that I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure of having altogether before. Throw in orange peel and rose hips (which I couldn’t taste since I was mesmerized by everything else) and this is a tea I strongly recommend, but only wish was available at a store near me.

The good news is you can purchase this tea among so many selections online.

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To me, this tea is a throwback to so many I’ve had in the past.  It felt like a culmination of something.  No, not the culmination, or else that’s even more over-the-top, and I’m just getting warmed up.

The majority of restaurants we go to do have tea. But not like this.  And the tea offerings are usually along the lines of the most standard label, which usually means a black tea, and anything but herbal.  And there’s nothing right or wrong about that.   Higher end (which is what I consider Vin 909 to be) restaurants don’t (and for good reason) consider their after dinner menus as well thought out as I’ve seen Vin 909’s.    And this is part of what I forgot to mention earlier.

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You usually get this presentation at tea shops and cafes, so this gave me that warm and happy feeling.  Anytime I see a teapot with infuser, I’m super excited.  Yet, I try to keep that enthusiasm to myself or I may be asked to leave the premises.

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The tea paired with a heavily rich Chocolate pot de creme.  It was comfort food for a time of comfort.  It’s January, we’re still in a bit of the holiday hangover.  This is the time to be practicing healthy eating and drinking habits.  Apparently this was the last thing on my mind.

For more on the wine pictured below, click here.

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The dessert was an interesting counterbalance to the tea.  I split it with company, and still could barely eat any.  But the joyous tea was one I was thrilled to split 50/50.

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I’m craving a pot all to myself right about now.    But I would be a fool to say that everything else leading up to this was tremendous, that it made the after dinner experience that much better.

Where is this going?  I go to a farm-to-table restaurant/wine bar and all I write about is the tea?   I keep my universes separate, but this will all make sense as the week progresses.

In all honesty, depending on where the next posts go, the tea one might have been the easiest or most difficult to right.  How about that for a bold prediction?

If you are in or around the Annapolis area, I cannot recommend Vin 909 enough.

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Here is their menu, their wines (more on this this later this week), and a little more about them.

I was happy to learn that owner and general manager, Alex Manfredonia is a big supporter of my dear friend’s organization, Anne Arundel County CASA.

It makes me happy to support a great restaurant that supports a greater cause.

This will all be elaborated on later.

For more on the incredible and incomparable Jasmine Pearl Tea Company, click here, more about them, their story, and of course where to buy.

It’s a Vin 909 kind of week.

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To be continued…

Ideen

One More For Philadelphia

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That title sounded open-ended enough, that there will be more from just one of my favorite cities.   So tis the season for fun, for friendship, friends (wait what), family, food, and frenzy!

And there’s always room for tea.  Because tea encompasses everything I stated above, and so much more.

Several months back, I went on a tea shopping spree in Philadelphia (you can read about them here and here) and the experiences were awesome overall.   And I saved a few gems for later.  When I was going to get to them all depended on timing, whether the content was relevant, and how the holidays would influence my posts.

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However, if I waited too long, my visit to Ray’s Cafe & Tea House in Chinatown may feel more like a footnote than a proper review of a charming experience.

There’s no thrills to this place.  If you look on the outside, one might presume exactly that. And that’s a good thing.  Many of the businesses in the neighborhood follow the same pattern on the outside and from within.

The interior had a standard counter for ordering, with all the teas on display in the back, and just a few tables for sitting.  It felt cozy enough to feel like I was in a friends’ living room, without feeling too cramped.  My initial thought was the tables were bunched up together.  No, it was just right.

But I came for tea, not for critiquing the showroom.

I love my seasonal teas this time of year.  Actually I love ’em any time of year.  I equivocate that too the Soup of the Day or the daily special at my favorite restaurant.  It can be an exciting surprise, and a change of pace versus ordering off the menu.

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Much to my hilarious surprise the seasonal Green Tea I went with tasted a bit too familiar. Where have I tasted this before?  Could it be that’s it actually the tea listed below, the Jasmine Green?   I can trick my mind into otherwise, but the taste is too overpowering too ignore.

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No I’m not complaining.  The tea was wonderful.   The pot and overall display was overall magnifique.  And what is seasonal to you and me, might be seasonal to someone else.  Maybe I ordered the Jasmine and not realized.  Maybe their seasonal tea is a play on that too.  Maybe they were making fun of me.   I would be too. The manager saw me taking photos.  I was in awe of this set-up.  Many have been posted for your viewing pleasure

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And how can anyone complain about getting a free cookie?  That’s a holiday special in and of itself

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The tea was divine.  The energy inside was divine. The tea never stood a chance.  I sipped it in proper time.  After I did my photos, I enjoyed myself for a long while.  I was in my zen pose.  No, I actually wan’t posing.  I was just at peace.

I did this place.  I will be back and maybe order something off of their extensive menu.  But for now, I’ll savor this experience.

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If you’re in the Chinatown neighborhood of Philadelphia, give them a visit. It’s a tranquil experience in a city that doesn’t always attract that kind of calming.

This was the perfect segue into the holidays.  I look forward to what December will bring. But I truly appreciate Ray’s for what it was. It’s simple, soothing, and the tea was sensational.  If you find a better synonym (oops) that starts with ‘s”,  I’ll change it.

More alliteration and awesome (ha) tea reviews to come.

Happy Holiday Season,

Ideen

Feeling Grateful

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Every experience is just that, an experience.   For some, getting a cup of tea or any beverage, like a cup of coffee, or a meal is just standard operating procedure. For me, the tea drinking experience is one of the most spiritual of all.   I see it as more than just drinking tea.  There’s a sense of zen and calming that usually happens for me, especially when I’m not looking for it. This isn’t always case.  But more times than not a feeling comes over me.

If I’m feeling down or bummed out about something, a cup of tea can slowly lift my spirits and re-energize my soul.  It’s a gradual process.  If it’s rapid, it’s only because the experience is pure.  Otherwise it’s inauthentic and unnatural.  And that contradicts the journey of a tea lover.   So this post really embodies why tea means so much to me.  And I knew it was going to happen as soon as I found….

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How fitting that I get to write about Matcha Time Cafe just days before Thanksgiving.

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Once again my travels bring me to one of my favorite parts of the state of Maryland, Ellicott City.  I’ve made mention recently about my love for this town and I’m blessed and thankful to have another opportunity to write about EC and as an added bonus, this remarkable  cafe.

For all the times I’ve been in town, I’ve never actually been here.  I’ve never noticed it. Nestled in the heart of town (and I mean heart) almost seems fitting.  It’s in the center where some other charming shoppes and restaurants are located.  It’s the epitome of the beautiful small town settings you read about, or sometimes seen portrayed positively in television shows or cinemas.  Here I go again raving about a place and I haven’t even walked in and tried a thing.

But like I said earlier.  I knew this would be special.   After literally getting goose bumps walking towards Matcha, I finally walked in.

I figured that based on the name and the decor, that the store is Japanese owned and operated.  This adds an authenticity you don’t get everywhere.

I wish I talked to the manager more.  She was as friendly a person as I’ve ever come across. She and the friendly person at the register let me sample their seasonal teas.

Tis the season, so holiday themed teas are a must.   My first scent was the Cinnamon Plum and without any hesitation that’s what I went with.  I ordered a pot because I figure let me take this all in.  I’m not in any rush.  The rush will come as we approach Christmas.  Right now (well it should be like this most of the time) is a time to rest, relax, and be at peace with myself and my surroundings.  And that’s exactly what I did.

I had a few minutes before my pot would be ready.  So I did some browsing…

There’s a beautiful gift shop within the cafe.  I took pictures for your viewing pleasure.  For those local to the area, keep that in mind for your small business shopping.  I intend to be back soon.

Before I completely digress I want to make mention that I’m fascinated with Japanese culture so I felt right at home and not everything looked unfamiliar to me.  I don’t want to make this too much about me but what did this do is enhance this experience.  And yes this is all without having a sip of tea.

My new friend had asked me where I wanted to sit.  It was nice enough outside that I gladly found a seat on the front patio.

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This is where charming goes to a whole new level.  She gave me a timer with a countdown clock, essentially telling me that after 5 minutes the tea will be perfect enough to drink. Otherwise it may get lost with how hot it would be.  This is taking customer service to a whole new level.  I was so happy in that moment.

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She even gave me a holder for my strainer after each cup was well, strained.  I got a good three plus cups out of it.  And I took my time.  I mean I really took my time.  I was alone but I wasn’t.   I felt like I was the only man on earth but I was with spirits.  Whether they were angels or something else I don’t know.  But I felt an energy field around me that words will never give it justice.  It’s one of those things that I almost left out.  It’s also one of those experiences that maybe I keep to myself and in my internal memory bank.

But no, this is a small business, this is Ellicott City, and this is a world class operation that deserves all the praise in the world.  And oh yes the tea was incredible.  The cinnamon and plum combination is one that rejuvenated me by cup number three.  Like I said before, it was organic and ethereal.  It’s something that can never be recreated.  I’m glad I took a lot of photos.  But after a while I said enough, this is for me.  It can be for you too.  It can be for any of us.  If you’re within driving distance, you’ve got to come here.

I think I was here a good hour, maybe more.  Where that time went I don’t know. Time stood still.  My vantage point was pretty awesome.  Some photos I will keep to myself but I’ll definitely post some to give you the impression of what I was feeling.

But what I said in the beginning rings true.  Every experience is different and can be similar.  It’s all what we choose to see.  I chose to see the best in this when it was already breathtaking to begin with.

As I was returning my pot and cup, the manager actually bowed to me.  It was so flattering, but all I could think is I should be bowing to her.  I know it’s Japanese tradition but it should have been me humbling myself to her.   So this is me bowing to Matcha and saying thank you, Happy Thanksgiving, and Happy Holidays.

Here is their menu, brewing info (which I’m mesmerized by), and some education materials.

And here’s another post I made on beautiful Ellicott City.

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It’s going to be a great holiday season.  On this experience alone, it’s already first class. I can’t wait to see what’s in store next.

Ideen

I Love Naptown

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Annapolis has been so good to me this Summer.  More importantly than that, Naptown has been good to so many of us.  For me, this will go down as the Summer of Annapolis. But I don’t want Summer to end.  I don’t want my sentimental experiences and discoveries in Annapolis to end.  I won’t allow it.  I hope in the coming months, I will have uncovered plenty of other amazing finds in our state capital.

The amount of driving and walking, in the area, I’ve done recently has skyrocketed.  I’m drawn to this town.  We’re like magnets to each other.  One part that is still foreign to me is the Village of West Annapolis.  More times than not I would pass through and never stop. Why wouldn’t I stop? There’s no rush.  And speaking of rush…Ah I’m corny.  But one day recently I decided to park and take a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood. It’s a happy town within a happy town.  It’s another universe.

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After a few minutes walking around this heavenly setting, I knew a cafe of some sort had to be around.  No I did not do any research ahead of time.  I wanted to go in without any knowledge of  what was around.  Playing lost tourist is a preference.

Bean Rush Cafe had my heart from the get go.  It’s somewhere I’d frequent regularly if I lived in the area.   And seriously, I would be here everyday.  It had the most welcoming signage, pictures, and outdoor setting I can remember.  I’vet yet to even walk in or even talk about a tea, and I’m raving about it.  Yes tea was purchased.

There’s a lot going on inside.  They sell tea, tea instruments, loose tea, and of course coffee.  I did order a coffee to go but that’s for another blog, if ever.

The staff was incredibly friendly to the point it was scary.   There’s an abundance of great people in the world, but this was on another level.  Their story explains so much.

I wanted a chilled tea since the weather called for it, so they suggested their Peach Green Tea, that is their most popular.  So I decided to follow the crowd, and I’m glad I did.

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The floral arrangements hit my nose immediately.  This wasn’t as sweet to me as the team member said it would be.  And I’m good with that.  A little sweetness goes a long way. As time went on the sweetness began to permeate.  The cup had time to settle and open up, and it got better by the minute.  This was fantastic to say the least.

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I was able to snag a chair outside, and the views made my tea that much better. Great ambiance is always important, but this was out-of-this-world.  And as I mentioned earlier this was another world.  I knew i was in Annapolis, but I felt insulated and I felt safe.

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A multitude of pictures were taken but after that, the cameras were off and I stayed here for a while.  And when I mean a while, I mean at least an hour.   This an experience to be savored.  In so many ways, I felt it was too good for me to even write about.  But this needed to be shared.

If you get a chance, definitely swing by.  I don’t know if what I’m saying does this place justice.   I will be back and I’m hoping that return is soon.

You may notice I had a sweet treat to go with my tea.  Recognize the chocolate pieces?  This is a tribute to the Olympics that have since concluded, and one of the great commercials of all time.

Here’s their Annapolis menu, their contact information, and yes they have a mobile cafe! That’s so cool!  And they also have a location in nearby Crownsville.

My previous Annapolis based posts can be found here.

What else can I say?  It feels great, it feels inspiring, it feels like home.    I love being home.

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Kindest,

Ideen

Oh Is For Orange, Oh Wait..

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I’m not sure what the title even means.  I’m not even sure how to explain the experience I had at Hard Bean Coffee and BooksellTEAers.   Yes, they have coffee and books.   But this has got to do with the tea correct?  Correct.  And this post will go to show that not everything in Annapolis, like last week, is rosy.   There’s a not so inside joke or pun there somwhere.

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I’ve been going to this place for quite a number of years but the experiences tend to deteriorate each time.   Perhaps the newness and cache of being in the neighborhood was enough to overcompensate for any deficiencies.    And my tastes have evolved as well as my empathy.

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But my last few visits have left so much to be desired.   In a pinch I’ve grabbed coffee and/or a snack to go.   For such a colossal space I’ve seen a decrease in the amount of patrons as I’ve grown accustomed to in the past.  Maybe I’m not alone in my sentiments?

Yet my own idealism and naivete leads me to give this place another go. And because I have to be so contrarian again to get tea in a coffee shop.  But they do have loose tea, so it’s not that eccentric of me

It was a sunny  and scorching day (I’m not complaining), so something remotely sweet and light was what I was looking forward to.   I went with the blood orange. Ordinarily I would be loving this but the vibe threw everything off kilter.

Maybe it’s the universe, maybe it’s me, maybe it’s everything, but the staff was even more disorganized and lackadaisical than usual.  I should have been more specific earlier but not only has service been slow but it’s been dismissive as well.  And it’s not something I take too personally.   I figure folks may have an off day but this has been a consistent narrative with this establishment.   The wait times for my food and beverage have taken much longer than necessary.  I get a sense that it’s deliberate.   This reinforces my point in how I see less guests here and more flocking to other more welcoming establishments nearby.

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What gets lost in all this is the tea itself.  The orange with what I can only assume has orange peels and floral components would ordinarily be masterful here, but the negative energy surrounding me brings this down several notches.  It’s dispiriting.   The whole point of all is this it to enjoy a cup, your surroundings, and most importantly yourself.  I would go with none of the above here.

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In the majority of situations I’d be singing the praises of this tea, but this was as mediocre and vapid as it gets.   I was so off-kilter at first that I started sipping and taking photos inside forgetting how nice it was outside.

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When I got my bearings together I found some solace at an outside table but it was too little too late.  I didn’t want any more.   I’ll definitely seek it out again, just somewhere else.  And if past experiences will dictate, it will be in a much more spiritual and energizing setting.

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You might be asking about the quiche that I paired with my tea.  An unusual pairing? The irony is that this was the most normal thing about this experience.  And that’s not saying much.

There’s a whole Summer for great sips and memories.   Here’s to better ones ahead.

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Best,

Ideen