Feeling Grateful – Part II

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This life is fun and funny at times.  What started out as any other day (and I don’t like days just being ordinary or like ‘any other day’), turned into one that was full of happiness, joy, hope, and many things to look forward to in the present, as well as the future.

But it’s always important to live in the present tense.

As one door opens, so does another, and a return to one of my favorite places in Historic Old Ellicott City, the wonderful Matcha Time Cafe.  I absolutely adore this place.

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I find it so wonderful, that a bonus post, outside of my usual Tuesday style, was absolutely necessary.  Actually none of this is necessary, but to me, it’s important enough to expound upon, especially as the Ellicott City Spring Festival takes place this coming Saturday.

It’s not like business will be slow, or this or any other business needs any more publicity or promotion leading into this weekend.  But that’s not the point.  The point is to promote positivity, support a local business, and support someone who I now consider a friend.

When I made the most incredible and memorable of discoveries back in November of 2016 (story can be found here), of this gift from the universe, I thought that if there is something bigger than us and bigger than this life, this is one way the other side would look like.

I hadn’t introduced myself to the manager, Hatsumi, at the time.  Actually maybe I did after I sat outside in the what was an unseasonably warm yet picturesque day, that gave me one of the best stories, on not just about tea, but about anything.  I got some awesome pictures too. And I say that with confidence, because I haven’t read it since.  I rarely read what I write.  Maybe I’ll go back and see how well that story, among others, has aged.  I bet it’s timeless.  I know it is.

So nearly a year-and-a-half later, my return visit tells a different story, yet it’s all relative, and all means so much.

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I had given a heads up that I was on my way and was greeted with open arms.  That made me feel so good.  On a day where everything felt unique and uncomfortably fantastic at times, it was good to see a familiar face.

After a several minute chat, that became much longer, I got to sample some of the new teas for the season.  I also see that they make dumplings in house, along with so many other amazing foods.  I forgot it’s more than just a cafe.  There’s a delicious and nutritious element to their menu, that must be revisited again.  And no it won’t be another 18 months till the next time.  That’s a guarantee.

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After a few moments of deliberation, I was presented the Masala Chai Latte, and as an added bonus, a gluten free chocolate cake.  Yes it’s as rich as it gets ladies and gentlemen.  And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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The latte is as gorgeous and splendid as it looks.  It’s a bit heavy and rich, like I said, so sip carefully, slowly, and in peace.  It’s going to wake you up.  And on a day or string of days where I’ve been perpetually exhausted, this was as welcome a beverage as any.

 

ChocolateCakeAnd that cake.  I didn’t know it was gluten free until I was basically full from my tea.  I first thought there’s no way I can have all this.  When I found out it was GF,  there was this open sigh of relief. It was like a weight lifted off my shoulders.

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I enjoyed my cake later, and once again, as beautiful as it looks, it would be a shame not to eat.  It was beautiful.

Everything about this visit was beautiful.

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I’m glad I arrived when I did, right before lunch, as business started to pick up, and the time for conversation was beginning to wane.  But a good hour or so was just enough.  And like I said, I’ll be back much sooner than later.

I see this being more than a trilogy.  I see this being a recurring story, with no timetable, no expectations, just a good time with good people, and some more amazing teas and tasteful bites.

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The way I write this might feel like a transition. And maybe it is.  Maybe I’m projecting, but my intent is to project the good I’m feeling based on not just this visit, but the first one, and so many other invaluable experiences, all for the love of tea.

For more on Matcha Time Cafe click here.

I can’t wait to see where this goes next.

Have a good one, and peace be with you…

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

 

 

Trying To Carry On Tradition…

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Literally right under my nose has been this incredible display of loose teas from Wegmans itself (some under the ITO EN umbrella), and until earlier today, I didn’t pay it any mind.  Shame on me, but also I understand that maybe there was a reason it took so long to get around to trying their loose teas.

The reason might be that I’m dedicated the next three posts, over the next three days to six of their teas total.  So this is where the bonus posts are going to start showing up.  There’s so many holidays and only so much time.

As Christmas displays begin to take over the front display cases and several aisles in not just your local Wegmans but many a store,  I want to live in the moment.  We’re still over a week from Thanksgiving, winter is over a month away, and it’s still November, so let us celebrate that before we look too far ahead.

Over the next three days I will do six total teas.  So two a day.  I wish I could do more, but time and the sake of brevity may not allow that at this time.   Coming up with the right teas for the right time of a year is only challenging if you let it.  Well I let it.  There’s so many teas I want to talk about, that I will do my best to get to them this week and next week.  And then it will be time for the winter, Christmas, and all the other holiday themed teas we look forward to.

Well there I go maybe not living in the moment.   But the moment is now

First, I want to give the proper acknowledgement to Wegmans for allowing its customers to put as little or as much loose tea as we want to put in these respective bags.   Some of my bags cost under $1.00.  That’s service with a smile and at a price we all can agree with.

First up is the Salted Caramel Pumpkin Dream.  Now like all these bags, they all smelled good initially.  The aromas will stay with you even after steeping and boiling.  Yet this tea was my least of the bunch.   Nothing about this translated any further.  It had no body, no structure, and not much to offer.   It felt like an easy sipping tea that doesn’t really inspire.  It’s a tea that serves its purpose but not much else.  To call it a tea that’s just kind of there would be apropos.  And whenever pumpkin is involved, that’s even all the more disappointing.

I didn’t taste much in the way of caramel.  It was more chocolate like to me.  I just felt like there wasn’t much substance to it.

The antithesis of that would be the Creamy Vanilla Pumpkin. Not only did it tasted like it smelled, but it’s a splendid tea that I could have all year round.  And thankfully as these canisters tend to near its end for the season, I saved a bunch in these bags for me.  And this one I will look forward to enjoying even after the season passes.

And in my many ways the season passes before it ever really begins.  It almost seems that were already preparing for pumpkin season next year.  What is the rush in life?  Lets enjoy now.  This is a tea to enjoy now and quite honestly forever.  The same could be said about many teas.

Yes, some people are purists when it comes to pumpkin season.   I might be one of them.  I love the traditions.  The title of this post says so, so it must be true…

But in all seriousness, if you can get your hands on the Creamy Vanilla Pumpkin, I would encourage you to do so.  It’s possible as we get closer to Thanksgiving, you might even be able to get it at a discount rate.  I wish I would elaborate on what the ingredients are, but sometimes things are better left to interpretation.  It’s a fantastic tea and maybe there’s no need for any more than that.

And it went nice with some pumpkin O’s.  Yes any chance to find anything pumpkin I’m all for it.  My pantry is loaded with pumpkin stuff that I may eat into next year, but don’t tell anyone ok?

But I said live in the moment, not tomorrow, not next year, but the here and the now.  And while people tell me to be where I am, I need to remind myself of that fact.

So during these next few posts you will see teases of Christmas but also a celebration of now, Thanksgiving, and various cups, treats, and displays that not only make me happy now but all year round.  It’s a celebration of so many things, which is what the holidays are all about.

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I look forward to this part of the journey and I’m so grateful to change up the posts and shake things up a bit.

To find a Wegmans near you, click here.  And here’s my history of posts from this iconic and landmark grocery store.

Have a blessed one and you’ll be hearing from me tomorrow.

Ideen

Hoping There’s Time

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This week I may be cheating just a little, or I’m just pushing the boundaries oh what exactly constitutes a tea, and every now again I’ll throw in a cup of coffee.

So how fitting is it that I take it back to another familiar face and friend, Baltimore Coffee and Tea.

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This week I take it to the Odenton, MD location, which is a first time for me.  The area is quiet, it’s connected to residencies and is part of one of the many towne centers you see popping up in every town or any location that has enough people that developers see the need to justify a towne center.  While many look the same, this location and it’s surroundings does feel a bit more charming and cozy.  There’s lots of green and trees in the vicinity, which is always a good thing.

The beverages I’ll be reviewing today were based on a simple question, ‘have you tried these?’  Two out of three is pretty good, and before today that number was zero.

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I’ll save the Hot Apple Cider for later in the year, if there’s time.  But the Dirty Pumpkin Chai is something I had to try.   It’s early November, the time is now or never.  More on that in a second.

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I like the chai but it’s not setting the world on fire.  There’s truly no need for any analysis. You know what you’re going to get.  I assume black tea and milk since it’s a chai.  But it could all coffee for all I know.  I’m willing to wager zero dollars that I tasted some cinnamon, nutmeg, and all your other fall essentials.  I enjoyed it with a pumpkin biscotti.   It’s great for now and it’s great until this limited time beverage ends.  But I know there’s better out there.

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The Salted Caramel Mocha was way too rich for me.  I mean it’s coffee with stuff that I don’t usually have.   For the sake of trying something new, I wanted to try something new, but I could barely get any sips in before my stomach and my head began to ache.  There’s a lot more sugar in there than I can handle.  But again, just because I don’t care for it, doesn’t mean you won’t.  And I imagine I would be on the minority on this one.  No biscotti, or any pastry, was going to work with a drink like this.  But my cranberry and pistachi biscotti tasted great on its own.

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But in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter if these drinks are going to work for you or not.  I’m looking at the cup half full here and knowing that Baltimore Coffee and Tea has been good to me many times over the years, (previous stories can be found here) that a minor hiccup is not going to change that.

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For their coffees click here, their tea list is here, and their growing list of store can be found here.

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I made a comment about time earlier.  Because I feel (and I’m inclined to believe many others such as yourself might too) time is moving rather quickly, and there’s so many teas I want to talk about..  I may make more than just my weekly post as we head towards Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I’ve been introduced to different teas, discovered different teas, drinks, and similar entities that I feel a weekly post may not be enough.  So I hope to take this further if I can make the time.  And that’s something that can be easily done.  Yet I still have to make the time for it.

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And I will…

Have a blessed one.

Ideen

London Fogging

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I have a muse (or a dear friend rather) who I will turn into when it comes to tea suggestions.  You would think with the season we’re in, that it wouldn’t be that difficult.

And it really isn’t.

But I’m grateful for ideas and suggestions, because that’s what tea and the love of tea is all about it, informing, sharing, educating, and most important of all, sipping.

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So when my friend suggested I write about a couple of teas from Starbucks, I was intrigued and surprised.

I’m immediately thinking pumpkin this and pumpkin that.  And while there is a pumpkin pastry included with my two teas, the pumpkin teas will return at a later time.

It’s all about chai and this is quite the chai my friends.

My friend had asked me if I ever tried the Chai Latte or the London Fog Tea Latte, and suggested I write about one or the other.  The answer is right in front of me.  How about both?

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I was reminded that I may have had the Chai Latte before, when we used to frequent Starbucks on a regular basis.  I know frequent Starbucks on a regular basis.  I’ve become accustomed to local tea and coffee shops.  It’s where my heart is and it’s the symbolic gesture I feel I need to be doing.   Nevertheless, the Chai Latte is fine.  It’s just what I remember, if this is what I had before.  If you can get what I’m saying, it’s not that memorable.  And I’ve grown to like Chai’s in the past few years, partially because of this blog, and because I’m all about expanding my horizons.  This isn’t anything special.

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The pumpkin cream cheese muffin that I had with my chai, either became tainted because of my chai or it wasn’t that great on its own.  I love pumpkin and I didn’t get much pumpkin here.

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And I love cinnamon, cloves, and milk.  This screams fall and would hopefully scream success.  I know many love it, and will love it if they haven’t tried it.  To me it’s just a latte you could have anywhere, and not spend as much on it.    It’s not that it’s even that  sweet.  It’s just that I’ve had better.  And the black tea, which is the most important part of it for, seems to be lost in the shuffle with everything else.  And it’s not like there’s too many moving parts.  This would usually come together well in another setting.

And before you think I’m being hard on Starbucks…

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Then there’s the London Fog.  Oh my goodness, now we’re talking.  I knew it was great before I even ordered it.  And it’s because my friend told me that it’s not on the menu.  She told me if you mention London Fog, they will know what it is.  Now that’s a friend. And this is a tea.  This is a tea latte.  This is art.

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The ingredients are here, and this take on Earl Grey is giving me chills after I write about it.  It was a joy to sip and was so kind to my sense, my taste buds, and my spirit.   I adore the way bergamot smells and tastes, and it’s the highlight for me even with the lavender, vanilla syrup, and milk thrown into the mix. They’re all perfect complements of each other that enhance the Earl Grey.

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You can see why I prefer this more.  The integrity of the tea remains intact while everything plays its part perfectly.  This paired perfectly with their Caramelized Apple Pound Cake.  A match made in tea and autumn heaven.

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I must mention that the Earl Grey is from Teavana, which I happily wrote about some months back.

 

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I will gladly come back and order the London Fog a couple more times before the season changes.  And this is something you can have through the winter, so there’s plenty of opportunity.    I highly recommend it if you’ve never had this before, and it’s a different take on a classic tea.    Tremendous.

In the past I’ve mentioned that Earl Grey was likely the first tea I ever sipped.  And knowing myself, I appreciated the simplicity of it.  I’m not big on adding anything to my tea.  If a tea is that good it doesn’t necessarily need milk, honey, cinnamon, or anything to overcompensate for a tea, whether it’s good or bad.  But that doesn’t mean I won’t try or embrace teas with those same additions.  I’m all for trying something new.  I’m happy the London Fog worked out.

More to come as I feel rejuvenated and have so much more in the world of teas to talk about.  It just keeps on getting better.

Peace be with you.

Ideen

 

Ginger Chai Commotion

Yeah that title makes no sense.  There isn’t commotion other than maybe Chai isn’t for me.

We continue the holiday teas with a brand I have never reviewed.

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I introduce to you the Gingerbread Chai fom Zhena’s Gypsy Tea.    I’ll admit the label sold me.  He looks so happy and that makes me happy too! These are the images that many of us like to see during the holidays and year round for that matter.

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I thought it was good.  Yet it took a while to get going.   I think I’ve spoiled my whole life expecting so many teas to knock my socks off.  This didn’t happen.   The ingredients that you see listed above were not easy for me to detect.   I just feel like everything clashed and got lost in the shuffle

I love cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.   Nothing stood out. Even licorice,which I shudder to think about, wasn’t on my radar.  So what’s wrong here?   Maybe too much of a good thing?  Or in this instance, too many things.

I did finish my tea at my usual pace. What I wrote above made it sound so terrible but it’s really not.  It’s just not inspiring.   It’s a decent cup made with great flavors that should have come out better.   And just because I didn’t love doesn’t mean you’ll have the same response.

There were times when I got a kick at the end, or the finish.  But it wasn’t consistent.

It smelled great when I opened the package and throughout the steeping process the aromas were growing by the second.  It just didn’t transfer over during the actual sipping experience.

I’m not sure but this might be the first time this mug has been used during my writing so that’s a bit exciting right?  Yessir…

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I had my cup with some holiday themed cookies, including some gingerbread shaped treats, which did make the experience all that much better.

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As you see, the Santa plate has made its auspicious return from last week.

When reading about Zhena’s story and their good intentions, it only makes me want to try more of their abundance of selections.  And that will come.

I will be getting around to a couple of their Glass Jars in the next month or so, if not sooner.   They have so many flavors that are outside the normal parameters of what many of us have been conditioned and gotten used.

For my previous post on chai, you can click here.

With so many holiday teas to try I just know the next few weeks and into the new year are only going to get better.  I fully expect to be writing about something breathtaking next week. I’m all for it.

I sincerely hope your holiday season has been one of comfort, joy, and a strong feeling of community.

Stay warm and stay healthy.

Best,

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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