Ten Times The Cozy

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The last time I wrote about a tea sipping experience in Ellicott City, it was one of those transforming events that can’t ever be replicated.  It was almost too good for words. Actually it was and I went ahead and wrote about it anyways.

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You can’t compare one over the other, and it looks like I just did before I even began, but, the Bean Hollow nestled in perfectly in Old Ellicott City has the charm and panache of what makes this neighborhood so great.

I’ve been here several times before but under different circumstances and right before I started doing this Tea thing that I do.  If I had known now what I knew then, this would become a fixture.  And it just might be.

The place is so inviting, so cozy, and will charm even the most grouchy and dopey of patrons.  Well maybe not, but I think so.    There’s nothing that’s going to jump out and scream overly pretentious at you, and this is what most of us want.  We want a local shoppe that makes you feel at home even when you don’t know anybody.

You don’t have to now anybody.  But in this community, at least for this moment, it seemed like friendly folks knew each other or knew of each other.  And in the most positive and warm of ways.  As an outsider, I want to believe that.  There were several random smiles and hellos from people I’ve never seen before (maybe I have hmm..) and it’s still always a pleasant surprise to me.  It should be the rule and not the exception.  I think that made sense.

All I intended to do was to come in here for breakfast and maybe grab a coffee or tea (yes tea!!) to go, and keep on doing whatever I was doing.  I’m not sure what that was, but unless it’s something dire, was there really a rush?

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I was set on what turned out to be a delicious breakfast sandwich and noticed a bunch of teas on the counter from Montana Tea & Spice Trading llc.

Never heard of them.  Not sure how else I would discover them but I’m happy it happened here.

There were packages for sale but I kindly asked the staff if they sell these teas individually for sipping.  And they kindly said yes.  Yay!   I went with the Cherry Almond Green, and honestly it likely tasted better because of the setting.

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What I mean by that is if I drank this at home or on the road it may have just felt like any standard tea.  Not that there would be anything wrong with it, but I’d likely forget about it as soon as it over over.    But because I sat down, had a lovely breakfast, and my tea was presented in quite the charming cup, the results were likely so much different.

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Otherwise it tasted like a standard green tea with some cherry flavoring added to it.

And I took my time too.  By knowing I’m not always here, and not sure when I’ll be back, I took a few photos of my food and tea and then turned the camera off.  This was peace that is (by mainly our own doing) harder to come by.

Many coffee and breakfast shoppes are charming yet they all have similar and sometimes bland characteristics. This one had a little more to it.  I know my love affair with charming towns like this one have much to do with it but regardless this tea likely tasted infinitely times better because of where I was and how I was feeling.

In addition, I would absolutely try more of their teas in the future if the opportunity presents itself.  And I hope and I know that it will be at Bean Hollow, which makes me so happy.  I can’t wait to go back.

Here is more on Montana Tea & Spice along with their contact information if you’d like to know more.

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If you’re in the vicinity I would definitely stop by Bean Hollow and maybe you will find a source of rest and relaxation here as well.

Take good care,

Ideen

 

 

The Joys of Spring

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I love Spring.  We’re so close to the official day, which will be less than one week from when this thing gets posted.

There’s plenty of things I love.  One thing I know for sure has been my love affair with The Spice and Tea Exchange (for past posts click here), and with every new shoppe of there’s I visit, there’s another reminder of why I enjoy visiting their stores and sampling their incredible array of teas.

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As I just stated, I love checking off the list of locations I’ve been to.  At my count I’ve been to their Annapolis, MD; Alexandria, VA; and New Orleans, LA locations.  For only visiting three I feel like I’ve built a genuine connection with these wonderful company, and it all felt so effortless.

Williamsburg, VA should be on that list but I don’t think I can count that (more on that maybe down the line, as I don’t recall if I actually visited their store) and another friend was thoughtful enough to bring me a tea from their Forth Worth, TX store.  Good to know my friends know me so well.  And I think that’s what this tea experience is all about, enjoying tea and enjoying the company you have that tea with.

Now this is not going to turn into a national tour of visiting all their stores, even though that would be so wonderful, this is more about two fabulous and similar, yet so different experiences this past weekend in Rehoboth Beach, DE and Ocean City, MD.  Yes, two more off the list.   And yes, I went to the beach a little early this year.  But it’s never too early or too late for tea.

I think I shall break this down into two parts.

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My first ever visit to Rehoboth was a couple of days ago and was one of those experiences that continues the tradition of why I love this place so much.   And what a cozy and charming area Rehoboth Beach in general is.  It has a great small town feeling.

Yanna,  who was working at the time was enthusiastic to help and answer any questions. Whenever I visit, my main intent is to check out their seasonal teas, because they come and go in rapid-fire fashion.   They’re turnover with the new season of teas is sometimes less than a month.

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With that, before time runs out, I am proud to bring you the first of two Spring teas, their Wild Berry Spring Tea.

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I got to experience many free smells of their teas, but this was my first.  And it really got me excited for Spring.  The aromas of berries, vanilla, mint, and tulsi make for a lighthearted yet at the same time powerful bouquet of flavors that I could not wait to try.

The anticipation and build-up was worth it.

At the Ocean City Store that same day I bought a beautiful, new infuser mug that fits the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day.  You know because of well, yeah.

I want to thank Tiffany at the OC location for also being so kind and so helpful in my search for new tea gadgets. There will be more on this next week.

I’ve really set high expectations with this tea, and I still had a near three hour drive home before I got a chance to brew it.

I have good and breaking news.  This tea tastes just as good as it smells.  And just as good as advertised, if not more.

It once again has a powerful initial taste, which might be the cream.  But it’s light and for a Spring tea that’s what you want.  As the weather improves and the temperatures rises, we might be looking for more of those light bodied and lighter flavored teas that will be gentle on the stomach and in turn we’ll feel grateful and spiritually rejuvenated to have such a wonderful and majestic tea.

I put the suggested amount and that really made the difference.  I think adding too much may undermine the intent of what this tea is all about.   A few good minutes of steeping paid enormous dividends in the end.

The pictures of the tea leaves before and after are a thing of beauty.  How they expand after boiling, steeping, and infusing in water is absolute art.  Not all leaves, and for all intents and purposes, flowers bloom in this fashion.   What a treat and a what a blessing this was to witness.

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The green mug did not fully to the color of the this tea justice that I enlisted a new friend to help me show you how it looks in a clearer cup.    There it is!

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Beautiful right?  And my new holiday themed buddy enjoyed its (his?) (her?) tiny cup.  I almost think my friend savored theirs just a little bit more than I did.  This was an easy one to drink.  And if you’re at a nearby store, I would strongly suggest getting this tea while supplies last.  I’ve been told these teas will be around for 3-4 weeks.

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You can have nothing or everything with this tea.  These holiday themed sugar cookies were more for decoration than anything else.  I did have a little myself but a healthy tea likes this deserves a great complementary snack to go with it.  And that can be anything ou want.  In that sense the cookies worked perfectly.

I didn’t give all the details of both visits. I’ll save that for next week.  But I have posted some pictures from the Rehoboth store throughout this post for your viewing enjoyment. This is one where another post is more than necessary.

And any chance to write about Spice & Tea is good enough for me.   And hopefully some of you will get some enjoyment and seek out their teas, and maybe their which are also available for purchase online.

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This tea was fantastic, and with that I am so looking forward to trying the Peach Tumeric tea.  If the weather permits I will present it hot and cold.  I’m confident in that and confident the weather will cooperate on all levels.  It is Spring after all.

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And Spring mean a new year, new hopes, new opportunities, and new teas to try and share with the people we love, or in solitude.

As the days grow longer and the sun looks stronger, I now the tea experience will continue to get better.    And man I’m excited to get to part two next week.

See ya then and Happy Spring Forward, St. Patrick’s Day, and Happy Spring itself!

The best is here and the best is coming,

Ideen

 

 

 

Matcha Tea Party

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Just when I think Trader Joe’s has done it all.  And just when I think Trader Joe’s has exhausted all of their tea options, or maybe I thought I exhausted all of their options, the gems just keep on coming.   I love it and hope it never ends.  TJ’s has been a big part of this blog, and I hope that trend continues with periodic write-ups for a long time to come.

Here is my ever-growing history of Trader Joe’s stories.

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My regular tea adviser suggested I go back and try out their brand new Matcha Green Tea Packets.  They’re new as in released only a couple of weeks ago.  So I feel thrilled to be one of the early guinea pigs (not not really) and one of the first on my block to try out something new, something special, and a different take on the traditional bags and loose leaf variety.

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Matcha is one of my favorite teas to begin with.  It just has this natural and rough (in a good way) taste, that didn’t take long to grow on me.  If you’ve had it then you know what I’m talking about.  It’s distinct, it’s natural, and it’s authentic.  And the aftertaste lingers for a while.  And that’s what you want with a tea and that’s how a tea becomes memorable.

This was memorable.

The trend of pouring powder into a beverage is way past the point of it being a trend.  It’s just become what it is.   But this might be my first time ever having green tea in powder form.  If my memory serves me correct it may be the first time I’ve had any kind of tea in this form.

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On the day I was to try this concoction, the sun was beaming and the weather was just becoming all out gorgeous.    The universe looked out for me and I decided to have a sample of the Matcha Tea in hot and iced form.  It may have been too sooner for the latter but Spring has shown up much earlier in the Maryland area than usual.  No complaints here.

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In heated form this is terrific.  It has the exact taste you’ve come to expect when drinking Matcha.  I’ve never been to Japan and hope to one day, but this is something I can enjoy on a regular basis there or of course at home.  It just feels out of this world and always feels like an honor to try.    The tannin level felt higher than a tea I’m used to.  But that’s Matcha and this is a tea I want to keep getting used to.

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How about that color?  Just the visual of brewing thing was a treat.  This is real.

And when the sun in shining the way it is, and it’s still just a little a chilly enough to truly appreciated a hot tea, this was one of my favorite experiences.  Actually any great tea sipping can be a a favorite experience.  But this was up there.  And then the only ingredient is Matcha Green Tea Powder, you know you’re getting the real deal.

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The iced version is more of a work in progress for me.  That harsh and natural taste (which I only mean in the nicest way) doesn’t translate as well when it’s chilled.  I let my heated tea kettle cool for a while, put in some iced cubes, poured that cooled water, and then my Matcha powder, and stirred it for a while.  Stirring is necessary or the powder will not dissolve properly.  I had a little leftover after my hot cup.

I first tried my chilled version with no sweeteners added and it tasted a little bitter.  This is one that need a little honey or sugar.   I added just a little bit to the former and now we’re getting going.  But for me, this version is more of an acquired taste.  And even in the instructions, mentions pouring it into a water bottle and shaking it until it’s blended, without mention of adding anything sweet. But of course we can create it the way we want it.  I’m a big believe in less is more but adding a little more will go a long way here.

 

The chocolate from Trader Joe’s as well worked perfectly with both teas.  Actually chocolate just works well with everything.  And at my local store they were placed right next to each other.  I don’t think that was an accident.

At $7 this was well worth it, even if there’s only seven packets per case.

I will be having more of this in the future and would love to write about it again if the circumstance, the situation (oh wait that’s the same thing as circumstance), and opportunity to share it with others in a different setting presents itself.

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I highly recommend this and I continue to be impressed with all the great new products Trader Joe’s continues to deliver.  Well done.

Absolutely well done.

 

Ideen

 

 

 

Charming Candy Canes

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This post is due in part by a suggestion from a dear friend.  They had mentioned I should compare the Candy Cane Green Tea from Trader Joe’s versus the Candy Cane Lane I reviewed nearly one year ago from Celestial Seasonings.  That review can be found here.

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It felt like weeks, not years ago where I was celebrating holiday themed teas throughout December.  Time flies when you’re having tea I guess.   And this week it’ll be of the decaffeinated variety.

I’ve mentioned it numerous times before.  I don’t believe in coincidences.  I felt like it was meant to write about this and write about this today.  I’m a lover of the holidays and welcome this time of year.  I love that it spring up on us so quickly, but would also like time to slow down so I can enjoy every moment of it.

Trader Joe’s and the holidays have always gone hand-in-hand for me.  Each time I walk into one of their stores I love seeing the flyer items on display, which always coincide with the time of year.   I did grab some sweet treats for display.  I’ll get to that in a bit.

I made it to the tea section and to my pleasant surprise, I found one of the last boxes.   The way the season is going, a lot of items I’ve been looking for are not always available when I want them.   Of course, more tea would resurface with each new shipment, but I, along with so many others adore our holiday themed anything.

My intent was to find a fresh package of Candy Cane Lane so the comparison would be fair and untarnished.  The dilemma was that I actually never bought this tea from the get go. This was a gift from Celestial Seasoning’s as part of an amazing care package after I reviewed another one of their teas, and they sent me a variety of their holiday-themed teas to try and review.   I look back fondly at those times.  And after a search of a few local grocers and shops, I couldn’t find the Candy Cane Lane anywhere.

It didn’t matter because even a year later, the Candy Cane Lane has aged well.  Can a tea age well?  I  think so.  And when the best by date isn’t till late Summer 2017, I think this is a safe comparison.

Where as the Celestial Seasoning’s version is still a pleaser, the Trader Joe’s version tastes just a tad sweeter.  I told my friend that it was like drinking hot liquid peppermint bark. And that’s not an insult.  It tastes like this time of year.  I cherish this time of year.

I literally took photos side-by-side of the two teas from open to final brew.  And if you look closely, the same exact ingredients are in both.  Yet, the Celestial Seasoning’s version seems like it was prepared with just a little more soul and feeling.  Maybe that’s all in my head.

And that’s not to say that TJ’s version is bad.  I actually like it a lot, but it didn’t blow me away like previous Trader Joe’s holiday selections I’ve tried.  But I’m glad it’s part of my tea collection and I’m grateful that Trader Joe’s continues to come up with new teas for me to try.  That’s all I can ask for.

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The Celestial Seasoning’s candy cane tea also seems more balanced.  All the flavors mesh well together and nothing overpowers one where another ingredients gets lost in the shuffle.  That’s where my peppermint comment on the Trader Joe’s version applies.  I feel that sticks out and not much else shines through.  I do taste some cinnamon but not much else.  But that’s being a bit more picky than necessary.  I did both but I’d give the edge to Celestial.

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I incorporated some of the sweet treats I purchased from Trader Joe’s to pair with both.  I have to laugh because in my post from last year you can see one of those same treats.  This may not be the biggest source of serendipity or clairvoyance.  But the holiday spirits and connections are not an accident.  So that makes me feel good.

If you tries these teas, I hope they make you feel good too.  They’re perfect representatives of what this season is all about.

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The packaging on both are hits on all fronts.  The comforting images of animals will always draw people in.

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We got loads of time so I hope more inspirational and spiritual selections will be presented to you, starting next week.

This is my history with Celestial Seasoning’s and Trader Joe’s.  A lot of good stuff for the season can be found there, and is still relevant today.  I get goose bumps looking back on it. Ah the holidays can strike a chord with us in so many ways.

Here’s hoping you’ve been having a happy and blessed holiday season,

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

I Could Have Sat Here For…

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And I mean that.  I sat outside the back patio and garden area of The Random Tea Room & Curiosity Shop, for a good while.  It felt like an hour.  Actually it felt like time stood still and I was the only person on Earth, or at least the only person back here.

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Philadelphia has always feel full of enchantment and exciting things and places to come across.  This shoppe, nestled in the Northern Liberties part of town, ranks right up there with the best of them.

When I walked in I had to explain to Becky, the owner and Birdie who was working the counter about what I was doing.  I could’t be inconspicuous in such a cozy space like this. I’m glad I wasn’t.  Both could not have been more friendly and accommodating.   I took a bunch of photos of all the amazing wonders, artifacts, and teas on the wall.

Yes, I’ve heaped so much praise on this lovely establishment and I’ve yet to get into the teas I sampled.

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A the weather continues to be glorious, the House Sencha was recommended.  Of course I had it in iced form and as an aside, when I walk into most places for the first time, I usually go for the ‘house” anything or a similar strong recommendation from the staff. It may sound amateur or touristy, but that’s the fun of this.

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The honey I tasted from the sencha was incredible.  I was also dehydrated so initially I was taking much quicker sips than I should have been.  I need to take it easy and walk over to the garden, and that’s where I slowed down.

In between taking a few (well maybe a bunch) of pictures I just sat there.  All worries, all fears, all anything seemed to dissolve.  This was as relaxing and tranquil as could be.  And to say that all thoughts went away would be a falsehood.  I mean it did but then other thoughts and feelings presented themselves.  Many were positive yet many were contemplative.  As long as it’s a place of peace and de-stressing than you’re doing something right.  In this busy and hectic way of life many of us live, to find a place to sooth your soul is always welcome.  I’d like more please.  And then I’d like some more please.  And I took my sweet tea time with the sencha and appreciated it that much more.

Speaking of more, after a while, Birdie brought me a sample glass of their Red Berry Mélange.  What a joy this was too. It helps that this was free but I would gladly pay for the tallest glass in the place.  I love that the synopsis reads good for kids and grown ups alike. I felt like a kid and a grown up all at once while at this shop.  I adore this place.

If you believe in positive energy than this is going to be an uplifting and romantic experience.   I have romanticized places during my time of blogging and in my personal life for years.  I think that’s how it should be done.  A place that makes you feel good should be expounded upon as much as possible.

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This was my first time, and the first can sometimes me the most memorable.  But I sense that a recurring visit will lead to many great memories in the future.  This tea room is perfect for solitude or a relaxed time with a love one.  Maybe next time I’ll do the latter. But either way you’re going to be good.  The staff will take great care of you.

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Now here’s all the information you need, from their wonderfully user-friendly website.

Here’s their menu of teas, upcoming events, exhibits, and their menu, which is deliberately limited.  I love how they downplay serving food.  It really makes them stand out.  However, you may have seen a minuscule looking cookie in some of these pics.  Yes this is was a magnificent vegan rosemary shortbread cookie.  It complemented both of my teas to perfection.

Maybe most of important of all, you can purchase their teas online.  This is where things could become habit-forming if their first two teas I tried were any indication.

I love Philadelphia and I adore this shoppe.  It’s so approachable and I love the size.   It’s so understated, yet overwhelming initially, but oh-so-welcoming.   I look forward to be welcomed again soon.

Feeling Good,

Ideen

This Was A Good One

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But they all can be and should be.  However, this was more about the experience than anything else.   Otherwise I don’t know how good the Chamomile Tea from Stash truly is or isn’t.

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I can’t believe it’s September already.  Well yes I can as well.  Time just keeps on going. Yet for this post I’m going to take this back to June, when it wasn’t even officially Summer on the calendar year yet, but as you can tell by these pictures, the Sun was on our side.

This is one of those stories that might be too good to share, but also too good not to. I’m glad I waited this long to talk about it.  It’s gotten better with time.

The tentative plan was to grab some lunch nearby in Baltimore before I took a dear friend to the airport, in the Washington, DC area.   We gave ourselves ample time. However, there were signs all over that we should just drive closer to the final destination  and see where the wind takes us.

I had been to historic Herndon, VA a year prior on another random encounter, and saw nothing but happy and folksy people.  Like most historic locales you have your farmers market, museums, mom and pop shops, community centers, and independent restaurants. It was real and I soaked it all in.  It was with the understanding that right outside this epicenter is nothing but big buildings and gigantic companies that have infiltrated major cities.

One year later as we’re driving, that light bulb went off in my head.  I had investigated happy places to grab a bit to eat, in a cozy area beforehand, but realized that happy town was minutes away.

We found a great place to eat with outdoor dining, and took our time.  The town called for it.  It felt like we were the only people on Earth.  I don’t mean to overstate how amazing the Sun was on this day. Actually the heck with it, the Sun is our friend. The more I expound on this special trip, I realize how perfect everything was.

No rush, no running around, no beating the clock.  It was as close to Zen as you can get.

After a little walking around, a little tea and coffee seemed necessary.  Green Lizard Cycling, (yes a cycling place) came through in the clutch.  Yes I wrote that on purpose. Maybe it was one of those moments where I felt random, but after a hearty meal a hot tea was a must.  And my inspired thought was that Chamomile.

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Looking back at these pictures I realize how much that tea matches the color of the sun. The signs and the positive energy are all around us.  It just freaks me out, in a good way, how good this day was.  And all the intricacies and details that I overlooked have been presented to me months later.  This is what we call endearing.

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But like I said, on another day, I’m not sure how great this tea would be.  Chamomile has not always been my favorite flavor, but this might be a change of heart.

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Circumstances allowed this to be a lot better than I think tea might be.   But Stash has been one of those brands that I feel is overlooked versus some of the more household brands you see at the store.  This is not a dig but more of an observation.

I need to review more Stash teas.  They’ve always been good to me.  Here is the one time I did a recap of one of my favorite and inspiring teas by them.  Talk about a dichotomy. Again,  nothing but signs and serendipitous situations.

The specifics of this day are not necessary and sometimes your best memories should be kept from within, and I’ll leave some details out.  But I did add a couple of pictures of the town and outside the cycling shop to give you a feel for how peaceful and inspiring this day was.  I might be overstating how tremendous all this was but I don’t care.  This was awesome and yet all so simple.

The future is looking bright and full of hope.  A good cup of tea always brings hope. And joy!

Here’s to many more unplanned and inspiring events to come!

Kindest,

Ideen