Friday Night Tea Party

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I think I said last week (and throughout the past few months) that my admiration for the tea scene on the Gulf Coast of Florida (my growing fondness can be found here and here) can not be expressed enough in words, in thoughts, and in anything else.  It’s a time of my life I will always remember, and will find it hard to forget.  I will always appreciate this five days of my life that has brought on a lifetime of memories, and a lifetime of joy.

And yes, it all revolves around tea.

Friday Night means different things to a lot of people.  For some it’s a night of rest before getting ready for a fun weekend of doing fun things, for some it’s happy hour. a night out, and in this instance it was one of the great tea drinking experiences I’ve ever been a part of.

It was my first time going with my friend to Downtown St. Petersburg.   Now St. Pete has a lot of charming places to check out, away from the small but growing downtown area. And after a couple of days me and my friend made the short and scenically awesome trek to Beach Drive.

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The intent was to check out a nice bar or two, or three, if you catch what I’m saying. Maybe a glass of wine, or a nice dinner.  I think my indecisive, restless, and adventurous spirit was thinking something else more organic on this night.

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After doing a lap or two, my eyes were wide open and my excitement hit a whole different level when we discovered the Infused Tea Company.  This place made me so happy.

If I recall correctly, we made it with minutes to spare.  At this point I’m thinking it’s nearly 9 pm.  But I had enough time to take pictures, smell some loose teas, and appreciate all the teas, pots, kettles, infusers, pastries, and everything else I could absorb and revel in these few moments.

I want to thank our teaologist, Ang, for being so kind of patient with us.   I wasn’t even sure what I was looking for in terms of a tea.   In mid-June I was actually contemplating something warm.  What on Earth was I thinking?  It wouldn’t have been the worst thing. I would just have to have saved this post for later in the year.   But time is of the essence, as it was on this night.

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Ang, per his suggestion mixed the Mango Tango and the Tahitian Dream for me, to make the most exquisite, refreshing, and enlightening blend of flavors, inspiration, and soul in this gem of an iced tea.   My friend agreed, the universe agreed, as did I.  Two thumbs up, five stars, and all the other superlatives you can throw at it.  Honestly, the tea could have been mediocre and probably would have tasted much better simply because of the service, the decor, the positive energy, and simply being a harmonious place I hadn’t experienced before.

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The Mango Tango with its pineapple, mango, and orange pieces are perfect not just for the Summer but I believe any time of year.  And in Florida, all the time is an understatement.  The Tahitian Dream adds not only more pineapple, but passion fruit, and strawberry as well.  Does it get any better?  Maybe, but not on this night.

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This is why I made two more visits to this amazing place during the course of my holiday. And if time allows, I will get to them in the following two weeks, or in a rare instance I may break tradition and post them on different days.  I’m preparing for the changing of the seasons while still wanting to honor how amazing all three experience were.  I’m so happy just thinking and writing about it.

This was at night, the day experiences are a surreal enjoyment all its own.

And I look forward to sharing those fun times with you soon.  But I can’t stress this enough, this was amazing, and I’m grateful I got to share with a close friend.  And I fondly remember my friend was happy for me as well.

For more on Infused Tea Company, here is their story. and their location for those close to the area, or will be visiting.

The good news is you can order their fantastic teas and accessories online.  Many of those accessories are displayed in this post.

I could go on all day, or I could just go on to the next post.   How about both?

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To be continued…

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Peace Be With You,

Ideen

 

 

 

 

 

Brew Good, Do Good

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That’s the motto of what is a coffee shop institution in the Tampa, Florida area, Buddy Brew.

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This was my first, and hopefully one of many, visits to this side of the sunshine state.  I literally got to town and my dear friend had a few places we thought we should go.  And Buddy Brew was on the list.  But which location?

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I honestly don’t remember which of the shoppes we were exactly but I believe this was the third Buddy Brew that we came to and decided this would work.    I honestly was just grateful and happy to be a part of something new and hopefully something special.

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When you go away, you want to get as much in as possible.  But at the same time you don’t want to go too crazy that you don’t fully appreciate what is going on.

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This was my first tea related experience on my trip, and will be nowhere close to the last. I have so much to write about but I had told myself and my friend that this would be the first and it would be going up today.

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Of  course leave it to me for another coffee shop (which does carry their own selections of tea, more on that in a bit) to be my first of many tea experiences, that will hopefully be conveyed properly.  Some are going to be loaded with enthusiasm.  Actually many of them will.

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So will this one but maybe not at the heightened level it deserves.  I just got here, I have no idea what I’m doing.  But in honor of National Iced Tea Day which was on June 10th, I decided to do one of many belated celebrations here by ordering myself a glass (or plastic to go cup) of Iced Sweet Mango Tea.   Should that all be capitalized?  Well I did it anyways.

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The tea was sweet, but not overly sweet that it you might think wouldn’t be genuine.   But honestly, I was sweating, I was thirsty, and just about anything within reason would be refreshing.  I also sampled coffee and pastries at a couple of places prior (there’s the part about not doing too much already rearing it’s something head) so maybe my taste buds and mind were all over the place.

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But in all seriousness I enjoyed this tea.  I tasted enough mango mixed in with black tea that I appreciated this greatly.  It’s hard to truly appreciate and review iced tea though. It’s a different beast then drinking teas hot and fully immersing yourself in all the flavors, the leaves, the dried fruits, and all the scents it has to offer, versus an iced tea which leaves it open to interpretation even more so.

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Or maybe we shouldn’t take it too seriously and enjoy the chilled tea, enjoy the spring, the summer, and the warm weather.

I make it a point on my trips to live in the moment, appreciate life and the surroundings all around me without sharing too much with the rest of the world.  I took pictures yes but then I turned my camera off, and put the phone down to just feel good about where I was.  I had great company, a great iced tea, and was already on a roll and I had just landed.

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The pastry is a gluten free vegan brownie that tasted exactly as advertised.  And in this inviting and welcoming weather, it paired perfectly with my tea.

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This is only the beginning though.   My early fandom of Buddy Brew is only just beginning.  I mean look at their logo.  How can you not love that?  Happy looking dogs, cats, and just about any other animal will always win me and many others over.

I didn’t get an additional coffee, but my friend did, and it didn’t stick out with me as anything out of this world.   But I will gladly try another cup again.  This is a tea blog so that isn’t too much of a concern.

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But what I must do, because I didn’t give myself a chance on this go around, is to sample their own teas, either by ordering online, or by making a return to one of their locations, which I’ll hopefully remember next time.

And of course here is their coffee selection.

I’m just getting warmed up.  I’ve got to come back here and talk about other things.  I’m just excited to recant bits and pieces of my getaway.   I want to profess my love for Buddy Brew because I know there’s so much to love.

But like with any trip, no need to do (or in this case say) everything.  Oh man but I love where this is going.

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I will be back again…

Ideen

Kombucha Koolness

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Never underestimate the art of alliteration.   And boy does it apply here.

For our friends in the Baltimore area, you might have heard of Wild Kombucha from the fine folks at Mobtown Fermentation.

First here is some information on what Kombucha exactly is, or you can scroll up and down their website for a primer.

The festivals, parties, and other excuses to hang out accelerates as we’re deep into fall, and we’re approaching the happy holidays.   Leave it to a Pumpkin Party (there goes that alliteration again) to get the ball rolling this season.   And this party took place at Rooftop Hot in the Highlandtown neighborhood of Baltimore, which is one of one my favorites and most down-to-earth parts of the city.

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There was food, live music, outdoor chilling, and all the other stuff that goes along with a festival.  You know, the usual.   And that’s more than enough but when you add free samples of their kombucha, now you know it’s a party.  But if you hadn’t look closely, you would think they were handing out free samples of beer.  The bottles would make you think so.  Never judge a bottle by it’s cover (make sure to look first) and make sure you know what’s being served.  That didn’t mean to come off as dopey as it sounded.

So yes they had samples of all four of their delightful beverages.  Yes I’ve already given away my thoughts on this.  The pumpkin display with their drinks on ice was a great presentation.  It really made it seem like this is a beer tasting.   My peers thought so.  I initially thought so.  I don’t care for beer so this was a relief.

Let’s talk about the drinks.  They had all four of their creations available for sampling.  Yes I loved them all.

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The website doesn’t list it, but their Apple Spice was my favorite.  It tasted great and tastes like fall.  So a full appreciation of this was taking place.   Joey, who was doing the tasting, was kind enough to give us multiple pours of all the flavors.  But this was one I’d want to drink on a regular basis for sure.  That tint is gorgeous too.

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The Elderberry was rocking too.  You’re going to see a theme here.  This may have been my second favorite.  This just fits what they’re doing.  I’m not sure if that makes sense, but Elderberry is the perfect flavor for their fermented tea.  And that color just luminates and radiates.  And it tastes good too.  That’s the most important aspect of all of these.

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Next, the Mango Peach.  It was energizing but I would fully appreciate this more in the warmer months.  But this is another winner.  These guys know what they’re doing.

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Finally, the Ginger-Grapefruit tastes the most like tea.  Ginger has always been one of my favorite components of a tea.  The pairing with Green Tea, lemon, and honey and other flavors has always been a go-to for me.  This’ll now be another go-to as well.  I just love Ginger.  And I loved this one too.

It’s hard to compare these four.  They all are special and blessed in their own way.  I may alternate which of these drinks will be my favorites based on the day and the season.

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This was a stellar experience.  Once again, a huge thanks to Joey for being so accommodating, and giving me more pours than I had any business having.  I hope  I don’t get you in trouble.

At the bottom of their page, is where you can find their divine drinks, their story, and contact information.   They make it look so easy. 

Hopefully, more awesome fall posts to come.  Actually,  that’s a yes.

Yes!

Ideen

Olympic Tea Party!

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I’m a softy for the Olympics.  I’m sure many of you may share that same sentiment.  It just makes me feel good.  What makes feel so warm and fuzzy?  I want to believe there’s still genuine competition and sportsmanship on an international level.  In a way by saying that, I’m showing my cynical side.  Most certainly.  But I’m an idealist at heart.  I’m enjoying an inspiring event as I write this.  I sense the good vibrations, the good energy, and I feel the love.

You know where else I’ve always felt love?   Trader Joe’s has always been good to me.  It’s been so clutch to this (for more TJ posts click here) blog.  And even if the results have not always been the most positive, I still find many without trying too hard.

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An Olympic themed tea was not necessarily what I was seeking out.  Though that would be nice.  Maybe I’ll get to that next week.  My visits to this store have shrunk and I need to fix that.  So I fixed it today and a lovely display rack of their Sweet Tea and Bollywood popcorn did the trick.  Yes you read that right, Bollywood popcorn  with Vegan Tikka Masala seasoning.   I didn’t know any of this existed.  I grabbed a bag of course.

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This pairing may not make sense but if their featured in front of the store then why quibble?  If Trader Joe’s says its ok then who am I to dispute?  There is a hint of sarcasm here. Not to be outdone, as I strolled around the aisles I discovered Mango Coconut Popcorn.   This looks scary and potentially habit-forming.   However,  if you’ve noticed my posts I’ve been in a mango kick this summer.  And I don’t see why not. Oh how I love summer. And I’m loving the Summer Olympics.  And we’re only getting started.

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None of this screams the Olympics.  None of this is remotely good for you.  I put my little spread together and started feeling gross.  These athletes are in shape and inspiring.  This is not quite like going to the movies but it’s a monumental event that only happens every two years.

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I’ll get the negatives out of the way.  I’ve never loved sweet tea.  This will hardly change that.  But, pure cane sugar and no high fructose corn syrup could lead me to change my mind at some point.  Many of you are going to love it.  But this isn’t me.

But both flavored popcorns’ are so bad for you and oh-so habit forming.  Be careful, the caloric and fat content is high.  I already feel like more of a non-athlete versus these Olympians.  This Olympics party spread won’t do anything to dispel that.

I put most of it back in their bags.  But beforehand I took some fun shots, and even some of my animal friends joined, and were looking for some foodies.  They slowly crawled their way to get some eats but this wouldn’t be right.  But just like any athlete, they never gave up.  They put up a fight.  But I did them a favor.  The most important fact that should not go unnoticed is that they worked together.  They looked out for each other and motivated each other every step of the way.  This is the true spirit of the games of the 31st Olympiad!

But yeah, the tea and snacks should only  be taken in small doses.

And who puts iced tea in a mug?  Well I think this particular mug would be a viable exception.

Next time you’re at your local Trader Joe’s be on the look out for these treats.  I think most of you will enjoy.  And speaking of enjoyment, we have two weeks of thrilling Olympic coverage.  I hope you get a chance to be captivated.  I already have been.  And more is coming.

If I can keep the Olympic Spirit going, I’ll continue next week.

Best,

Ideen

Pure Ambrosia

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Some time ago I walked into  Greenberry’s Coffee, in Charlottesville, VA to be exact.  It’s been a few years, but I most likely grabbed a cup of coffee and a snack to go.   It wasn’t the most memorable experience simply for the fact that how many times do we get grab some java and go on our merry way.

Knowing now, what I didn’t know then, I would have appreciated the small town charm of the cafe. Maybe I did for a moment, but I was in a rush. Why was in a rush?

This brings me to a visit to one of my favorite Virginia communities, Mclean.  And when I’m in a place I don’t frequent enough, it’s time to discover something fun.  To my pleasant surprise, they had shop minutes up the road from where I was.  I had no idea Greenberry’s had multiple locations, mainly in VA and DC, until yesterday.  Charlottesville was the original store, which in hindsight was what I would like to be writing about.  All in good time.

My idealism could be naive but I always thought of McLean as one of those parts of Northern Virginia, that still had most of their historic buildings and character in tact. When I was younger and living nearby, I would go out of my way to drive through this and similar areas, to get a more scenic and down-to-earth vibe.. As I’ve gotten older that sentiment grows.  I like big cities but the charm of a smaller community just feels right.

The Mclean location has that feel, but I can sense a change is coming, not so much with the store, but with the town itself.  The energy and happy feeling I got from when I parked to walked in, remained.

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It’s August, that means more iced tea.  Anything else would be a slap in the face to my favorite season.   The Ambrosia tea stuck out.  A lot of them did, but that name with its positive connotations, is what I was feeling.  I’m glad I did.

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This is traditionally drank hot, and I’m all for tradition, but lets toss that aside. It’s once again time to break out of my comfort zone, and  I went ahead and ordered the tallest glass they had.

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Black currant, apricot, and mango flavors makes this a crowd pleaser.  I was pleased for sue.  It didn’t start off strongly for me but this was a grower.  I realized I was sipping just a little more than the previous one each time.   It was getting better by the minute.  I sat for a good 30 appreciating my glass and the community feel around me.

I’m not an iced tea drinker by nature.  It’s not me but for the time frame, it’s only appropriate.  But I truly enjoyed this. The tastes expanded over the course of my time there and I was highly satisfied at the end.   I bet this tastes even better hot.  I hope to get the opportunity to have a cup in traditional fashion.

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They made me so much, they had to give me the rest in another cup.  I find that very endearing.  The staff could not have been nicer by the way, even in the midst of being overwhelmed with patrons.

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My teacake was hard to finish.  This had more to do with the weather.  It was an ambitious choice.  Again, when the timing presents itself, I bet I enjoy this much more.   But how charming are those owls?  Where can I get those plates?

I didn’t see the Ambrosia listed but here’s a list of their teas if you’re interested in purchasing.

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There were a lot of people that seemed to know each other.  I got the sense this is one of those places where you run into someone, catch up for a few minutes, then the next time you’d see ’em would be right back here, if not before.  I dig that.

As neighborhoods rapidly expand development, I get mixed feelings.  Some things are inevitable but the community businesses have a place and deserve to have a place.  From talking to folks Greenberry’s has kept up with the times.  And as you can see here, they’re growing in stores.  As long as they (and stores likes them) can maintain their integrity and charm, that’s ok.   But there’s something to be said about the local business culture.   I’m drawn to it.  I don’t like to speak for everyone else, but I suspect many share that sentiment.

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I look forward to coming back again.  I love local.  Lets do it again soon.

Best,

Ideen

 

I’m Late To The Party

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Where do I begin?  How had I not heard of Hoop Tea until this past Saturday.

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I was supposed to go on a brewery bike tour with friends over the weekend, but the universe had other plans for me.  I enjoy the bike riding, the company that’s involved, but beer on the other hand is not my forte.  How tea and beer merge is something I’d never prepare for.

This blog is all things tea.  And that means anything tea.  So when I found out after the fact that friends of mine tasted some malt tea (and bought some to go) at Peabody Heights Brewery, I was floored.  I was excited but also dismayed at myself that I missed this opportunity.

I’ve been on previous bikes and brew tours with this same group and the tasting room is available several days a week, so my opportunity would be coming.   Thankfully it came even sooner, July 4th to be exact.

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Fortunately, at the holiday party I attended, (hosted by the same folks who host the bike tour), the White Mango tea was in plain view for sampling and sharing.  And  this was something else.  It was so easy to drink.  With a 4.0% alcohol content it was deceptively light.  A few quick glasses of this could really do some damage.  So I limited myself to two. And I drank them very slowly.

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Upon research, the sweetness comes from the organic cane sugar, maybe more so than the mango.  But nevertheless this was incredible.  To be fair, I have nothing to compare it too so I would love to try some more flavors in the future.  And my intent is to do so and soon.

We’ve got plenty of summer left.  This is the quintessential seasonal beverage.  The fact that it’s local and even more specifically from Ocean City, MD adds to the charm.

Even before I knew more about this tea (can I still call it tea), I had the sense that there was a powerful spirit behind this operation.  To say that would be an understatement. Their story is an inspiring one.  One that I hope to be able to tell in a similar fashion, in whatever facet of life I tackle.  I won’t spoil it, but click here to read more.

I’m on the bandwagon.  This company is growing and I sense an inspired thought is going to grow exponentially and in short time.   How can it not?  Why did I not think of something like this?  There’s an unlimited amount ideas out there that are there for the taking.   This is one of the most amazing things to be a part of.  And to be in our backyard makes it all the more special.

From what I understand, Peabody Heights is the only distributor in Baltimore City proper. They’re looking to expand into more parts of downtown.  I don’t see that being a problem. I’d be happy to help and this link gives you an option to request Hoop Tea in your area.  For our pals in Maryland, you can check to see if there’s a distributor near you at the same link.

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I wish I could have written a recap from Peabody itself.  That just means this is only the beginning.  This was only going to be the beginning anyways.  This is worthy of revisiting regularly.  In the mean time I’ll leave you with photos from the aforementioned party with a hearty meal and then with dessert.  I never got to try the dessert actually.  But gosh darnit doesn’t that look pretty?  Here’s more from this shindig.

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Finally, here is a way to contact them.

Happy Holidays,

Ideen

Mango Times Three

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It’s been several months since I’ve set foot inside a Trader Joe’s.  Oh how I’ve missed thee. And in theory, I found myself here for no reason at all.  I just had a bunch of errands piling up and needed to get some out of the way.  And lo and behold the store found me.

Once again, I sort of had an idea of what I was going to write about.  Last summer I focused on a lot of iced teas.  There were brands I’d never heard of.   Many were personal sized.  I looked back as to avoid repeating if I can do so.   Little did I know that this visit would also lead me to one of the more refreshing teas I’ve had in a while.

And after a few minutes of poking around the store, this mega display was my answer. And this week I proudly get to review the Trader Joe’s Mango Green Tea.

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However, there are drawbacks.   The green tea and mango are not easy to taste.  The pear juice is what gives it flavor and not much else.  It makes me think are the tea and mango able to taste right simply as a duo?  That’s a question for the ages.  Well nowhere near that dramatic but it’s fun to speculate.

I love mango.  It’s a fruit that reminds us of the good times of summer, or maybe an island you’ve visited.  And to mix it with something as bitter as green tea may be the ultimate clash of universes.  So lets throw in some pear juice to shake things up a bit.

I’m a purist in many ways.  I want my teas to be as natural as possible.  There are additives, like extra sugar to make the taste for palatable.  And more palatable to the general public seems to be the goal.  I can’t disagree with that.  I also can’t be too serious.  It’s a seasonal beverage that’s meant to be enjoyed and not over-analyzed by the likes of me.

I liked it but with the understanding that the heart and soul of the tea seems to be an afterthought.

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Since this beverage is a bit out there, the pairings could fall in the same category.   But at the same display rack were the Mango Joe-Joe’s sandwich cookies that taste a mix of real and artificial that at this point it doesn’t matter.

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They’re good but best in small doses.  No I didn’t eat all of these pictured, that would be absurd.

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For a healthier alternative, the apple and (you guessed it) mango bar is a bit more up my alley, and maybe yours as well.  This is what inspired this title.  Things sometimes go in threes.

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I love Summer and everything about these sweet treats screams as such.  If you’re in the mood this tea and the accompanying treats will make for quite the sugar rush.  If that’s what you’re into then I say go for it.  Otherwise, proceed with caution.

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I had one cookie and just one, I promise.  The rest I stored away for future snacking or to share with pals.   Portion control is a powerful thing.

Ah I love summer and I wish I could write that every week.  I will at least be doing so for a while.  Yay!

Kindest,

Ideen