Tiki Tuesdee

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As of this posting Memorial Day has passed.  I know I know.  Time just keeps on chugging along and fortunately it’s the unofficial start of Summer.   It’s always about enjoying life, enjoying the things that mean the most to us, and of course the teas that are symbolic of the season.

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Last week I promised to do another two part celebration of the exclusive summer teas from the Spice & Tea Exchange.

If I sound like I have a bias towards them (in a good way) than you’re probably right. Ever since the first time I was introduced to them by one of my best friends, and I first saw those charming miniature sized packets that they came in, I immediately became a fan.   Just how they are, how they promote tea, and how they promote all of their products is a blueprint that I feel many should follow.

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This brings us to their other limited edition selection, the Tiki Punch Herbal Tea.

This one is another winner.  But this also turned into a bit of a challenge.  And I only have myself to either blame or to learn for the future.

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When the synopsis says steeping time of seven minutes take that very seriously.  Because when it came to the iced tea version of this, it didn’t even come close to the pictures you see here.

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After multiple attempts with different infusers the best I could get was more of a yellowish to orange tint.  This is more about my challenges than anything about the tea itself.  Maybe it was how I packed it, maybe it was the universe telling me it wasn’t time (I think it was time), or maybe it was just me.

Maybe I got too excited.  Then I got a bit nervous.  I even broke out another infuser.

Just in time for the party I broke out my new piggy friend from Tovolo, which is also available on the Spice & Tea site and all their stores, is now a new trusted ally and confidant when it comes to infusing.

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The hot tea was easy.  I took my time steeping it and the reddish hue was easily visible without any thoughts of what was to come.  The flavors of apple, papaya, coconut, blueberries, mango, among all the others may not be detected at once.  But with various sips you’re going to get the feeling of the islands, the tropics, the beach, summer, and all the stuff that will literally warm your heart.

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Herbal tea is a friend to begin with and this specific tea is now one I consider a close friend.

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The iced version is truly the way to go.  Like the warmed up version, you get those beautiful summer flavors but you even get more.

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It’s sweet enough that you may discover more of those enticing fruits that may not be found when steeped and toasted via a kettle.  But it’s not that sweet that you might be put off by.

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I could see teas like this really going off the rails and never having a chance from the get go.  This tea is setting highs marks for these Tiki and tropic themed teas that I’ve been told are becoming quite the trend.  I’m all for trying more of these as the Summer continues.

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But lets slow it down.  It’s time to sip, savor, and appreciate all the good that this season, or any season for that matter brings, and feel grateful for where we are.

I have a great feeling about this Summer.  Not in a forced or disingenuous way, but in one of hope, spirit, and a belief that lots of good is coming on top of the good that has already been presented to us.

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What makes me laugh is during the multiple times I tried to get a beautiful looking iced tea over this holiday weekend, it was always cloudy.  As soon as I walked away and chose to town my situation, it became sunny, beautiful, and gorgeous.   These are the things I laugh at.  That’s the universe telling me that it wasn’t my time just yet.

This is also a reminder in discipline and truly respecting the steeping time.  It’s about enjoying the entire process from start to finish.

I’m all about enjoying Summer from the start.

Get the Tiki Punch while you can. It’s incredible.    And the get the Peach On The Beach I wrote about last week.

Of course everything can be purchased online as well as in their beautiful shoppes.

Thanks to my friends at the Annapolis location for two weeks worth of masterpiece like teas.

I hope your Memorial Day Weekend was a good one and I wish you a happy, safe, and blessed Summer.

Best,

Ideen

 

 

 

Peach on the Beach

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We are days from Memorial Day and the holiday weekend here in the US of A.  How did we get here so quickly?  Well that’s life.  We’re busy and encompassed with so many things that while we may wish for holidays, we’re also so occupied with life and activities and everything else that days and events just creep up on you.

Here we go.  It’s the end of May and it’s time to celebrate.  It’s always time to celebrate. The party continues.  And of course that means the tea drinking party continues.

What better way to get this week and upcoming weekend going than a fateful stop to one of the great towns in Maryland and all of the United States, Annapolis, MD.

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The state capital has been so good to me and so good to this blog (here is a refresher), and so has The Spice & Tea Exchange.

Here is my cherished history of stories about this amazing company.

So I’m so fortunate to have ended up in Annapolis this week.  I always believe that nothing is by chance, and just as I was all set to have something else written up for this week, I find myself (or they found me) at their beautiful location on Main Street, which is centrally located to everything exciting in downtown Naptown.

I want to thank Gaby, the manager, for helping me find the correct teas for the season, the time of year, and for the story I’m telling.

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I will never try all their teas.  It just won’t happen.  Actually who knows, but their collection is so colossal that it’s just meant to be that there will always be a journey with this group, and not a conclusion.  I love that so much.

What makes them so sun is they always break out a few season and limited edition items at various times throughout the year.  Some I’ve presented to you over the past couple of years.

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This week I present to you the first of two of their limited time teas, the Peach on the Beach.  And it’s a grower for many reasons.  It smells absolutely incredible.

I think I’m going to like this even more as the weather heats up.  As of the day I brewed this, the skies were grey, the weather was lukewarm, and it wasn’t conducive to fully appreciating all that this tea has to offer.

 

Everyone’s palates and taste buds are different but I didn’t get all the peach and mango I was hoping for.  But after analyzing and preparing this tea hot and cold (yes both!), I understand.  It’s a black tea first and foremost, and I genuinely love that fact.  Black tea is what made me first get into tea before anything else.   This reminds me of teas I had growing up, sharing with my dad, members of my family, and now often with dear friends.

I fully think this is going to taste even better when shared with friends, shared with good times, shared with appropriate snacks (which isn’t necessary), and I fully think shared with sunny skies and glorious conditions.

Mine was sipped in solitude under murky skies and not the most ideal of spring or summer weather.

However, tell to that to my newest friend and newest tea infuser, Mr. Tea.  Yes, Mr. Tea from Fred & Friends, is also available through the Spice & Tea website or at all of their stores.

Mr. Tea is more than ready for the Summer, so he (I think?) might be making another appearance or two in the coming months if it feels right.  Which I know it will.

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So I said I also made it iced.   And not to be outdone by our beach bud Mr. Tea is another infuser and friend I made a couple of months back, ManaTEA.

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The ManaTEA is the perfect complement to any tea and infusing party, that I’m so grateful he decided to join us for this pre Memorial Day celebration.

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I want to add I used filtered water for both cups/glasses, and used plenty of ice for the iced tea.  Well yeah that would make sense.

Once again, I think under better days from the universe this is going to be incredible.  It was really good here but the atmosphere and the sky was not my friend on this day. Actually I shouldn’t say that.  This was how it was supposed to be.  It creates a different perspective for now and once the skies are perpetually picturesque, it’s going to make drinking this tea again all the more satisfying.

So what I did was add a little dash of Rose Sugar.  I don’t see it listed in their iconic list of sugars on the website, so maybe it’s exclusive to in store. Yes, for purchasing three tea packets you get a free bag of sugar.  I saw the Rose and didn’t look anywhere else.  Actually I did but the Rose stood out.  Just the color of the Rose petals and sugar looks like the most beautiful sand on the beach.

I love that this happened.  None of this was planned but it seemed pre-destined or pre-ordained.

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A little bit, and then a little more was added and it did add something to the tea.  I think the teas are perfect on their own but this was the perfect sweet kick to put this tea on another level of joy and inspiration.

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Speaking of inspiration, this company has been so great to me.  I’m a huge supporter of them and they have been supporters of this blog.  All I can hope is that I’m giving these teas their proper due.  Next week will continue with the Tiki Punch Herbal Tea.  Yes you read that right.  It smells amazing, I can only imagine what else it has to offer.

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Here is a list of the Spice & Tea’s Exchange locations, their link to shop online, and their contact information.

I wish you all a Happy Memorial Day Weekend.  Be safe, have fun, drink lots of tea, and then drink some more, tea that is.

Blessed,

Ideen

 

Always Go With Your…

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I hadn’t even thought to do a post related to Earth Day.  This may or may not be it.  But I’m going to go with it.  There’s so much good to write about HEX Ferments that I didn’t know where to begin.  But I did go with my gut (hmm…) in more ways than one and the results were glorious, beauteous, and illustrious.

Whenever I have the opportunity to talk about a local business, it’s a blessing, it’s a joy, and it’s a one of the main reasons I do what I do.  I love local and to me it’s the soul, the conscience, and backbone of society.  It’s truly of the most authentic things we have in a world that may be running out of that authenticity.

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So another couple of visits to Belvedere Square Market, where HEX is located, left me never any doubt I was going to try their Kombucha and try I did.

I ask myself this question after having something so amazing.  Why did it take me so long?  Well there’s no answers.  There’s so many uncovered gems in the world of tea, and the world of anything for that matter, that I haven’t tried them all.  But that’s the joy of the journey.

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No I didn’t try all their Kombucha’s, but I did get to have two.  Yes, the two pictured above.  And these two are something I’m going to savor for a long time.  And even for the short time as they’re both still sitting in the refrigerator staying fresh because that’s how Kombucha works.

Fortunately, I had a friend for the first visit to help with suggestions on what to try.  We had different ideas which led me to wanting to have what they had the second time.  And that’s exactly what happened.

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First, the Basil Jasmine.  This was a seasonal item that is no longer well, in season.  But I still have some.  And even though it’s a little bit past best by drinking date, it’s still magnificent.  And it’s the one that’s easier to savor and drink slower.  Because of that, I gave this the wine treatment.  Yes that’s right.   The bottles by the way are $15, yet $5 of that is refundable if you bring it back.  And yes that goes towards another Kombucha. This is beautiful stuff I know.  And that’s the stuff of Earth Day lore and living that I love so much.  And speaking of beautiful, yes this Basil Jasmine is giving me goose bumps as I write about it.

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That golden honey color is mesmerizing.

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I can’t put into words how amazing this is.  I said ‘is’ because I want hold on to this as long as I can.  I don’t know when it’s coming back.  Well yeah I did, most likely next Spring.  This is no sipping tea.  It’s something to take your time with.  Is it the honey, the basil, the Kombucha Culture, or the cane sugar.  I just reeled off everything.  It might be all of the above.  But all of the above is absolutely awesome.   I just wish it was still available for you to try.

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Now comes the Butterfly Lime, which is always available.    This one, which is easier drink quickly, is wonderful as well.  For simply savoring reasons I’d give the edge to the Basil Jasmine, but this no knock on the Butterfly Lime.  I mean look at the purple?  This looks picturesque in any setting.  How did they make this look so good?  This is art, and it’s art to drink.   The butterfly pea flower tea and lime juice combination makes the perfect sense, yet I don’t know how it does.  And maybe I don’t need to know.  This one is always available yet I still have mine to savor and drink over time.  Honestly, I’m craving both right now.  They’re so close yet so far.   My mouth is watering.

One detail I must mention with both of these bottles is when you first unseal them, there is a fog or a steam that emanates upon first opening.  To me, this is even more exciting than popping open a bottle of champagne.  And I tried my best to capture a picture of this.  Maybe it’s the kombucha culture?  Maybe it’s the all natural ingredients opening up in celebratory fashion?  Yay nevertheless.

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If you live in and around Baltimore, I highly suggest coming to Belvedere Square Market (here is another post I made from this heralded market) to find HEX Ferments easily visible in the right in the middle of the market, nestled in the back.  It’s worth what may seem like a hefty cost.  But it’s really not.   And you can get a class of any of their goods for $6.  Oh and they have other goods!

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If you’re interested in finding them elsewhere, this link might be a friend to you.

For anyone with digestive issues these beverages are also a friend.

And here’s there list of Frequently Asked Questions you might have.   And finally here is their contact information.

This is only the beginning.  I need to come back here and soon.  HEX deserves all the praise in the world you can heap or anyone or anything.  I sincerely mean that.

Let’s do it again soon.  It’s Spring, so soon is highly possible.

Best,

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

Cup of Cheers

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Well we caved.  After last weeks post I thought I would slowly work my way to Thanksgiving… Yes, I’m not going to throw myself under the bus alone.  Me and some close friends have fully embraced the holidays much sooner than we’re supposed to.  But what the rationale is a case-by-case thing isn’t it?   And wait just a minute is that at Christmas tree you see above?  Uh…

Just when you think Trader Joe’s can’t top itself, it brings another in its rich tradition of amazing teas to the holiday party.  Wait, who’s having a party?   I love a good holiday shindig.  So this is a review of the first official party of this 2016 Thanksgiving and yes, the Christmas season.  Merry Merry.

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The Vanilla & Cinnamon Black Tea is a joy on so many levels.  It’s been around for a few years, but I suppose I was only meant to try it now.  And that means I’m late to another party.  This is one I’m not happy I’m fashionably late for, but better than the alternative.

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I’m a sucker for animals.  And look at this happy lemur enjoying life while holding a hot cup of one can only hope is a tea that humans and lemur’s alike can both enjoy.  I’m happy to report that my pals and I enjoyed this so much.  And at $1.99 this is a bargain beyond belief.

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And there’s no need to dissect everything included because it’s simply black tea, cinnamon, and vanilla flavoring.   I love the cinnamon and that’s what sticks out the most. The health benefits of cinnamon are widely known and it makes this experience all the more merrier.  Yes. merrier.  I love the feeling of drinking healthy tea with even healthier spices thrown into the mix.  What’s not to love?  Hey, is that another animal friend below? Yay!

 

 

As a bonus, we had some horrific holiday movies already showing on one of those channels.  You know, it’s one of those networks that starts showing them at least two months in advance.  I saw them in passing a week or so ago and didn’t want to get sucked in.  It didn’t happen then but it happen yesterday.  Bad movies are even better (or worse) with good company.

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The weekend that just preceded and included this party was one for the books.

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I found myself in Annapolis for most of it, surrounded by good people and good circumstances.  The weather was glorious, the people were just the same, and the events we and (sometimes hrmyself in solitude) found ourselves attracting was as organic as it’s going to be.  And that’s what the holidays should be about too.

One of those events was the First Sunday Arts Festival, which had the most beautiful small town setting with vendors, arts, crafts, live music, wine and food tastings, demos, and anything else you could think of.  It was something I wish I could keep internally and not necessarily  share with with the world.  But’s a memory worth embracing with everyone included and something to make me feel warm inside.

And my friend let me use a teacup that’s only fitting for the occasion and for the weekend that was near its conclusion.

This festival may be revisited again when it comes to tea.  So there is a point to all this. There’s always a point to everything.  And it call connects.

I had to purchase something on my way out of the festival to support local business.  And the very last both was this very kind soul at Twinkle Candle Company.  Their aromatically awesome, ‘Autumn Fairy’, candle worked well with everything going on with this set-up. For those in the area, their seasonal selection of candles can be found at Local By Design.

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I went on quite the holiday tangent and I suspect it’ll be like this for a while.  Looks like the Annapolis Tea Party will continue next week.

See yas then!

Ideen

May I Have Another?

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I have never loved coffee.  If I did even just a little, or cared enough to blog about it, then I would.  But unfortunately it’s a necessary evil that I allowed to be a part of my life. I do enjoy a cup periodically, either just black or with some flavored creamer, but most times I wish I never had my first. Now I feel like I’m stuck.

This is not meant as a propaganda piece or to tell you what to drink or not to drink.  For many, it’s a passion and a hobby.  For others it’s just a part of every day life.  It’s funny to think about how I got introduced.  I don’t remember.  I bet the vast majority don’t know either.

Tea (for me) on other hand is a gift from something bigger than us.  There’s universal, cosmic, and metaphysical forces at play here.   Am I sounding a bit to deep and existential here?  Good.

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And this past weekend another force or maybe just me feeling adventurous, brings me to one of my most favorite towns, Annapolis, MD, and even more specifically, 49 West Coffeehouse, Winebar, and Gallery.  That sounds like the best trios ever.

So what on earth does any of this have to with tea?   I had no preconceived notions about this place.  I’ve only driven by a plethora of times and never thought to stop in.  That’s my fault.  For this is the place I will forever remember that I discovered, Cacao Tea.

Again, as I have reiterated in the past, maybe I had it once and either didn’t internalize it at the time or quite simply, I took it for granted. My hunch tells me this is a first and I’m sticking with that (for now).

When I go in anywhere for the first time it’s exciting, tranquil, never-racking, and subdued all at once.  Yes those are oxymorons.   Here if anything I felt awkward and I had no reason to be.

Remember, I had no idea what I was getting into and thankfully the first person that exchanged greetings with me was the live musician.   They have live acoustic sessions on a regular basis and that’s awesome.

Honestly, I felt like I was inside a painting.  Annapolis has its stigmas or those aforementioned preconceived notions about being too stuffy and territorial.  I didn’t notice any of that here.  The staff was the complete opposite.  I got more the sense of free-spirits and down-to-earth folks just earning and a living and having fun while doing it.  If any of the patrons were snooty, I tuned them out or was oblivious.  If anything, maybe I was the stuffy one?  Catch my drift?

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I’m not big on a hearty brunch.  My stomach can only handle so much.  I usually prefer lighter fare in the morning.  So whenever I see oatmeal on a menu, I like to go with that and I did.   This is where I could have paralyzed myself with all the selections of loose tea.

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There was one I was going to go with and I’m glad I didn’t.  Cacao stuck out like a pot-of-gold and was begging me to order it.   I’m fortunate I did.

My oatmeal with blueberries was healthy and not too filling.  The bowl was just the right size.  A little on the petite side was what the doctor ordered.   But this tea took a while to hook me.  But that’s how you know it’s legit, it’s healthy, and it’s fabulous.

It’s a healthy alternative which never should have been.  This is one of the originators.  I adore that word.

I let that infuser steep and steep like there was no tomorrow.  My brain has been used to artificial sweeteners that I didn’t fully appreciate what I was drinking until halfway through my first round.  The cocoa is subtle yet noticeable at the same time, that it’s the perfect understated tea.

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Rejuvenation, concentration, and healing come to mind when sipping on this tea.  Can you ever have enough?  Even when things are going great, I could use another dosage.  That came in the form of a to-go cup.  My world-class server was awesome enough to hook me up with one for the road.

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The genuine state of feeling good didn’t really hit me till I departed.   It’s one of those short stints that I will love even more with time.  It’s one of those memories I wanted to keep internal but for the sake of the tea and the blog, I felt it was appropriate to share. With that said, I almost feel like the next time I have this treasure, it will feel like a letdown, or maybe it will be an equally amazing experience.  And maybe the next time I’m at this wonderful place, I’ll write attract something else extraordinary.   They do have wine.  Yes, wine!

Maybe I’ll let you know about next time.

Stay healed,

Ideen

 

A Happy Place

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An impromptu stop in College Park, MD, led me to a gem I never knew existed.

I was driving around, looking for a place to grab a hot cup, and low and behold, I discover, The Board and Brew.   On this quiet afternoon, I was able to take in all the wonders of this place.   They have plenty of food, drinks, and of most important of all, games.  And they got lots of ’em.

I know this is a blog about tea, and that was purchased, but I must say, this is a place I wish I had near me when I was in college.  I’d have hung out here frequently and gladly overstay my welcome.  There’s so much that’s relatable in here, from the cozy seats, the simple menu, and most of all, it’s staff.  The girl working today was very helpful in suggesting to me me…

…I’ve had Rishi Tea several times before, but not in this setting.   And it added to the charm.   The Jade Cloud was recommended to me over any of the teas in their collection, green or otherwise.    And the advice was spot on.

The tea had just the right amount of subtle, bitter flavor, that I have liked from my greens.

I savored this in a peaceful setting.  I usually drink my tea at home or on to go, so to relax with my cup and enjoy a new change of scenery, only enhanced this experience.

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And how cool is the packaging? It was as smooth to open as anything.  And the way the bag is shaped?  You can hear the leaves shaking on the inside.  This is authenticity.

I had my cup with a white macadamia cookie and it hit the spot.

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Posted below are images from one of the cooler places I’ve been to in sometime.  I love it when it’s natural, genuine,and organic.  Just like the tea.

front. outsidesign board games! moregames!

If you want to feel like a kid or just do something different than the typical bar scene, I strongly recommend this place.  I know many establishments have game nights, or have them available to play, but not like this.  Here, they go all out.  I would love to make a night out of this.  Who wants in?  And of course try some more Rishi Tea! (And other delicacies they’re serving.)   A more in depth recap of their teas will be forthcoming.

Thanks so much.

Best,

Ideen