Feeling Grateful – Part II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Everything about this visit was beautiful.

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

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

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

For more on Matcha Time Cafe click here.

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

Have a good one, and peace be with you…

Ideen

 

 

 

 

 

It Is Only With The Heart…

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I write this on the verge of Spring, the verge of Iranian New Year (which coincides with the first day of spring, and depending on where you are, has already happened), and the verge of well I don’t know.   I am of Iranian heritage by the way, yet was born here, but I just digressed.  And I’ll stop now.

This has been some winter,  some year already, and a whole lot of other things.   Many I can’t describe, many that seem invisible and hard to comprehend, and some that need no explanation.  Some things are just bigger than us.

As we approach Spring, we know this can be a time of rebirth, spiritual healing, rejuvenation, and all those other words that mean the same thing, but mean so much.

It’s a time that can mean so much…

As the days go longer, and our spirits are heightened, it’s a reminder how quick and fleeting this life is.  I’m over three years into this blog, wondering but appreciating where all this time went.  It’s a good thing.  I’m fortunate to continue to do this, and hope that this will grow, flourish, and become something bigger than I can imagine.  Just like the season.  I know it’s coming.

I know things are good, they’ll only get better, and I believe it for myself and for those closest to me.

So it only makes sense that the tea this week is the Supreme Matcha Green from Pukka.

If they’re sounding familiar, it’s because I’ve written about them twice before since February, and I see them becoming a regular staple of this journey.   Pukka has my heart, and I feel it understands me.

I would like to say I understand them, but I don’t necessarily need to.  But I do know I love their teas.  And seriously, I love their teas.

The Supreme Matcha Green was actually not what I was going to write about.  A dear friend suggested I write about the Clean Matcha Green, but I looked far and wide (no not really haha), and while there was no luck, the signs were all their to write about something Supreme.

And supreme it is.  It’s masterful.

The synopsis is great, and it shows sense of humor and seriousness all at once.

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Sometimes our superhero or are normal (whatever that means, it’s all relative) powers do run low and we need a reboot.   This is the tea that’ll do it.  And there’s nothing glamorous about it, which makes it fantastic to me.  That’s just the way I want it.

It’s the combination of green teas from the great regions of the world, and the matcha powder that even though seems understated after each sip, you know it’s there.  I couldn’t tell you what stands out in this tea, because in this instance, it doesn’t have to.

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It’s a green tea that is just a cut above many green teas you’re going to have.  I take it that the energy and soul behind this tea has a lot do with it.   Pukka has a lot to be proud of as they have created something incredible, joyous, and it’s the quintessential tea for not just this season, but anytime you want.

But this is the kind of tea that can kickstart a season, your life, and your anything.

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There’s just something so grandiose in the simplicity of this tea.  Even if you’re not a fan of Matcha or how it tastes, I think this tea is going to change people’s minds and win hearts and spirits all over the place.

You may notice a sweet treat within this holiday display, and that’s merely for decoration.  Well I did sneak a snack or two, but this tea doesn’t need anything.   A lot can be paired with something, but teas like this are best sipped slowly and sipped on its own.  This is one to savor my friends.

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Pukka continues to amaze and inspire.  I feel like my superhero powers will be running high after a cup of the Supreme Matcha Green.

It’s heart, and sometimes it is only with the heart…

And if you needed another reason to love their teas, look here.  Hi Pukka, you’re amazing.

Here is their story, a focus on our well being, their contact information, and where to buy their inspirational teas.

Happy Spring and Happy New Year to you! It’s going to be a good one!

Love,

Ideen

There Will Be A Next Time

 

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Over the Summer, I made a trek to the Gulf Coast of Florida, and was mesmerized by the love for tea people have, and all the tea shoppes, markets, and displays all over the place.

St. Petersburg in particular was so good to me.  All my posts can be found from those captivating experiences can be found here.

One thing I neglected to mention over the course of January, is that it’s National Hot Tea Month.

While that shouldn’t change my posts for any particular reason, it should give me a reason to change up something.  I think you know what I’m trying to say here.

There’s so many stories that unfortunately are past the expiration date, or it’s the time of year where it doesn’t make sense or feel right to write about a certain time, place, or experience.  Those will either have to keep waiting, or it’s not meant to see the light of day, just yet.

I knew I had the amazing tea and experience from Haraki-Gordon,whom had a booth from the Saturday Morning Market sitting in my back pocket, just waiting for the perfect time.

Now is as a good as time as any.   It was a whirlwind of a day trying all the teas on a display.  And considering that this was June, of course I mainly sipped on iced teas, kombucha, and got a sweeter sensation.

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But when all is said and one, my heart will always be with the hot teas, the most natural of teas, and made of the most purest ingredients.  Haraki-Gordon had the most unassuming of stands, off to the side, and if you weren’t looking for it, you wouldn’t have given it a second thought, or paid it any mind.

HarakiGordonGreenTea

The couple who was there, were the actual makers of the tea, so it made for a more genuine conversation versus someone who would be at a stand because they had to be, or may not be so passionate for what they’re talking about.

They were so nice, and regardless of how warm is what, they made me want to sip on their green and red teas.  Yes I said red tea!

HarakiGordonInfo

They cultivate their teas mainly in Matcha form, which is as pure as it gets.  All items are available for purchase here.

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The Green Tea Powder, for this day, was a palate cleanser for one, but it was a spiritual one as well.  The samples were merely in tiny cups but it was enough to purify me in a way that I didn’t know until now, was even more important than I realized.

The Red Tea Powder, while more brownish in tint has a stronger taste that isn’t going to work well with everyone.  It’s higher in tannins but it will rejuvenate you in ways that you didn’t know possible.  I’m serious about this.  This was incredible.  Both teas are incredible.

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It helps where I was.  It was the summer, and the energy at the market was incredible.  Everyone seemed so friendly, so kind, so inviting, and so welcome.   What’s funny is you see that I took these teas to a nearby fruit stand, and soon as I took these pictures, it started to rain.

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It would stop raining and it would rain again.  It would be sunny and it would rain, and for a while it was just sunny and raining.  There’s symbolism in all this.  It was the only day I experienced this weather masterpiece.  And while I’m sitting huddled under a tent with people I’ve never met, may never see again, holding my tiny cups of tea; it all felt so real.  I was alone but I wasn’t.  I was with all these people but I was ok being alone.  I knew this is something that doesn’t happen often so I’m grateful to have experienced an atmosphere and energy I don’t always get at home.

And at some point, walking in the rain felt fine to me….

That’s the point of going away for a while.  I think it’s time to go away for a while again.

Everything about this was beautiful.

There will be a next time.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

Sunday In The Summer Tea Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a surprise this was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

 

Feeling Grateful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ideen

National Iced…

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As some of you might have known, National Iced Tea Day was on June 10th.  Yes this is an actual event and why the workplace and classroom remained open for this momentous of holidays is baffling to me.   This is as important as it gets ladies and gentlemen.

In all seriousness, I had a cold beverage or two in mind to write about, but all bets are off.  I wanted to do it all little different this time.

Once again this idea came to me just hours ago.   The weather is flourishing.   The sun is out, the temperature is up, and the heat is on.    It’s too obvious to write about iced and cold teas during this time of year.  I did it a lot last Summer and I will get back to that.  But for the first time since beginning this blog, we’re talking ice cream.  And ice cream makes everyone happy.   But does that include green tea ice cream?

What makes this blog fun is discovering brands and items one has never heard of.  At least I haven’t.   The famous brands in all areas are great to elaborate on but just when I thought I was going to go with a world famous brand, I go with maeda-en.  Yeah it’s new to me too.

The ingredients and nutrition facts are on display for your viewing enjoyment.  And I needed it as a reference point.  I’ve had green tea ice cream or matcha ice before as a dessert at Japanese or sushi based restaurants and was amazed by how much sugar was added.  I understand that just green tea in ice cream form is going to taste real coarse and bitter, that the aftertaste may leave a lot to to be desired.  I understand that but also find the concept to be counterproductive in terms of health.

But that’s on me.   I don’t see how it can be prepared and served any other way.  Ice cream is meant to be sweet.  It’s one of many joys of these glorious months where everything feels happier.

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So how was this ice cream?  I liked it but since I have little to compare it by, my opinion may not be entirely accurate.  That could change with time one way or another.  I may love it more or grow to realize there’s better out there.  I adore green tea so any taste of that makes me happy.  It’s an interesting dichotomy with the artificial sweeteners.  I almost feel guilty having it.   Something doesn’t feel right.  I’m betraying the purity of green tea by having this.

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The website doesn’t have any more than a broad list of items, but as you can see they have multiple flavors.  Will I get to any more?  If you look close at the photograph above, there is a teaser for something in the very near future.

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For now, I will enjoy the rest of this bowl, as it’s very rich and will take some time to complete.   If you’re interested in this company, contact info, and most importantly where to buy, links have been provided.

Ah I love Summer.  More is coming.

Stay warm and stay cool.

Best,

Ideen

 

A Matcha Made In…

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Isn’t it funny how you start reading or hearing about a topic, and then images, visual cues, or stories about that topic seem to become drawn to you?   Well this happened to me this week with Matcha.

I’m always willing to learn more about the different forms of tea, the health benefits, the origins of my favorites, and so much more. But, for whatever reason, I was inspired to read about Matcha, and then I started getting signs everywhere.  It’s as if I was being naturally pulled to write about it this week.

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As I find myself in the massive tea aisle of my local supermarket, of course the first kind of tea that sticks out is from a company I had never heard of.  And this leads us to Matcha Love.  The two cans I purchased look so charming don’t they?  These adorable 5 oz. cans are just what the tea universe ordered! I just want to put them both in my pocket for safekeeping. Actually I can!

How did the Sweetened and Unsweetened compare?  For one, they were both magnificent. These are works of art.  The only difference with them is that the former has cane sugar added. And wow does the sugar taste natural.

MatchaSweetOpened

MatchaUnSweetOpened

I poured both into glasses to get a visual comparison. How gorgeous are these?

I chose to drink both at room temperature and I’m glad I did.  I wanted to get more of a sipping experience and opposed to it being chilled.  I think it would taste awesome either way.

With the unsweetened one, I did get more of an authentic green tea tasting experience.  It was like all the great teas I’ve had heated from a traditional kettle.  I got a very smoky flavor on top of that.  I didn’t want to get carried away but I could have had a few more of these.

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The company who came up with this gem is ITO EN, based out of Japan.  And within their website they have a tremendous section dedicated to Green Tea and all the positive benefits of it.

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Speaking of benefits, I felt so good after drinking my Matcha Love cans.  It might have been because it was my first time or maybe there was something so powerful to them, that could be too good for words.

The teas were only $1.59.  That’s a bargain for what I was getting.

I felt energized but also a sense of calm instantaneously.  I felt as if life was so perfect at that moment and everything is going right with the world.  It’s a natural high that I would like to exhibit more often.

The organization is only 15 years old but I wish I had heard of them sooner.   Their website has a lot to navigate and tons of information, and once again I’m glad there is an area for community and social awareness.

There is so much to process and they have so many varieties to choose from that I will need to revisit this great company.  Thankfully everything about them seems user-friendly and genuine, that I will be happy to do so.

Thanks so much.

Best,

Ideen