The Fireside Is…

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I’ve been away for a little while.   This season has been a little harder to embrace than most.   Eventually sadness was going to take over and just manifest itself throughout the holidays.  And I love the holidays so much.

I love Thanksgiving.  I love Christmas.  I love all the celebrations of peace, life, love, family, and of course all the celebrations in general.

Holiday parties make me so happy.  But this year I haven’t been feeling it.  I’ve chosen to stay away from a few this time, or make other plans.  The comforts of sitting at home with my cat, or the various pets I look after are what’s getting me through the holidays thus far.

I never wanted to be someone that just got through the holidays, but this is currently where I stand.  And it hurts.  It hurts in ways that I can’t even describe.

Plain and simple, this is the first holidays without my dad.  And with that brings upon feeling of grief, not just about him, but about so much else going on in my life, or lack thereof.    Yet with all the hurt and tragedy, there’s still so much to be grateful for, and there’s those constants that just keep me going and still bring a smile to my face.  There’s much to be thankful and grateful for.  There always will be… Just like…

The Spice & Tea Exchange has always been there, and I hope it continues to be there (my love for them can be found here) for me, not just to review their limited time teas, but all their magical teas, that are for sure magical, and all those other good things.

For now, I like to go when it’s quiet.  This is a far cry from when I would want to be around big groups, busy shoppers, and all the noise and commotion that makes this season so exciting.  Maybe later.  Right now, that’s not for me.

The Annapolis location (all locations can be found here) was the ideal setting for browsing and purchase.

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What is for me is peace, calm, and a lot of solitude.  I find comfort in the unknown and in quiet.  The unknown is the three latest teas for holidays.  I’m so grateful to share with you my thoughts on the Holiday Cheer, the returning Chocolate Candy Cane Tea, and the Fireside Spice.

For more on the returning Chocolate Candy Cane go here.

With help from the trusty Cozy Cup Mitten Infuser (charming I know right), I had a ball preparing these for enjoying and sipping.  Yes!

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Not going in any particular order we start with the Holiday Cheer.

The trios of cinnamon, hibiscus, and fig is breathtaking.  I probably didn’t do the best job of brewing this cup, hence the color that you see.  But the flavors still shined through in spectacular fashion.   With a name like Holiday Cheer, how can you not be enchanted?

The Chocolate Candy Cane is just as great as I remember it a year ago.  Maybe even better. Black tea, chocolate, and peppermint will make anyone happy.  This also tells me I must try some of their more traditional teas, such as black and other flavors that I’ve grown up with.  Yes, ones I’ve shared with my dad.  I felt this one a little more this time.

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If I had to pick a favorite it would be the Fireside Spice, and it might just be the cinnamon and chicory combination that made feel a little more sentimental for the time I’m in, for the the time we’re in, and where time tends to stop, and I felt like a kid for a moment.

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But I know I’m not.  These teas take on a whole new meaning to me then if this were a year ago, or many years ago.  This is life though and we’re all going to experience a lot of things, some that will hurt, but hopefully many that bring us joy and raise our spirits.

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I love these teas and I love The Spice & Tea Exchange.  Thank you for making my holiday feel a little more manageable.

Peace Be With You.

Love,

Ideen

 

 

Giving Thanks…

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Some people have had their fill   No not me.  It’s early November and I’m still here celebrating all the good from not just pumpkins, but cider encompasses more of the holiday season.  I did just say those magical words.

I love all the colors, the scents, the flavors, and most of all, the images of what this time of year has to offer.  There’s good in all facets of life, in all times of year, and life in general.   But this part of the calendar can or could lead to a million and one emotions.  You know what I’m talking about here.

Even with potential obstacles, challenges, and hopefully the best memories possible rising to the surface, there’s so much to love about this time of year.   That includes a gem of teas from one of my favorite places The Fresh Market.

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Their pumpkin spice tea was down to its last few canisters that I only felt it was right to snag one.  So for that this review may be a few weeks too late, but with Thanksgiving being a bit of a ways away, I don’t see the rush to get into the winter teas just yet.  Yet we’re seeing more than hints of all these holiday favorites.   So there may be one or two more fall like posts that need to be dusted off, within all the pending commotion.

There’s a lot to love about this, yet it’s so simple.  In a constantly busy time and world, simple is always welcome.

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I have so much pumpkin tea stored away, that I drink it all year round.  It may defeat the purpose, but why waste such great tea? Why waste tea anyways?  That’s right…

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When discovering this immaculate fall display, I just had to buy the exquisite pair of pumpkin spice and apple cider cookies from Dewey’s Bakery.

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At 12 calories a piece (I know right!), you can get carried away in enjoying them.  But that is what this season and life can be all about.  If you’re enjoying these moments, these experiences, and the joys of fall, then there’s no need to feel bad or guilty about any of this.  Indulgence on your own or with loved ones can lead to some of the best memories of all.  That can happen any time of year.

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Warning, these cookies are habit forming.  Paired with this tea, it’s a winner.  I only wish I got to talking about this much sooner.

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If time and the universe allows I may dust off a couple of more gems from the fall.  Maybe in retrospect.  There’s just so much to choose from, and so many can sadly get lost in the shuffle through no fault of their own.  With all the greatness of fall and the wide away of foods and teas to choose from, I wish I could dedicate more time to all of this.

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Happy November, Happy Holiday Season, and I wish you much happiness!

With that being said, more to come…

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And maybe more from The Fresh Market (locations here)…

Oooo I see cider up there!  Yes free samples are the best!

Peace Be With You.

Love,

Ideen

 

An Attitude of Gratitude…

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The Living in Gratitude Kombucha from GT’s is some of the best you’re ever going to taste.  I’m confident enough in saying that.  I wanted to get this recap in before supplies ran out.  And there’s a small chance that in some places (find a store) it may already be out.  That’s not based on any expert analysis, other than we you see and taste something this amazing, the term limited edition is an understatement.

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Perhaps it’s the color that evokes feelings of fall and change.  Perhaps it’s the flavors of apple, turmeric, carrot, and that oh so yummy cider.  But like I tend to say, perhaps it’s something much bigger.  This was created with everyone in mind…

Kombucha (more about GT’s here) is not for sipping, well it can be, but it’s intent like most things is to be savored, and enjoyed in small to moderate doses.  That sounds about right.

But something about the Living in Gratitude made me want it all in one sitting, or in one setting if you will.  It’s a lot lighter, at least to me, and has that comforting feeling just as the weather starts to turn cool and crisp.  What a perfect complement to the other.

Additionally, when you see words and images of gratitude, appreciation, love, and kindness, you’re going to be drawn to it, like a magnet.  Sometimes we don’t realize it’s happening, and there are no words for it.  But those thoughts and feelings, even if they come an go, bring you joy, bring you harmony, and bring you closer to… (fill in the blank).

I had no doubts that this would be incredible.   I had a sense it would be out of this world, or even out of this universe.  Sometimes you just know.    I sensed it right when I discovered it at a familiar place, Trader Joe’s.   Oh how I love Trader Joe’s and I love GT’s.

A drink like is meant to be enjoyed however you want it, and however you prefer. For me,  I would rather have it on its own.   Yet Trader Joe’s is loaded with so many fall offerings, familiar and new, that I had to pick up an old staple, Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s.

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The pairing is for entertainment purposes only, but a food and drink pairing is whatever you want it to be, and whatever makes you happy.  I know there are more unlikely duos than this, and that can be so much fun.

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But this Kombucha (even more love here), you’ve got to be kidding me.  Every flavor and every ingredient (which isn’t many, precisely, and they all have value) come together to form something so symbolic, something to genuine, and something so loving.

I should have grabbed more than one.  And hopefully there’s more waiting for me, and waiting for you too.

A drink like this brings upon feelings of all that’s good in the world, and as the days get shorter and the weather goes the way it’s going, we always can use more love.  No matter the season, no matter the occasion, and no matter your situation, there can never be enough love, never enough gratitude, and never enough kindness.

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This was comforting and a blessing on so many levels, that words may not be enough.  All I can do is sing its praises and tell you how this made me feel.  It made me feel…

…grateful…

Peace Be With You.

Love,

Ideen

Feeling Grateful – Part III

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That doesn’t mean I’ve only been grateful for three visits on this journey.  That would defeat the purpose of what’s happening here.  Matcha Time Cafe is one of my favorite places to visit (Part 1 and 2 can be found here) anywhere.  It’s more than just my love for Ellicott City, (even though that only enhances experience) it’s a love of local business, and a the people behind it.

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The space and time between this and the last visit was much less, and I suspect that this will continue.  For this visit, it was a quiet Friday afternoon, unplanned, and in some ways my favorite of the three.  But they’ve all been my favorite.  Something about this had a feel, just like most experiences area.  Something just felt safe, felt secure, felt even more safe, and felt like home.

This was just that much more safe, it was essential, and it was one of those feelings that can’t be explained.

We’re all in weird places from time to time.  Hopefully for the most part we’re in harmonious ones that when we go somewhere safe and happy, that feeling is that much more amplified.  Otherwise, a place like Matcha is just that much more needed.  I don’t like that word ‘need’, because it represents lack.  But sometimes those lacks need (oops) to be filled.  That comes from within, but it helps to get assistance from friends, from good food, of course good tea, and sometimes from people you don’t even know.

You know when things are comfortable and great when you can relax and the owner (who is also a friend) is working off to the side, and we can enjoy some conversation, but even better in some instances, silence.    I mean of course there was tea.  Let me get to that now.

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Ah it’s now really fall, and that means these endearing lists of teas, coffees, and ciders.  And there’s is as charming as it gets.    Funny how I’ve never had the Pumpkin Spice Tea from Matcha before, so let’s do it.

I had multiple cups and each one just tasted better than the other.  And that speaks to the power and quality of the loose tea itself.  If you can get multiple cups with lots of flavor remaining, all is good with the universe.   I took my time with each cup.  Then somewhere along the way…

Let’s have some chicken curry.  What a perfect dish for this time of year.   It was still bright enough outside and there’s this crisp coolness that just feels right, but also tells you that well, yeah not yet….

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This food and tea combination felt like a home cooked meal.   But in so many ways I felt like I was at home.  This was happiness.  I got comfortable, and maybe too comfortable, but is that such a bad thing?

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I shouldn’t have to question joy.  No one should.   I’m in a place of healing and it take a while, maybe forever to be healed.  Yet there’s always time to feel good and to feel better.  I felt so good here.  I lost track of time.  I felt like I was here 20 minutes, yet I was here nearly three hours.    That’s when you know peace.  We’re capable of attracting so much peace and harmonious feelings regardless of what the outside world presents itself.

The view of the outside world on this day was pretty amazing.  There was an outdoor wedding about to be held.  It was cool to see the set-up to the start of the ceremony.  Across the way live music was about to take place.  I forgot this was a Friday, and fun things like that tend to happen.   I could have stayed here, but maybe it was time to join the outside world.  Well that and they were about to close.

I like to think they stayed opened longer so I could feel as safe as long as possible.  Maybe I left before closing.  I don’t remember.  But I know I could have stayed there for a while.  I did but you know, a while…

My friend gave me a hot apple cider to go, and it was beautiful.  Cider is one of those comfort drinks that I should drink more often, but then maybe it wouldn’t feel so special. Again, happiness should never have an arbitrary amount of or anything like that. No.

I joined the concert with my cider, and I didn’t know a single soul, and it felt wonderful.  I felt connected to everyone while not knowing anybody.  Maybe somebody was going through something similar.  Maybe because I’m a in a place I’m not a regular, that people smiled at me just to say, everything’s going to be ok.  You’re ok.  I hope so.

This day was more than ok. It was one of my favorites.  My favorites are always the simplest ones, with a lot of good conversation, then a lot of peace, and that leads to inner peace, and inner joy.   That’s the season for you.

There’s a lot of beautiful moments to come.  I can feel it.  No event is ever the same nor should it be attempted, but I can only hope for more amazing ones down the line.

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I’ll treasure and savor this one forever…

Peace Be With You.

Love,

Ideen

 

 

Happy Birthday Dad…

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There’s no timetable to say you’re going grieving over a loved one.  And no one should feel an arbitrary amount of months or even years that it’s time to say you’re done.  I don’t know what being done is.  What I do know is…

Our parents don’t want us feeling sad all the time.  They would want us to live the best life possible, while they’re here and when it’s their time for the afterlife.

It was my dad’s time.

As much as I don’t like admitting that, it’s the truth.  My dad got sick over a year ago, and never could recover.  For some of us, the pain doesn’t that last that long.  It’s the pain of the children, the siblings, the aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and everyone in between and on the peripheral to feel and to come to terms with.

I’m still not sure if I’ve come to terms.   Not even five months later, it hurts but it’s a different kind of hurt.   I haven’t looked back on the two previous times I specifically wrote about my father (here and then here) right about the time he passed.  I’m not ready to look back and read them just yet.  Maybe I will with a fresher set of eyes down the line. So in some ways have I really come to terms?

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I can’t say for sure.  But what I can say is it only felt right, on his birthday and the first birthday without him (the holidays could be tough this year), to go back to our place, more so his place, Spice Xing, for a meal to honor him, honor his memory, and maybe bring some more peace to me.

I don’t recall a time that we didn’t have lunch buffet here.   Well things have changed, as that buffet is now only reserved for the weekends.   Well no big deal there.   The place was eerily quiet on this Monday afternoon, but I almost preferred it that way.

Of course on a day like this it’s grey, it’s rainy, and the sky is telling me something.  What that is, and what it may tell you are completely different things.  For many that might feel comforting.  Ordinarily, I would say it wasn’t.  But today it fit the mood.  If it was sunny and 80 degrees, I would say that would fit the mood.  But this was the mood and I’m grateful for that.

The last time I was actually here was the beginning of the healing process.  I’ll leave that to your own interpretation and speculation, as some things are better left unsaid.  But I’m forever grateful for the outpouring of love and support, that it will stay with me for the rest of my life.  I mean that.   It’s a once in a lifetime thing.  Literally.  It’ll never happen again.

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But what can happen again is a lovely meal to honor a man who has helped shaped me and our family to be in the position to be where we are today.  If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know where I would be.  He was the man.  And he still is the man.  Hi dad, I hope you see this sometime.. Love you…

What actually never crossed my mind until including these photos was, is he sitting across from me?  That’s a cliche but well….

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I did it different this time with the chicken reshmi kababs with a side of chana masala, salad, and naan bread.   Why kababs in an Indian restaurant?  Well why not.  Our background is Iranian, and we’ve had our share of kababs at many fine establishments in the area, and at home.  So I couldn’t think of a better meal to celebrate the best of all worlds.

My dad would just rather have the buffet.   And some of that naan bread too.  But I’ll get to that in a little bit.

MasalaTea

The masala tea was a gem and reminds me of simple black tea that my dad and I would share on a regular basis.   I could’ve ordered any beverage, but this seemed only right.  So I’m grateful to honor him within honoring him.  That makes me feel good.

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I sat in a different spot, yet I had a view of where we used to sit.  We’ve sat in a lot of places, but this spot felt comfortable.  I had a view of where his photos and a candle were positioned several months back.

While I was in a familiar place, I still felt removed and detached from everything. There’s safety in that.  Even by coming to a place we’ve been going to for years, I felt relieved being away from everything else.  Maybe that’s another part of the healing and grieving process.

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But today there really wasn’t much sadness.  Just like the week and days leading up to Father’s Day, I got so much out of me to the point of being physically exhausted and drained.  And now I know what it feels to have nothing left.  I feel transparent as I write this.  But more importantly I feel relieved.

I’m relieved that my dad is in a happier place.  Where that place is I don’t know.  But I believe he’s at peace and harmony with everything.  It’s what we wish for our loved ones when it’s their time to go and when they’re gone.  As heartbreaking as it sounds, it’s also so beautiful.

This is life.  This is death.  It’s good to cry, but it’s also good to be happy.  Our true family, our dearest friends, and love ones want only want the best for us.  They would sacrifice their own joy just so you can feel some.  My dad did that for everyone while he was alive, and maybe he did it when he was saying goodbye.  That’s the most beautiful and selfless act of all.

While I was sad on the days and eve of his birthday, that sense of sadness has turned into calm.  Maybe it’s numbness or maybe it’s something else.  Maybe I’m just tired.  Yet maybe it’s just the universe telling me I’ve handled enough and now it’s time to take a break, until the next phase of grieving.

I don’t want to think that far ahead, because I don’t know what even tomorrow will bring.

What I do know is I’m proud of my dad, and I miss him.  I love him.  And while I know his spirit is with me, and will always be with me, I’m starting to see a light. I’m starting to see hope, and starting to see that the best life is still in front of me.  My dad would want this for me.  Our parents would want this for us.

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So I raise my cup and say salud, I say cheers, and I say I love you dad.

And next time I’ll be sure to pocket all the leftover naan bread and sneak out like a little kid in your honor… Ha!

I love you dad and Happy Birthday…

Your son,

Ideen

A Better Way To…

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Way back in time, I wrote about Wawa, and all the goodness that it brings.   Kids of all ages that have ever visited one of their stores (locations can be found herelocations can be found here) or heard about one, know of the aura that Wawa has.  There’s no overstating this, I find happiness here, that I don’t find just anywhere.  And there’s happiness to be found anywhere and everywhere…

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I would have to give myself enough time to write about every tea, coffee, latte, and everything in between that Wawa has to offer.  And that’s just counting for the fall season, let alone everything else.  The photo above is just the beginning, and everything else is great too.  Yes, this story will be loaded with heavy biases, and I’m proud of that fact.

On average I’m here at least five times a week.  That isn’t an exaggeration.  I’m fortunate to be near a half-dozen or so stores/filling stations just within driving distance, and many more in the area, that I’m never without my Wawa.

Three plus years was way too long to get back to talking about one of the best places in the whole wide world, so let’s get to it…

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The Hot Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea is more on the lighter side, and that’s just the way I wanted it.  In many past stories I’ve elaborated on why I feel this can be too rich and too aggressive for my tastes.  As we approach comfort food, comfort drink, and comfort everything this season, a little richness never hurt anybody.  But when it comes to chai I want it light, I always want it light, and I want it just like this.

What’s beautiful about the drink choices (and pretty much most of the food choices as well…) is that it’s built to order at your fingertips.  I know a lot of places have instituted this, but I would like to think Wawa was first, and the greatest of all time.  I warned you about biases!

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You have your options of milk and whether or not you want whip cream.   Their recommendations are shown to you, but you can come up with whatever makes you happy.  Almond milk makes he happy. Yay!  With the chai I kept it real simple as opposed too…

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The Iced Pumpkin Maple Harvest Latte is full on commotion and chaos, no not really, it’s a heavy drink.  I got it iced and with whip cream on top.  And if you think I finished this one in one setting, you would be right.  Actually no, this one took a long time and my stomach said no thank you.  But the truth is, it’s good, but it’s not for everyone.

Maple has somewhat caught up to pumpkin in terms of all the fall concoctions that you can make out of these two autumnal entities (not sure it that made sense).   This isn’t a knock on the drink at all.  I ordered this deliberately to counterbalance the chai tea.

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While I like it, and it’s not necessarily for me, it easily could be something you will enjoy.  I’m all about trying something different.  And their menu has something available for all to enjoy.

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I love Wawa.  Wait, did I already say that?  But it’s the truth.  Since the first time I set foot into one up to earlier today, I always enjoy a visit.  I get excited when I drive past one or a see a sign on the highway for one of my favorite places.  I still get the warm and fuzzies, and feel like a kid in this store.  And this is before I even walk in.

These warm feelings of love are heightened as we are officially (maybe?) into the fall beverage season, and fully appreciate right now and what’s to come.

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I look forward with what’s to come, but for now, I love Wawa.  Always have and always will.

Peace Be With You.

Love,

Ideen

And All In Good Time…

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I wanted to wait just a little while before getting into my quarterly tradition of raving about the seasonal teas from The Spice & Tea Exchange.  We are barely into autumn, and two of the three teas were out of the stock as of this post yesterday.  As of today, two of three are now available.  This is too funny, but it’s also the times we’re in.

I would say this is a faux pas of mine, and to some extent it is.  It also speaks volumes of how good these teas are, how much so many of us embrace the change of the season and the impending well, you know…, and the power of tea (here is their complete list of teas, available at their stores and to purchase online) and how so many of us love it for the art of drinking, as a hobby, a passion, and the way it makes us feel.   I think the place and the energy of many of their stores has a lot do with that.

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This time it brings me to where I was born, Alexandria, VA, and their charming shoppe in the heart of Old Town. That was not meant to be as dramatic it sounded.  Ah maybe it was…

A huge thank you to Jessica the manager for being so kind.

As I wrote about several months back, I was in a similar position spiritually, (and in many ways still am, and might be for a while) and a visit to a tea shoppe, especially their’s is always cleaning for the soul and the spirit.

I’ve been writing for long enough that the changing of the seasons is now synonymous with a visit to their stores, and knowing that three amazing teas will be presented to all of us.

And that’s exactly what happened once again.  These guys are incredible.  My past stories will confirm all of this.  

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It was still Summer when these teas were introduced and still Summertime when I bought these.  I along with some of my close friends know that we shouldn’t rush these things.  I had a sense that these flavors would be out of stock soon if not already.  The packs were on the low side, and I didn’t think to ask if more were coming.  You just know sometimes.

The three for us this time are the Tipsy Toffee, the Spiced Ruby Cider Herbal Tea (out of stock for now?), and the Pumpkin Chai Latte.

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The ingredients are all on the back of the packs.  I want to review this like I always do, with as light hearted and approachable as it can be.   If things overlap then that’ll happen naturally.  I have so much to say but sometimes the tea says all that need to be said, and we should embrace.

Here goes…

One thing that always stands out is while the aromas of their teas give the impression that they may be too sweet for many, but it’s so brilliantly deceptive.  It almost tastes exactly the opposite of what you would expect.  In many cases this is a good thing and I believe this is the intent.

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The Tipsy Toffee has the strongest scent of all in my opinion.  And while I love toffee, I was weary of how it would taste.  Nah I’m kidding.  It’s not that serious.  There’s nothing to be weary of haha.

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This is tremendous.  While you might think the butterscotch and caramel flavorings may be overpowering, they were anything but.  Everything has its place and complemented the other so well.   I’ve said this before but so much about tea is what you don’t taste immediately until seconds later, or even longer.  Understated yet endearing is what their teas are all about.  Beautiful.

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The color on the toffee among with the others was a little more special this time.  All credit goes to the dragonfly infuser, which is also available through them.  For significant, personal, and sentimental reasons I’m grateful to use this trusty friend for the first time, for this round of teas.

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The Spiced Ruby Cider had this color of red that is perfect for this season and matches the color of things to come.  Yes I’m thinking a little bit ahead too.  In order to brew this, I had to break the pieces up a little.

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Again, with cinnamon apple pieces, orange slices, cinnamon sticks, orange peels (I feel like a pendulum), cloves, and more cinnamon stuff, you would think this would be too sweet.  Even if was, I think it would be awesome.  The smell is great and once again this is a universally wonderful tea that everyone will love.  However, that’s for you to judge and judge alone.

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You can’t forget the Pumpkin Chai Latte.  This is why we celebrate autumn right?  We got more pumpkin then we know what to do with.   You wouldn’t know it here though.  And I’m not a fan of most chai, but once again this is nowhere near as rich and that full feeling chai you might expect.

I never tasted any whipped cream or caramel.  But it’s there and so is that pumpkin!

I thought this would be the most potent of the three and I felt it was actually the most tame.  This was my least favorite of the trios, and not in a bad way.   You can’t go wrong, and you can only go right with all of them.

This sounds like a heavy bias, but with few exceptions The Spice & Tea Exchange clearly knows how to make superb tea with a lot of soul and a lot of feeling behind it.

Yes you see sweet treats with each cup, and while they were merely for display, it’s to prepare us for indulgence, because indulgence is coming.  I’m so happy to begin the fall season with their teas and I’m so grateful for the opportunity once again.

Spice&TeaAppleCinnamonSugar

One last thing, when you buy 3 packs, you get a free packet of sugar.  What do with this Apple Cinnamon Crisp Sugar?  I answered my own question by maybe wanting to add to these teas, but maybe it’s meant for something else.

Peace Be With You, and there will be another story much sooner than later.  I’m purposely being vague because I honestly don’t know what’s next.

Spice&TeaFallTeaDisplayThreeTeas

All in good time…

Love,

Ideen