“The True Vintage of Erzuine Thale” or the art of selecting teas

I was reading a compendium of novellas in the Dying Earth setting (a Jack Vance’s invention and for those of you who don’t know what I am speaking about, here is a link) when I came across one dealing with the finest wines on Earth, robbery and a sybaritic poet/sorcerer, “The True Vintage of Erzuine Thale” by Robert Silververg.

This Erzuine Thale had a really interesting ceremonial since each morning, he decided which wines he was going to drink, when and why. Some where there to lighten his mood, to allow him to sleep, to give him inspiration…

This made me wonder if I could do that or if anyone was doing something like this?

Since I don’t do that (I prefer to focus on the present with my emotions, needs and feelings when I choose my tea), I went on thinking about how I select the teas I buy (I know I have been dealing with this topic on some occasions on Teatrade but I would like to elaborate a little more).

When it comes to this, there are some basic schools: the “I only like a specific origin”, the “I only like teas that are blended with lemon” or the “let’s be adventurous and try to find something new.”

Obviously, you can add many more but I tried to gather all of them in a couple of big families.

If I had to define my style, I would go with the last one but with a slight twist, that allows me to be a bit idiosyncratic (since I first read it years ago, I always dreamt of using such a word). Some might say that I am a victim of our marketing times and I couldn’t agree less but I hope my selection process allows me to be something more than that.

But let’s get back on topic, me and my way of selecting the teas I buy.

First and foremost, the tea has to have an interesting name. Why a name? Because this is what attracts me first and foremost (hence the marketing victim).

What is an interesting name will you ask me. The answer is simple; one that allows me to travel in space and/or time, one that intrigues me. It changes from time to time as my interests are not always the same.

Then if it is a blend, I look at what is in it (mostly because I don’t like everything) and then smell it (although this is not mandatory as I don’t have a really good smell sense).

The ultimate step on my quest for a new tea is quite obvious: try it.

After getting to this point, you will tell me that this only works for blended teas and that for “pure” teas, I can’t and will probably never do it that way.

You are partly right (and then partly wrong) as I have certain preferences and although the names of the different gardens are sometimes an adventure by themselves, they can also be quite blunt.

However, let me tell you about three purchases I made during last year.

The first one (not in our normal spatio-temporal setting but in my memories) took place in Hamburg with our good friend @lahikmajoe. We went to a store I had never heard of that was full of Indian teas in bags and in bulk.

I came out of there with a bag of Darjeeling (obvious, no?) but from a garden named Bannockburn, which is a place in Scotland where the Scots fought and won against the English. Since I saw Braveheart, I had vivid pictures of this battle and of this place and upon seeing that name, my mind wandered and tried to create a link between the battle and the garden (for your information, I came up with one but I didn’t bother to look and check if I was right or wrong).

The second one (still in my memories) was bought in Norway.

I went to a nice shopping place (see there for my whole experience) and found this tea a China Moon Palace.

This name was so full of promises; imagine this what is a Moon Palace? And a Chinese one? Is it a mix of pagodas and the Forbidden City set on the Moon? Or something completely different? Again, I stopped there and didn’t fly to the Moon or play among the stars to see if I was right or wrong.

The power of this name was so strong and the smell was so nice that I bought a bag of it.

The last example was after these two events and took place on the Internet.

I was looking for an Oolong on the website of a company with good quality teas and I found one whose name would translate as Unique Leaf of the Phoenix (I am not sure if I translated right but I think you got the meaning).

I have a certain liking for odd and mythological beasts like the Phoenix (but also many others) and this is why I was attracted to this tea.

I don’t think it made me fly like a phoenix or that it will allow me to reborn from my ashes but after drinking it, I like its taste.

Now, you know a little more about how I proceed to select the teas I buy.

How do you do that? Am I the only one to have such a non standardised and personal selection process?


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