Thursday, December 3, 2015

Original bottle of Chanel No. 5 }  
"Oh, it's so fragrant."

The aroma coming off the pot of freshly steeped First-flush Darjeeling provided by Phoenix Tea is, well, breathtaking. Floral, fruity, multilayered—the scent coming from the carafe is worth the price of admission.

According to The Fifth Sense website, the psychology of smell is worth exploring, because this sense triggers the brain's limbic system, which processes "mood, memory, behavior, and emotion." An extended quote:
{ Cherry Blossoms,  Japan }
Smell and Memory 
The sense of smell is closely linked with memory, probably more so than any of our other senses. Those with full olfactory function may be able to think of smells that evoke particular memories; the scent of an orchard in blossom conjuring up recollections of a childhood picnic, for example. This can often happen spontaneously, with a smell acting as a trigger in recalling a long-forgotten event or experience. Marcel Proust, in his ‘Remembrance of all Things Past’, wrote that a bite of a madeleine vividly recalled childhood memories of his aunt giving him the very same cake before going to mass on a Sunday. 
Smell and Emotion 
In addition to being the sense most closely linked to memory, smell is also highly emotive. The perfume industry is built around this connection, with perfumers developing fragrances that seek to convey a vast array of emotions and feelings; from desire to power, vitality to relaxation.
Parfumiers get it. Purveyors of fine teas get it, too. One may observe that our attraction to tea reflects this connection, as well. Drinking a cup of tea can bring about a state of hygge, the Dutch term for a sense of warm, comfy well-being—perhaps partially because of the presence of subtle relaxants (L-theanine, theobromine, theophylline), and most certainly the result of aromas that stimulate that part of the brain that influences memories and behaviors.

{ L'amour des Trois Oranges, Sergei Prokofiev }
Simply put: If you smell something that strongly evokes relaxing moments in your life, it may lead to a resurgence of relaxed behaviors and and habits of mind that will temporarily override or influence the present mood of tension, or striving, or frustration. It works on Thanksgiving, of course: the smells of turkey, and pumpkin pie, cranberry with oranges, and green Jell-O with weird salad things floating in it—all these fire up the neurons, with thick myelin sheaths leading the mind down paths not accessed since the last time you smelled these particular aromas. Habits quickly reassert themselves, and the smells of hearth and home become part of the structure, the mechanism by which the comfiness of home invades your personality so quickly and draws you into its embrace.

Today I drink a cup of tea with my students, sharing the pleasure of something new. The first steeping is, alas, slightly oversteeped, leading to a slightly bitter experience. Now, Darjeeling teas are like a particularly high-maintenance friend: If treated correctly, the friend is nothing but pleasure and delight; but if not given the proper care, bitterness and insipidity result.

Nevertheless, the aroma coming from the leaded-crystal carafe I use evokes a thousand happy cups of Darjeeling past, bringing with it a sense of balance and well-being that I associate with a relaxing cup—without having had anything to drink yet. Clearly, I'm highly suggestible, but nevertheless the observations above hold true: I feel like I've had a great cup of something delicious, happy, exciting, relaxing, delightful, and not a drop has passed my lips. Sharp and bright, lush and complex, a walk down a path with hidden gardens over a high wall. What is it I'm smelling? How can it be so evocative?

All that from a cup of leaf juice. Astonishing, isn't it?

{ Santa's zeppelin and angels have something to do with tea, I promise. }  

For Phoenix Tea's offerings, please go to their website. The proprietors know what they're doing, and they are happy to provide guidance if you need help making purchasing decisions. Only a few weeks are left before Christmas, so please consider giving a gift that can evoke memory and delight. Your loved ones will thank you, and hopefully during next year they'll remember with fondness the warmth of your love and friendship, as they sip your gift of tea.