Togo said

Memory is a most unusual thing

Following a session (see note https://steepster.com/Togo/posts/397414) with an aged Liu Bao yesterday, I have had an interesting experience that I would be interested to know if any one of you have experienced as well.

The tea seems to have an interesting property that I noticed among a small number of other teas as well. That is, the sensory perception of the tea keeps reappearing for much longer than the aftertaste. In fact, I could “taste” this tea in the aftertaste of the subsequent tea I drank yesterday, then in the morning when I woke up, and now also in the evening. Sometimes this happens with a short time delay like now, other times I get reminded of a particular tea with a long delay and in the most unexpected circumstances (such as stopping on red lights in Toronto).

Does this ever happen to you? Since it is quite rare, I am not sure yet if it is really a property of the tea itself or just of the session I’ve had with it. That is, I am not sure if it could happen with any tea, or there are some specific characteristics of certain teas that enhance or enable these kind of experiences.

8 Replies
Leafhopper said

I’ve never had a tea return to my mind like that, but I’ve noticed that when an unusual flavour is prominent in a tea, I tend to find it in subsequent teas. This has recently happened with apricot, which is a good thing.

andresito said

Yes this happens to me here and there, the frustrating part is when I can’t figure out the tea that is causing that taste memory. Eventually I’ll remember the tea. I’m not sure why it happens. I’ve experienced it with all teas, from puerh to sencha to oolong, so for me at least, its not specific to an old tea or specific type of tea. It doesn’t happen often, but 1-2 times a year maybe.

Togo said

Yeah, when it happens with a time delay, it can be quite hard to identify which tea caused it. In those cases the feeling bears some resemblance to déjà vu moments I think, in that I am not even sure if it refers to a specific tea or a blend of tea drinking experiences scrambled in my mind, even though it “feels like” a single tea experience.

To me it seems to happen a couple times a year, but not more than 10 I’d say.

andresito said

For me its like I just drank the tea, I can taste and feel it in my mouth, feel the chaqi and taste the flavor. Its nothing like a craving. As you put it, its more like a memory or deja vu.

I’m not sure I’ve ever had a similar experience but I do tend to keep noticing the same aspects from teas I’ve tried recently in others. It seems that I’m “looking for” those. It would make the reviews I do (I write a blog) sound like my own bias is affecting review interpretation, and I think that’s true, that it is. I also think that I “pick up” the main flavors or character aspects of teas as they are, but I think along with that I tend to look for what I’ve been experiencing recently.

Another tea blogger once mentioned this happened to him once with dark cherry; he was “getting” it in every black tea he ever tried, or most. It became so common he would go back and take it out of his notes in some cases if it wasn’t really pronounced. I could see how any rich, sweet fruit might seem to come across as partly that in black teas, if you ended up looking for that aspect every time.

Citing examples from my own experience is trickier; it seems to creep in related to seeing some trace aspect, but doesn’t follow that kind of pattern. How much I notice the mineral “base” level also probably comes and goes. People seem to follow their own patterns in describing somewhat standard flavors that others might describe in different ways. Shu could taste like dark wood to some, the characteristic flavor, or for others that might be closer to peat instead, or leather. Warm mineral range is really something else but interpretation crossing into what people would see as a different division could come up.

The same might happen in lighter teas, seeing similar aspects as either light wood tone, cured hay, mild root spice (ginseng), or mild floral (chamomile). Those are all slightly different but interpretations could vary.

andresito said

I’ve experienced this too. When a certain flavor or note gets stuck in my head, I’ll find it across various teas. I think a similar example is if you’re car-searching and want to buy a Honda Civic, you start noticing every Honda Civic on the road. Or if you’re house-hunting, you start noticing every house for sale. But otherwise, those things would blend into the background noise of every day life.

Dustin said

There is a thing called “pine mouth”. It’s when people have a reaction to eating pine nuts that were not grown in the Mediterranean (a different more expensive variety is grown there) and it changes the way they taste things for a week or so. I hear it usually makes foods taste bitter or off, but I wonder if there is a tea equivalent to it.

seawall said

Is it a pleasant, or an unpleasant experience, to have this feeling of déjà-vu (or déjà-tea, more like)? Is it because it appears as a ‘baseline’ against which a new tea is compared? Or is it a strong memory, like a imprinted happy memory of a pleasant experience of consumption?

I am asking, because I am wondering whether it would be useful to drink that tea again when one feels that way. And compare the memory of that tea, which suddenly appears, to the tea that one is ingesting again. What has changed? What notes make part of that memory?

I find this thread fascinating. I have had memories of tastes appear out of the blue in the past. The earliest memory of this phenomenon was when I was in my 20s, just graduated from university, and trying to quit smoking. I would be at a bookstore or in my car driving and suddenly remembering a particular part of the complex tastes of a newly-lit cigarette. This was, of course, a disguised craving. And one that would never be as pleasant as the memory, when lighting up, tasting the real thing again and defeating several weeks of cigarette abstinence.

So the cigarette example is one of the memory being much better than the real thing.

I’ve also had similar experiences with wine. Suddenly out of nowhere remembering the tart dark-cherry dry notes of a lovely Amarone, or the rich dryness of a Shiraz. Or thinking of the tart apricot notes of a cool Sauvignon Blanc.

I find it fascinating (but not really surprising) that tea can evoke similar sudden memories. And why should it not? Tea is so complex in its many varieties. And discerning its many notes and flavours is a lifetime endeavour. I am at the very beginning of learning about tea – I drink it daily but my NY resolution is to deepen my knowledge about it, like I am learning about wine. I look forward to discerning its many notes, flavours, colours, aftertastes and now yes, memories, as I deepen my knowledge of this complex and delightful liquor.

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