Skip to main content

Synesthesia And Blending As Sensory Art

I am frequently asked how I get ideas for my blends. Where does my inspiration come from? Which comes first, the blend or its name?

I'm proud of how original my blends are, and how different from blends you'll find by any other company. This is largely due to the fact that I have synesthesia (meaning my senses are cross-wired and abstract concepts, personalities, colors, weather, etc. all translate to me as flavor). My dominant forms are referred to as "lexical-gustatory," "auditory-tactile," and "mirror touch." It's fascinating stuff for sure, and has made my life and relationships more complicated. On the flip side, I have discovered a practical use for my brain-strangeness! Like many synesthetes before me (Jimi Hendrix, Tori Amos, Richard Feynman, Vladimir Nabokov, etc.), I've translated my particular brand of strange into a career.

Synesthesia salad. credit: jessicahagy.info/


My personal experience with synesthesia leads me to experience just about everything as flavor/tactile sensation (I can't differentiate between the two). I think of an abstract, or one is mentioned to me (a character, a personality trait, a feeling, etc.), and I register it as a flavor profile, complete with mouthfeel (full-bodiedness, texture) and all the complexities of a delicate blend. Which is exactly what I do with it now. This is my way of relating to my world. Here's an example:

I love sci-fi. LOVE it. My parents are both huge trekkies. Like most geeks, I'm a huge Firefly fan. Friends asked me to put together a series of Browncoat blends, which was super easy. The show does a gorgeous job of defining characters clearly, making them easy to taste and, therefore, blend. Let's look at Captain Mal's Blend.


Mal = Tea, fig, cacao. Duh.


I experience this character as a full-bodied, musky, slightly tangy flavor. Earthy, rounded and slightly sweet, Mal is to me a blend of Ceylon and Pu-Er black teas with cacao nib and fig. No brainer. Also not a blend any other company would ever think of putting together, nor would anyone outside my worldview see it coming. But I find that when people hear the ingredients, taste the blend, smell the blend, etc., there is often this moment I get to witness in their reaction. This kind of "Oh, yeah! That's totally Mal!" reaction which delights and validates me.

This is how I do all my blends. I don't put thought of flavor profiles into it in the traditional sense. To me, on the rare occasion a blend doesn't come together perfectly the first time, I examine the shapes present in the flavor profile in order to determine what flavor is missing. When I think about a flavor, it registers as a shape. If a blend is missing something, I can taste what shape isn't strong enough.

A complete flavor profile must contain a certain number of triangles, squares, ovals, and circles. Each shape has colors associated with it, and certain flavors. For example, pineapple is a triangular, lime-green flavor. chocolate is a brown, square flavor. If a blend isn't sharp enough, I know I need to add more triangles. I run through an inventory of triangular flavors in my mind (pineapple, garlic, clove, lemon, lime, salt, mango), and find the one which is exactly the right hue to complete the color circuit matching the abstract concept.

I'm sure you can see now why I haven't shared much of my experience throughout my adult life. It's so complicated and strange, I've been afraid of people judging me, thinking I was a freak. My dear friend Amy recently convinced me to share my experiences, my point of view, my technique. She thinks it will help people relate to and enjoy my teas more, and I think she may be right. She usually is. :)

I know this is all confusing, so please feel free to ask any and all questions you may have!

-Friday

Comments

  1. So very, very interesting! As you release new blends I would love to hear the synesthesia story behind the blend's creation. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Fascinating! I'm so glad you shared your experience. Now *I* want to have your superpower! And your tea, of course. :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have synesthesia too! I wonder how ours would match up hahaha

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love meeting other synesthetes! It's always fascinating! I have never met another with the same dominant forms as I have, and it's always so neat to compare experiences!

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Six True Types of Tea

We get asked a LOT what the difference is between white tea and black tea, herbal tea and green tea, and so on. The world of tea is mysterious and a lot of you want to learn more, so let's start with the basics!

True tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant. Always. Any infusion made from the leaf, stem, root or whatever other part of any other plant falls into the "tisane" category, also known as "herbal tea." Those are a whole tasty world absolutely worth your time and attention, but today we're focusing on true teas.




There are six basic types of true tea, delineated by the level of oxidation allowed to occur in the leaf during processing. After picking, tea leaves frequently go through a process of bruising, withering, heating, and drying. (I say frequently because the world of tea is so vast and varied, every facet of the end product is up for flux. How much caffeine? What does it taste like? Is it smooth or brash? The answer is always "it depends!…

Teafest PDX Recap

A fair number of you first encountered our tea company at NW Tea Festival, an awesome Seattle-based festival that launched in 2007 and has only grown bigger and better each year since. Newer to the tea festival scene is Tea Fest PDX. This Portland festival only just had its third year, but is so put-together and well structured that I would have thought it was an event with 5-7 years under its belt already. I don’t have access to the attendance numbers, but we def got hit with a long line waiting to enter and it was tight moving between all the booths once we got in. I’m glad this was mostly an outdoor event, as the indoor booths were struggling to get folks to stop without completely blocking the pathway.

I have to admit, being at a vendor fair/convention without working a booth of my own was a super weird feeling. We (my bestie Nat and I) kept running into people we knew and almost every person asked us “So where is your booth,” to which I gleefully replied “Nah, we’re just here to p…