Aroma and memory


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Aroma and memory

Postby bonescwa » May 30th, '14, 06:42

As I drink more and more tea, and it's springtime here, I've been noticing that aromas out in the world have been reminding of tea. For example, going outside and smelling a floral scent sometimes doesn't remind me of flowers, but a specific kind of floral scent might make me recall a specific tea. They say that smell has a very high association with memory because the hippocampus (part of brain with important role in memory formation and storage) is in close proximity to the nucleus of the olfactory nerve. Another strange thing I've noticed is that certain teas have given me an eerily strong sense of deja vu, usually based on aroma alone. I was drinking a song zhong and I just felt like I had nostalgia for something but I wasn't sure what it was. It felt like it was reminding me of a period of life but there was no recognition, like the feeling you get when something is on the tip of your tongue but you cant quite remember. This has happened with a couple of other teas. Just a little bit of anecdotal evidence for the strong link between aroma and (real [past life :lol:] or fake/subconsciously imagined?) memories.
Does anyone else notice something like that?
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Re: Aroma and memory

Postby PaddyB » May 30th, '14, 07:32

I agree. As I drink more tea, the associations for certain aroma I had before are replaced with associations linked with tea. The "vegetal" aroma for me reminds me more of sencha than of actual green vegetables, for example. The second point that you mention is described in one of Marcel Proust's novels (i forgot the title): the single bite of a small cake "transports" him to his aunt's garden as he remembers it from his youth.
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Re: Aroma and memory

Postby Poseidon » May 30th, '14, 07:44

I noticed this last week while playing in my local disc gold league. We were walking past some honeysuckle to go to the next hole and I had to stop and smell the "roses". It reminded me of a spring harvest high mountain oolong ive had recently. It was a neat experience.
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Re: Aroma and memory

Postby thirst » May 30th, '14, 09:42

Poetic topic!

Hasn’t happened to me, sadly. But if it concerns sound instead of aroma, the clattering of my large gaiwan has for some reason transported me and made me want to listen to songs from 30’s Shanghai (even though they’re most likely not :D)

And some light to medium brown leafy-type oolongs have made me think of wet autumns, but it’s pretty evident why.

PaddyB: Perhaps because »vegetal« is a pretty wide term and sencha is more specific? I try to make associations to smells and tastes when drinking tea, but I often wonder if they’re anywhere near accurate at all. Also, sometimes they change a lot, and I’m not completely sure it’s the preparation. There’s this video of a woman licking stones to try to understand minerality in wine, perhaps one should try something like this :D
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBxJOHKGhT4
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Postby bonescwa » May 30th, '14, 13:17

Paddyb- Yes! That pretty much nails it, was it In Search of Lost Time? And thirst: do you feel such description of aroma, flavor, mouth feel that we see in the wine world (Western) applies to tea? I think sometimes overdoing it with analysis takes away from the Eastern perspective of tea, or is this type of description something that has been done within China and Japan before Western influence? It has certainly evolved into quite a marketing tool- just check out Verdant Tea's site if you want to see people trying to tap into the wine appreciation market.
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Re: Aroma and memory

Postby Risdt » May 30th, '14, 16:45

I used to try to distinguish all the different aroma's and tastes, like they do in whisky, perhaps even more so than in wine.
Then my tobacconist told me it was a typical Western thing to name all these different things. He was once caught in this thing as well, describing his cigars as 'peppery, some orchid flower and dark venezuela chocolate' and when he asked someone who was well known in the cigar industry how it tasted like, he replied: like a good cigar and nothing else. :lol:

But aroma's do have strong connections with memories, most of the time you can feel the memory but you don't actually remember it, as you said it is on the tip of your tongue. It's quite frustrating from time to time.

Can you guys also 'remember' smells in the way you can almost smell them? There was this Italian girl once... I can still smell her parfum when I think about her :lol:
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Re: Aroma and memory

Postby William » May 30th, '14, 18:03

Risdt wrote:like a good cigar and nothing else. :lol:


The typical words of Mr. Robaina.
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Re: Aroma and memory

Postby thirst » May 31st, '14, 11:32

Bonescwa: It’s just one of many possible ways to look at things, right? Heh, I’ve read descriptions where I wondered how they came up with the associations, but that’s probably my limited experience with tea. I just thought that when I do have an association and feel like it, I could try (not that I have) to verify that I’m not just completely making stuff up.

Interesting question, about the history of detailed descriptions. Would also be interesting to know how old it is in the wine world.

(I actually only drink wine extremely seldom :D. Can’t even remember how I had stumbled upon that video. Once read that as opposed to wine, tea has no standardized taste vocabulary, but if it means what I think it does, I hadn’t even known that wine has one.)
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Postby bonescwa » May 31st, '14, 15:54

I don't think it's possible to make up associations, unless it was suggested beforehand. By definition, if it's something that comes to your mind from a stimulus (tea aroma) then it's a legitimate association. This whole topic was triggered from the first time I made dancong. I bought a couple of more expensive dancongs and I wanted a generic commercial tea to compare if the expensive dancong was really worth the extra money. I used a new yixing from origin and made the cheaper version, and I just had a very strong sense of deja vu from the aroma and just was curious as to whether anyone else experienced something like this with tea before. As far as the wine/tea flavor description, that's another topic we might find insight into by asking wine people or doing a bit of research. I do happen to think it takes away from enjoyment in the moment.
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