Before we get into this dreamy perky explosion of teen magical girl flavor, a word about synesTEAsia:
Synesthesia is a neurological cross-wiring of the senses that leads the individual to experience sound as color, numbers as personalities, words as flavors and so on. There are a lot of different forms of synesthesia, and it is not uncommon for synesthetes to experience multiple forms to varying degrees. Polysynesthetes such as myself make up 2-3% of the world's population.
My dominant form is called Lexical-Gustatory Synesthesia (I literally taste words) and is the root of my blending work. While being a tea blender certainly requires skill and knowledge of ingredients, flavor and texture profiles and palate matching, it doesn't hurt to have an intimate relationship with flavors and the stories they evoke. I imagine a word, an idea, a lyric, a feeling or a memory, then pick apart what I taste in my brain-mouth using my decades of experience as a professional chef, bartender, baker & sommelier.
Once the components and relative ratios of flavor and texture have been analyzed, I find their counterparts in the world of brewable ingredients. This may be roots, tea leaves, fruits, flavorings, even such out-there ingredients as crushed chili pepper or freeze-dried tomato! As you can imagine, the teas we sell are truly unlike any you'll find from other purveyors.
Image edit by silvermoon424 on Tumblr
Today's journey takes us to Crystal Tokyo, capital city of the Silver Millennium. This is the fictional birthplace of Sailor Moon and the inspiration for our Moon Princess oolong!
Sailor Moon was my favorite TV show as a tween. I'd zip home after school and turn on Cartoon Network at 4pm every day to watch. Drama, romance, friendship, intrigue and fabulous sparkly fashion transformations? Everything my flamboyant theater kid heart could desire.
This was my first fandom that was really mine, outside of the family love of Star Trek, X-Men, Xena and so on. The discovery of independent tween fandom and it changed my life, launching me into a lifelong love affair with my inner geek.
In creating a blend for Sailor Moon's titular character, I had to take a lot of information into account. Have you ever watched anime? It's totally gonzo. New powers, new allies, new enemies every episode. Most importantly to me at twelve years old: new OUTFITS! I couldn't do the character justice without acknowledging her growth over time, so the base had to be something that would hold up to many Sailor Moon evolutions. Oolong serves as an obvious base here, and the tender floral heart dished out by a classic Ti Kwan Yin was the clear choice. Kwan Yin (also known as Iron Goddess of Mercy, a very Sailor Senshi kinda name) is a light, but complex flavor experience that becomes smoother and deeper over many infusions. Perfect!
Next came the question of which Sailor Moon to blend. She may be technically the same girl, but her level-ups were direct reflections of her personal growth and taste like variations on a central theme rather than one uniform concept palate or different ingredient sets altogether. In the end, it super worked out. Observe:
In her early days, Usagi is all bright, shallow bubbly teen energy with love and anguish equally right at the surface at all times. This kind of fickle, mercurial emotionality might as well taste like pure citric acid. So sharp with a tiny hint of fruit sweet, like an under-ripe strawberry. As such, freeze-dried strawberry has to be the dominant flavor in the first brew. Between the quick extraction of tart citric acid and the green edge to a Kwan Yin's first brew, we get just the right mix of spoiled crybaby and charismatic dreamer.
The sugar stars are visually assertive, but don't contribute any real flavor to the tea. They speak to the visual aesthetic of the series overall, as well as Usagi's fun-first love of comics, candy and video games. A very imporant side to her personality!
Elderflower tastes like the ecstatic thrill of a passionate love seeded in optimism and wonder. It's an ingredient I use in most wedding teas as well as blends inspired by new and intoxicating adventures. Sailor Moon is one romantic burst of innocent pure-hearted young femininity after another. She radiates the shallow breath of a new bride in the full flush of hope for the future. Soft and elegant and bright and strong.
Simple, but complex. Usagi Tsukino exemplifies the gentle and the fierce, the sharp and the smooth. This collection of ingredients, carefully balanced, lead to an evolving experience that opens different notes over many infusions to reflect this heartful girl's growth and evolution as both Pretty Guardian and regular everyday girl.