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What's in a name?

Here is a reply I wrote to a gentleman who had been given some very nice teas as a gift and wanted to order some more but had been confused by the many names on the packets he received and the slightly shortened version on the website. Naturally, it isn't our aim to confuse
but running both a bricks and mortar and virtual shop both have different requirements for display. I tried to clarify the matter as you will see but thought it also posed a greater number of questions regarding tea and coffee names that are hard to resolve. If necessary we could tell you the time of day, weather conditions, even what shirt the farmer was wearing on the day the tea was made but none of this really matters and usually makes the growers laugh! Of course we have over 23 years used this type of information and the many magnificent legends and exotic names to engage our customers with something unknown. Before a decision is made to try anything new it is understandable to try at least take some of the guesswork out of it. Yet for all the wonderful stories, poetic language, shiny, alluring packaging it will be what is delivered in the cup that really matters. Anyway, as I mentioned the question could lead to long and interesting discussions which I will no doubt return to over the years. Here's my reply:

"Firstly, were the teas from us? I recognise the Amber Oolong as a phrase I coined but it wouldn't be referred to out of our selection, unless someone thought it a useful tool! The tea Iris Orchid, translated from Zhi Lan, is a type of Phoenix (Fenghuang Mt) Dancong (meaning 'single bush') Oolong. Iris Orchid is the particular strain. There are 100's! And then 100's of grades! I use 'Amber' to suggest the liquor colour and to distinguish it from 'Jade' or greener, less oxidised oolong teas from elsewhere etc.

3 down 293 to go...image includes various types of tea.

If the Darjeeling was in one of our bags with a handwritten name, it is likely that the full name wouldn't fit in the block provided on the bag! The tins have the ridiculously, frankly unnecessary full name in the shop, a throw back to 23 year old design and ideas, whereas the website, for the sake of space on the cyber space page often have a shortened version. The names are sometimes given at source, for example 'Euphoria' to indicate a special or unique type and usually a higher quality. Sometimes we will use 'Supreme' etc to give an idea in the shop and online of our opinion of the quality, though this is invariably indicated by the price tag, in relationship to our teas at least. In actual fact, sometimes the great teas are also just noted by the invoice number, DJ3 for example, at source, which we will indicate if it is of note but usually embellish with an evocative name of our own. This just helps make it easier for people to remember what they like, and a catchy name is less likely to be mistaken than a number.
Anyway, I appreciate that this can be bewildering. The invoice number or garden given name system (used outside of Asia) is a way of getting the same tea you like, but only until new season teas arrive the following year and the numbers change again! It's quite hard getting people to understand that each lot of tea, even from the same garden will vary dramatically in quality and character and choosing the same garden is no guarantee that you'll like it. Each tea must ultimately be judged in the cup and drunk whilst it's available. The fun is in embracing the difference and celebrating the variety. Short of drinking a homogenised blend to guarantee a very similar cup each day, and that's why someone made them, if you want to drink something which has character, it will only be found in unblended teas where the interesting flavours are valued.
You will appreciate that there aren't any hard and fast rules to follow but as an importer of tea I've found that the price being asked unerringly reflects the quality and I'd let that be your guide. It's not to say a £5 tea isn't of merit but when compared to the same type (retailers mark ups aside!) you will appreciate a difference. How much more it's worth paying for the difference is a choice I make when buying for our company and is the same one for our customers as they shop.
Your friend has started you at the top end of quality, a choice you may regret them making when it comes to buying more for yourself!

So back to my title, what's in a name? A good tea, by any name still smells as sweet.

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