Does beauty or rarity of a container impact what the content tastes like ?
This is a vital question that food/tea/coffee/chocolate/literature lovers must think about, one day or another.
Do the container or the printed material have the ability to transform what will be drunk or read ?
To say it more simply : does a tea taste better in a nice cup, is a text more interesting if published in a beautiful edition ?
I am far from knowledgeable in chemistry, but I don’t think that the beauty or rarity of the printed object or of the container, can impact the molecules responsibles for taste or flavor : how could they alter the composition of tea ? How could patterns or colors enhance or impede this or that component ?
How the choice of a paper, of a font, of an ink, could modify the choice of words, the ideas in a text ?
In a very different field, how could a work of art – its structure, its material, its shape, its colors, its textures – could be modified by staging ? Concrete is concrete, and will stay so, whether in darkness or in full light.
On the other hand, since we humans rely so much on our vision, our perception is altered by the container ; and, unless we close our eyes, it seems to me that one is always influenced by the external appearance.
Isn’t it the reason why the aspect of a dish matters so much ?
Isn’t it the reason why clothing, hair dressing, as well as language abilities, are all part of the political, economical, religious leaders’ paraphernalia – weapons ?
Isn’t it the reason why people in charge with displaying art collections pay so much attention to light and environment ?
It is the same with a text : a rare or deluxe edition influences our interest level in a positive way. But it does not improve weaknesses in style, or spelling mistakes.
A second-rate or a poorly prepared tea, will be as painful to drink in a gorgeous cup (each one chooses what « gorgeous » mean to her or him) as in a plastic tumbler.
Rarity acts the same way. Knowing we own a very limited edition, a one-of-a-kind master piece, makes us feel important and privileged, which can distort our perception, and blunt our objectivity and critical thinking.
Shape, on the contrary, actually impacts taste & flavors.
A Turkish style tea tastes better in a tulip shaped tea glass than in a British style fine bone china tea cup…
Drinking champagne in a thick glass tumbler does not allow this wine to reveal all its secrets.
There is another question, that I don’t pretend I will give a definitive answer : what makes a book or a cup beautiful ?
For some, it is the delicacy of a hand-painted eggshell-like translucent bone china tea cup, with a perfect round shape. For others on the contrary, beauty lies in the flaws and imperfections, in the traces of the time past…
Some hate paperback editions, and will read only hardcover books, or even deluxe editions, not even wanting to hear about ebooks. Some prefer used and worn books…
Let’s go back to the first question. There is a very simple test to know whether one is influenced by the container’s aspect :
Drink the same tea, prepared the exact same way, in two cups : in a very ordinary one, or even a chipped one, and in one seen as beautiful. Watch your own reactions, your perceptions of flavors and tastes.
This experiment can be done again with various teas, to see whether some teas are more influenced by the container.
One can also read the same text in a worn and torn paperback edition, in a ebook device, or in a deluxe edition.
In which case will one pay more attention to aromas, flavors, tastes, words, sentences, ideas ?
Now, if one thinks drinking tea while reading is a whole experience, it is absolutery necessary to take care of all the details. To create harmony between the three dots of this inner Bermuda triangle : one tea, one cup, one text.
The physical book or the container is an intermediary between the user, the drinker, the reader, and the object he/she uses : text, wine, tea, coffee, and so on. It is a vehicle to drive us to a very personal world, a world that exists only the time we need to drink a cup of tea…
Choose a cup or a bowl you love using, holding between your hands, feeling on your lips, whether it is the delicacy of china, the lightness of glass, or the strong presence of sandstone.
Choose a tea suited to the cup or bowl, delicate or thick, strong or light, light green, golden, or dark as coffee.
Choose a book that suits the cup and the tea, in a beloved edition, whether luxury or ordinary, or even an ebook.
Cuddle in a very cosy nook, where you can leave this world and dive in the text, bathe in the tea.
Forget this world for a moment.
Come back from this journey, to the visible world, keeping in your memory sounds, atmosphere, textures, tastes, flavors, aromas, heat or cold, of this other world, « so do all sounds and hues and fragrances correspond ». (Charles Baudelaire)