On the Scented Sea of Desire

March 19, 2011 § 15 Comments

Today we’re going sailing, on the Scented Sea… of Desire.

I know what it sounds like. It sounds just like… well, being a proper young lady I won’t say.

It’s actually a tea.

To quote the supplier:

“Exotic candied fruits, mango, papaya, pineapple and scented flowers have the desired effect!”

(I wonder what the desired effect could be?)

It comes from this beautiful shop on Steep Hill, Lincoln, Merry Old England:

Imperial Teas of Lincoln

And in this shop is a HOST of glorious teas, and they are not glorious merely for their delicious fragrances and their delectable flavours. They are glorious for their NAMES.

When else do you get to go shopping for Friar’s Potion, White Rabbit, Super Jasmine Dragon Phoenix Pearls or Monkey on Top of the Mountain?

How about Russian Caravan and Keemun Black Tiger?

Gunpowder Special Temple of Heaven?

Yellow Mountain Golden Spears and April Snow?

Secret Garden, White Crystal, Fuchow Snow Buds, Golden Needles, Goddess of Mercy, Love Dedication, Roselle and Lavender… it goes on.

I don’t know about you, but I am completely sold on every single one of those and I don’t even know what most of them look, taste or smell like. I’m just dreaming about the day when I get to stock my kitchen with jar after polished jar labelled up with ‘Flowers in the Sun’, ‘Captain Tea’s Well-Being’, ‘Water Sprite’ and ‘Eight Immortals’.

I’ll put them right next to the jars labelled ‘Eye of Newt’, ‘Frogs’ Legs’ and ‘Wing of Bat’.

Would I feel that way about them if they didn’t have such glorious, outrageous names? Maybe not. Call it ‘green tea’ and it becomes a bit drab. Even ‘jasmine green tea’, which I love, lacks a certain something in comparison with ‘Jasmine Snow Monkey’.

Names, then, are important! Names inspire, and catch at the imagination. Wouldn’t you have more belief in the awesome power of ‘Theodorus the Hero’ than ‘Bob the Impressive Guy?’ I’m telling you, the enduring supremacy of Lancelot is about more than a white horse, shining armour, a chivalrous manner and achingly good looks. It’s because he has a cooler name than Arthur.

Those of us who write fantasy are lucky. We get to make up names to suit the characteristics of the characters. Fantasy names can be musical, thundering, soothing, resounding, fearsome… it’s so much fun to make them up, and so hard to get them just right for the character, that I spend more time on this than I should.

Even if you’re not writing fantasy, there’s scope to be more imaginative with names. Not everyone has to be called Joe, or Deb, or Bob. Try Gwendolyn, Zachary or Sebastian. Even the abbreviations sound cool. (Just don’t mix up the two approaches and have a book set in the modern world where everyone is called ‘Thorn’ or ‘Rowan’ or ‘Misty’. That’s really bizarre to read).

By the way, the website for the above-named tea supplier can be found here. It’s an amazing shop, not the least so for actually being family-run and casually situated in an ancient and decidedly picturesque 12th century building. As far as I know they will post tea (and coffee!) just about anywhere.

Anyway, I’ve made a resolution. Next time I wake up feeling like I cannot be bothered with Life, the World or Anything, I will begin my day with a cup of Scented Sea of Desire. Who knows what could happen?


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§ 15 Responses to On the Scented Sea of Desire

  • lyonesse2710 says:

    ohhh i have a hankering to visit them and purchase some more friar’s potion, now!! I currently have a jar of earl grey autumn, one of my favourite drinks of all time. Most excellent stuff *nods*

  • Sonia M. says:

    Ooooh! Sounds fabulous! I agree about the power of names. I tend to agonize over finding my protagonist just the right name.

    • Charlotte says:

      Do you ever find that you choose a name that seems ‘right’ for your protagonist – only to change your mind after a few chapters? One of the two main characters in my current work-in-progress has had about three name changes so far. My manuscript looks quite ridiculous with far more names than there are characters!

      • Sonia M. says:

        Usually, once I have a protagonist’s name, it sticks. Usually, I wait to name her/him until I have the perfect name. Other characters, however, may change names. I’ve done that quite a few times in my WIP. I still haven’t settled on one of the names. The protagonist’s name though…usually comes to me before the story is fully formed.

  • christicorbett says:

    Those names make me want to try some tea…and I’m a coffee fanatic 🙂

    Christi Corbett

    • Charlotte says:

      They’ve a lot of coffee too, some of them with equally great names – I should’ve included some of those. However, principle thus demonstrated admirably!

  • LOVE this post!
    First, I love that this tea shop is on Steep Hill. It’s a tea shop on Steep Hill—that’s just fun.

    Second, Maybe me and the fiancee should honeymoon in Lincoln, simply to visit this shop.

    Third….it reminds me of a Monty Python sketch; most in particular, The Cheese Shop sketch.

    Fourth…I love a good/weird/smart/ridiculous band name. Bob the Impressive Guy should be the lead singer for the Jasmine Snow Monkeys.

    • Charlotte says:

      The really cool part about ‘Steep Hill’ is that it is, literally, an extremely steep hill. There’s something charming about that level of obvious in bestowing a name. It’s full of quirky little places, too, including a chocolaterie, a quite famous maze of a second-hand bookshop, several art/handmade craft shops, tea shops of the sort where you are served tea at a table in pretty china pots, and the haunted and very delightful restaurant Brown’s Pie Shop. It requires some bravery to navigate that steep, steep hill but it’s worth it!

      I love the band name idea! It does sound fantastic. I wonder what kind of music you’d expect from the Jasmine Snow Monkeys? I’d expect it to be somewhat eccentric.

  • laradunning says:

    Yes, a name in itself can represent so much. One thing I have trouble with when reading/writing fantasy is that some of the names are not exactly clear how to say because they are not ordinary everyday names. One thing I try to do is pick names that are relatively easy to figure out how to say so when you read your not tripping up or making up your own version for the name. Another thing that boggles me is in Lord of the Rings two people with very similar names . When reading I always had to stop and say which one is it now, kind of broke up the flow of the story.
    The tea shop sounds wonderful! We don’t have to many like that in the states-unless you go to the city.

    • Charlotte says:

      Very good point – fantasy names are justifiably notorious for having approximately eighteen syllables apiece, and often being decorated with several extraneous and wholly redundant apostrophes too. Definitely best avoided! It’s also well worth noting about name confusion – I suppose once you’re into the story and reading fast you don’t really read the letters any more so much as the shape of the word, so avoiding names with similar shapes is very good sense.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • Sonia M. says:

      True. I don’t like it when I have no idea how to pronounce a name in a story. And it’s confusing when names are too similar.

  • Kit says:

    Fantastic how a small mention in passing can turn into one of the funniest of your blog posts yet! ‘Bob the Impressive Guy’?! I would absolutely love to read a fantasy comedy about ‘Bob the Impressive Guy’!

  • aarongraham says:

    I loved this post for so many reasons! A) I enjoy a great cup of tea at 3:00 PM. I don’t know why that exact time, but it is what it is. B) I love the fact that you said this place also has exotic coffee…wow…talk about my little slice of heaven. and C) I kept having that line from Romeo and Juliet, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…” which I always thought was silly. Imagine handing your sweetheart a dozen Stinkalooms on Valentine’s Day and saying, “Well, they smell good.”

    I’m sorry I’ve been out of comission for about a week, so I’m kinda catching up on all my favorite people!

    Keep in touch.

    • Charlotte says:

      I don’t know if you’ll be entirely happy about the comparison, Aaron, but my grandparents were also devotees of the ‘tea at 3pm’ ritual. My grandmother was particularly dedicated to it. If it wasn’t 3 o’clock, no tea. Got it?

      Glad I’m not the only one to think that lovely, romantic line is complete twaddle. That said, Valentine’s Day Stinkenblooms would make the whole dreary experience so much more entertaining.

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