Posted by Gary D. Robson
I know what you’re thinking. Has Gary lost his mind? Well, you probably think that anyway, but bear with me on this post for a moment…
If you can name three styles of oolong tea, one of them is probably tieguanyin, also known as Iron Goddess of Mercy. It’s a wonderful, mellow oolong that’s become one of my favorite teas. I’m drinking a cup even as I write this, and the story behind the name will be featured in the first volume of my upcoming Myths and Legends of Tea short story collection.
And if you can name three brands of cameras, one of them is probably Canon. They make a wide range of consumer level cameras, and they’ve been around a long time — since the 1930’s, in fact.
Tieguanyin comes in tightly-rolled leaves. When you steep the tea, those little tadpole shapes open up into full Camellia sinensis leaves. The tea is named for Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, or more correctly, the bodhisattva Guanyin, since Buddhism doesn’t have gods and goddesses in the Western sense. There are a lot of ways to spell tieguanyin, and a lot of ways to spell Guanyin’s name as well.
This brings us to cameras. The Canon company — originally known as Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory — developed prototypes of a camera back in 1933. They named this camera Kwanon, which is an Americanized version of the Japanese transliteration of Guanyin’s name. It was a camera named for the Goddess/bodhisattva Guanyin.
The name of the company is, in fact, a simplified version of the name of its first camera, the Kwanon. So next time you pull out your Canon camera, make sure to brew up a cup of tieguanyin oolong to sip while shooting your photos. I recommend brewing it for around 2-1/2 to 3 minutes in 175 degree water. You can easily use the leaves four or five times. Just add about 30 seconds to the brewing time for each additional steep.