Post1The incident described in this post does not constitute a mystery. Even if it is a mystery, it needs no urgent deciphering.

In 2004, the Japanese American National Museum acquired a ca. 1930 Soma Tea Store canister. An address, printed below the business name and quite legible, reads:

232-4 E. FIRST ST.

Any of our contemporaries who has the slightest interest in the object would immediately Google the business name and the address using a handheld device. (In my case I had to get back to my laptop as I made a conscious decision not to own a smartphone.)

It was not until this spur-of-the-moment research that I learned the word Soma was much more profound than being just a popular Indian first name. According to the online dictionaries, it possesses somewhat enigmatic meanings:

1) an intoxicating juice from a plant of disputed identity that was used in ancient India as an offering to the gods and as a drink of immortality by worshippers in Vedic ritual and worshipped in personified form as a Vedic god

2) the parts of an organism other than the reproductive cells.

3) the body as distinct from the soul, mind, or psyche.

And in Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World, Soma is “a narcotic drug which produces euphoria and hallucination, distributed by the state in order to promote content and social harmony.”

Soma’s colorful origin impeded my research, for too many other businesses, including tea shops, also chose it as their moniker.

Probably on the seventh or eighth Internet search result page I came across a stained envelope being auctioned on eBay. The sender’s address is printed, in all capital letters, as follows:


Post3Is “Shidzuoka” a typo or an outdated spelling? Shizuoka housed the headquarter? The greenish stamp on the envelope, though slightly damaged, reminds anyone who has ever seen the charming 1963 movie Charade of its delightful plot.

The recipient, on the other hand, is one Miss Caroline M. Seymour in Los Angeles:

Miss Caroline M. Seymour,
746 W. Adams Street,
Los Angeles, Cal., U.S.A.

Not until 1963 did the United States Postal Services publish the official two-letter state abbreviation list. 1963 does not seem significant for this research, though.

Who knows? The 50th or 100th internet search result page might reveal Soma Tea Store’s full story.

When was the last time that you could not find, with advanced search options, whatever you were looking for, on the first or second search result page? For me, “Soma Tea Store” was the first in a very long time.