Lists: 57 posts

Reading Tea Leaves: Best Tea Perfumes in 10 Different Styles

The scent of tea leaves is created by hundreds of aroma-molecules, and each variety has its unique fragrance. Terroir plays a role as does the method of curing the tea leaves. For instance, steamed Japanese teas like sencha and matcha have grassy, spinach-like aromas thanks to hexenal, while mildly oxidized oolongs share aromatics with lilac blossoms, roses and jasmine (nerolidol, cis-jasmone, linalool). The smoky profiles of teas like lapsang souchong are created by molecules like pyrazines, longifolene and guaiacol. In an interesting twist, guaiacol, along with certain types of pyrazines, is what gives roasted coffee its distinctive scent, which is why smoky teas are recommended to coffee drinkers wanting to expand their horizons. With such a rich palette of aromas, the tea accord is a fascinating exercise for a perfumer.

In my recent article on the development of Bulgari’s Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert, I described how Jean-Claude Ellena discovered a novel accord and created a modern classic. Since Bulgari launched the perfume in 1992, it became the green tea of fragrance. However, tea accords aren’t limited to delicate green blends, and when I began researching my article, I realized how many fragrances successfully incorporate a tea effect, both light and dark. I decided to make a list of the most interesting examples, in 10 different styles.

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California Dreaming

Alyssa Harad is the author of Coming to My Senses and here is her contribution to the Women in Perfumery series. You can learn more about Alyssa’s work and read excerpts of her book at alyssaharad.com.

When Jessica, a.k.a. the Perfume Professor directed my attention to the July Allure article  on the “new frontier” of indie American perfumers—that is, perfumers who create and sell their own brand—and their “solitary, rugged, luminous,” distinctly American perfumes, I was struck by the absence of California as much as by the absence of women.* Few states better embody the fantasy of America (sit down, Texas). California is the eternal frontier, the last stop on the push from east to west. It’s also home to a well established indie perfume scene dominated by women who are deeply influenced by the culture and landscape of their home state. Here are a few of my longstanding favorites. This is by no means a complete list. If you have others please say so in the comments.

Natural perfumer Mandy Aftel has been creating her lush, complex natural perfumes for more than thirty years now. She surely deserves credit as an early pioneer of the American indie scene if not its progenitor. Aftel’s home studio is located in Berkeley, one block from Alice Waters’ famed Chez Panisse. Like Waters, Aftel’s innovative work marries French sophistication to a Berkeley obsession with eschewing the synthetic and highlighting the glory of natural materials. But while Waters could draw on a living tradition of French techniques, Aftel had to invent her own.

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Modern Classics : Tea Colognes and Bulgari Eau Parfumee au The Vert

Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert is an unexpected modern classic. It wasn’t even meant to be displayed outside the Bulgari  boutiques, where its role was to be an elegant extra next to the house’s jewelry collection. Yet such was its allure and originality that it became one of the perfume trendsetters. And it made Bulgari into a perfume house of note. I tell the story of Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert in my newest FT column, Tempting Tea-Inspired Perfumes. But first I take you on my honeymoon to Kerala.

Munnar, a hill station in India’s southwestern state of Kerala, is one of the country’s largest tea producers. Ensconced in the Western Ghats mountain range, the town is surrounded by plantations that cascade down the hills and hide in misty ravines. I was in Munnar for my honeymoon, and my recollections of long, languorous walks around the tea gardens, the tolling church bells and the opulence of garlands at the Sri Subramanya Temple are laced with the scent of tea leaves. Crushed in my fingers, they smelled green and tannic; when carried by the morning breeze, the aroma resembled violets and driftwood. To continue, please click here.

The other fragrances in the Modern Classic series were Serge Lutens’s Féminité du Bois and Lolita Lempicka.

Researching the article made me realize how many excellent and distinctive perfumes feature the tea accord. Next week I will share a selection of favorites to complement my choices in the article above.

Image via FT

Top 10 Summer Picnic Scents

Elisa takes us on a picnic with her selection of favorite summer perfumes.

When thinking about my seasonal favorites, I always create a kind of moodboard in my mind. This summer, the moodboard says PICNIC. I’m picturing a gingham tablecloth or a worn-in patchwork blanket thrown out on the grass, sunlight dappling through leaves, bare feet and painted toes. You can smell sunscreen and blooming linden trees, and, of course, the spread: rosé and sparkling wine, cheese and crackers, something fresh (might I suggest caprese skewers?), a giant bowl of fruit salad (my friend Sommer makes an amazing one with blueberries, watermelon, and halved cherries).

Here are some summer favorites to match my picnic mood.

Demeter Tomato

What is there to say about Demeter Tomato, except that it smells exactly like tomato vines? Just smelling it seems to conjure up actual heat, like you’re standing in a sunny garden. In truth I almost never wear it, but I often spray it into the air, especially in my kitchen, to build summery picnic ambiance.

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Green, Green, Green : A Selection of New Perfumes

Green accords in perfumery are infamous for being difficult. Difficult to create and difficult to enjoy. Balmain’s Vent Vert, the iconic green fragrance, is praised by perfumers as one of the most innovative and daring, but it was eventually reformulated to become tamer and milder. What is it about green fragrances that makes them so polarizing? In my new FT column, On Green Scents, I explore the new spring launches and point out my favorite verdant composition.

Perfumers rely on different classes of ingredients to produce these green accords, some natural and some synthetic, and finding the right harmony can be complicated. Freshly cut grass, its aroma so appealing on a warm day, can turn metallic on skin, while certain herbs can overwhelm delicate notes. Tom Ford Vert de Fleur is notable in that it not only conjures up a vivid verdant effect, but also preserves the nuance. It smells of dew-covered iris petals, damp earth and vetiver roots. To continue reading, please click here.

Where do you place yourself on the green spectrum? Do you like a touch of green? Or is it, “We want a shrubbery”?

Photography by HTSI

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