Salt and Flowers

A Japanese friend once served me a cup of sakurayu, a salted cherry blossom tea that she brought from Kyoto. The flowers unfurled slowly in the hot water, turning the liquid a shade of pale pink and infusing it with the aroma of almond and apricot. This springtime drink made me wonder what it is about the combination of salt and flowers that makes it so intriguing. The topic of salt and flowers is the subject of my FT column, Magic of Salt. I explore salty effects in perfumery and the way they can uplift floral notes.

Salt has its own mild scent and, depending on its processing and provenance, it ranges from bitter and iodinated to flinty and flowery. However, the magic of salt is its ability to volatilize the aromas of other ingredients. You can experiment by cutting a tomato in half and smelling it raw. Then sprinkle it liberally with salt, wait for a few minutes and have another inhale. Even if your tomato is an uninspiring greenhouse variety, once salted, it will have a more pronounced perfume. To continue reading further, please click here.

As for the salted sakura tea, it’s a seasonal treat, and while sakura blossoms have already wilted, you can still find sakurayu at Japanese stores online. I’ve written about it previously (Salted Sakura Tea), and if you haven’t yet tried it, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Salty, fruity, floral, with a hint of bitter almond, it’s a beautiful drink.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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25 Comments

  • Bela: Really intriguing, this. A large Japanese supermarket and restaurant opened recently in Westfield (the gigantic shopping precinct around the corner from where I live). I’m gonna look for that tea. 🙂 May 13, 2019 at 9:10am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, it’s worth searching out. In Japan, it’s a seasonal treat, but since it’s preserved, it should still be available. During the cherry blossom season, all sorts of interesting cherry flower flavored foods make their appearance. This tea is my favorite. May 13, 2019 at 10:19am Reply

      • Bela: Thanks for the recommendation, V. I’m pretty sure that store will have it: it’s huge and always full of Japanese customers. I’ll have to ask an SA, though — hardly anything is labelled in English. May 13, 2019 at 10:33am Reply

        • Victoria: You can also show them these characters– 桜湯 (Sakurayu) or 桜茶 (Sakura-cha).

          Besides tea, you can also cook with the flowers. Rinse them briefly and put on top of fish before steaming. They give a lovely flavor. May 13, 2019 at 11:00am Reply

  • Klaas: That tea looks and sounds incredible!

    This spring, I’ve fallen hard for Maire Parfumeur & Gantier Racine, with it’s lovely take on Vetiver. It also has that distinctly salty, briny feel to it. So lovely! May 13, 2019 at 9:34am Reply

    • Victoria: Racine is one of saltiest vetivers. Annick Goutal used to make another one, but it has since been discontinued. May 13, 2019 at 10:20am Reply

  • Neva: I’ll remember to try the salted sakura tea as soon as I find it. It looks lovely.
    Today I got my package of Penhaligon’s Blasted Bloom. It’s an aquatic paradise. To me it smells like chamomille tea with plenty of salt although there’s no tea note in it. May 13, 2019 at 10:22am Reply

    • Victoria: It makes me realize that a perfume with a salted sakura note would be very nice. In perfumery, cherry blossoms are made either too sweet and fruity or too bland. May 13, 2019 at 11:01am Reply

  • Andy: I have a sencha with salted sakura mixed in, and it’s lovely (also beautiful–the green and peach/pink together are striking). The salted blossom note is subtle, but it plays well against the grassy green tea. May 13, 2019 at 12:19pm Reply

    • Victoria: They have a delicate almond flavor that reminds me of tonka beans. You can also experiment with tonka beans and green tea, but you need a mere speck of a tonka bean for a hint of flavor. May 14, 2019 at 9:43am Reply

      • Andy: I’ve used tonka in black tea, but never green tea. I grate it on the microplane into small shavings, and my fingers take on the velvety perfume in the process. I will try it tonight! May 14, 2019 at 1:53pm Reply

        • Victoria: I also love that smell. Tonka beans pairs well with many things, as long as you control the dose. May 15, 2019 at 1:57am Reply

          • Andy: Tonka bean with green tea was lovely! It enhanced the mown hay/grass aspects of the tea, and added a nice sweet note. May 16, 2019 at 10:40am Reply

            • Victoria: I’m so glad that you’ve tried and liked it. Yes, that’s exactly why I found the combo to be so interesting. May 16, 2019 at 12:07pm Reply

  • Annie: That tea looks so pretty! May 14, 2019 at 12:48am Reply

    • Victoria: I think so too. The color is beautiful. May 14, 2019 at 9:44am Reply

  • MaureenC: One of the downsides of raised blood pressure is having to avoid salt and I’ve been astonished at its impact when I eat out and have no control over the quantity I’m eating. I love the scent and enjoy it in Azemour les Oranges. I was so sad when Miller Harris discontinued Fleurs de Sel part of them becoming more “commercial” I suspect. I must try Sel de Vetiver and hop that gives me my fix! Any other suggestions gratefully received May 14, 2019 at 5:34am Reply

    • Silvermoon: Hi MaureenC,

      I really loved MH Fleurs de Sel. It’s my favourite Miller Harris, so was very disappointed when they discontinued it. I still have my bottle, and use it sparingly. It makes me wonder why they keep doing it? Similar happened with Penhaligon ‘s Ostara.

      I wonder if Victoria would have added it to her list in the article, if it were still available? I consider it one of the best in the salty flowers perfume category. May 14, 2019 at 5:57am Reply

      • Victoria: I definitely would have added it. It used to be my favorite Miller Harris perfume. May 14, 2019 at 9:44am Reply

    • Victoria: Vetiver pour Elle by Guerlain is another option, but I don’t remember if it’s still available. Hermes Eau de Narcisse Bleu is not obviously salty, but if you liked the unsweetened, green effect, then you’ll enjoy it too. May 14, 2019 at 9:46am Reply

    • Klaas: Hey Maureen, you should defenitely try Racine by Maitre Parfumeur & Gantier. I like it even more then Sel de Vetiver, though they have a lot in common…..it is deliciously savory! May 16, 2019 at 9:58am Reply

    • MaureenC: Thanks for the suggestions! May 17, 2019 at 11:16am Reply

  • Lily: I get a bit of salt in the drydown of Penhaligon’s Ostara.

    One perfume I have been curious about is Viktor Rolf’s Salty Flower (or Magic: Salty flower as it is listed at Sephora). Has anyone tried it yet? Salt and frangipani…sounds delicious to me, but I am not a huge fan of flower bomb and don’t really know any of their others. May 14, 2019 at 11:18am Reply

    • Victoria: I found it a bit too sweet for my tastes. Too much sugar and not enough salt, in other words. May 14, 2019 at 11:25am Reply

  • Aurora: Salt can be as addictive as sugar, I didn’t know about that Japanese treat, thank you. For summer I have Eau de Monteil, flowers and salt, do you know it, Victoria? May 18, 2019 at 1:45pm Reply

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