Culture: 265 posts

Art, travel, books, history

Rose, Jasmine, Osmanthus : The Pleasures of Floral Teas

Some of the most interesting combinations involve tea and flowers. Scent science explains why such pairings have become classics – tea leaves and blossoms such as gardenia, violet, rose or osmanthus have a number of fragrant compounds in common. When blended, the complementary aromas create affinities that enrich the taste of tea as well as its fragrance. In my latest FT column, Discovering The World’s Finest Floral Teas, I explain what makes flower notes pair so well with tea and share my favorites.

You can read the full article by clicking here. I also welcome you to take a look at the Bois de Jasmin tea archives, because we have quite a selection of posts on making tea, enjoying seasonal variations, taking it with roses, jasmine, roasted rice, or even experimenting with Estonian and Thai blue teas. If you’re after a tea-based perfume, here is my list, Best Tea Perfumes in 10 Different Styles.

As always, I’d love to know about your favorite teas, floral and otherwise.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, Ti Kuan Yin tea with a few drops of rosewater. Ordinarily, I don’t tweak Ti Kuan Yin teas at all, because they’re perfect as they are, but this combination turned to be so bright and complex that I’m going to enjoy it from time to time.

10 Books to Read About the Russian Revolution

My great-grandfather was a Bolshevik. Although he was too young to have participated in the events of the Revolution of 1917, he joined grass-roots Communist groups to spread literacy–and the word of Lenin. He was the first in his family to earn a university degree, and until his retirement he worked as a school teacher in central Ukraine. On the day marking the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, November 7th, he donned the military honors he received during WWII and joined the parade.

Growing up in the Soviet Union, of which Ukraine was a part, I took the parades and processions for granted. I didn’t like them, because they felt perfunctory and empty of any meaning, but I participated, because refusing wasn’t an option. The older I got, the more I detested the slogans and the marches. “What did this revolution of yours achieve?” I would say to my great-grandfather whenever our discussions erupted into arguments. “Endless parades and endless lines?” The 1980s were a time of endemic shortages, when even basic goods like toilet paper disappeared from store shelves. When that happened, without a trace of irony we cut up the old issues of Pravda, the main Party newspaper whose name meant “Truth.” My great-grandfather was the only one who used it for its original intended purpose–reading the news.

Yet, for all his ardent belief in the revolution, my great-grandfather never romanticized it. I’m sure he would find the contemporary left’s nostalgia for a time they never experienced as deeply baffling. He might have thought that it was necessary to remove the corrupt, despotic tsarist system, but he recognized the tragedies it unleashed, especially the Civil War during which my great-grandfather lost much of his family. He was a believer and an idealist, but he wasn’t blind to the fact that the Red Revolution was followed by the Red Terror.

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Japanese Ghost Stories : 5 Books

Frightening oneself with ghost stories or haunted houses is a summer activity in Japan for the chilling frisson it’s believed to provide. Yet the Japanese literary tradition filled with spirits, ghouls, specters and other supernatural phenomena is so rich that a full year wouldn’t be enough to even scrape the surface. Since dark fall evenings are a good time to delve into it, I decided to share five of my favorite Japanese books over whose pages hover ghosts.

The Japanese concept of a ghost, yūrei, is quite complex, but in its essence, it’s a soul of someone who died in a violent manner and may not have had proper funeral rites. The soul then returns to the living world to seek vengeance and to torment those who were responsible for the crime. The purpose of Japanese ghost stories, however, is not only to paint the frightful deeds of the unpacified souls, but also to examine the complexity of love, betrayal, loyalty, faith, and other human emotions and dilemmas.

Japanese Gothic Tales by Izumi Kyoka, translated by Charles Shiro Inouye

“She seemed too delicate for someone living in the mountains. Even in the capital you don’t see many women as beautiful. As she rubbed my back. I could hear her trying to stifle the sounds of her breathing. I knew I should ask her to stop, but I became lost in the bliss of the moment. Was it the spirit of the deep mountains that made me allow her to continue? Or was it her fragrance? I smelled something wonderful. Perhaps it was the woman’s breath coming from behind me.”

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Haiku of the Day : Snowflakes of Autumn

At the beginning of fall one of the resolutions I made was to go running on a regular basis. As they say, be careful what you wish for, because lately my days have been on a fast track. Nevertheless, one must carve out moments of contemplation even during busy, stressful periods, and my other autumnal resolution, to read more poetry, came to the rescue. Poetry concentrates images and sensations, and it’s an effect it shares with perfumery.

Japanese poet Yamazaki Sōkan (1465–1553) was a poet and calligrapher in the shogun’s court, but he gave up the courtier’s life and became a Buddhist monk. Though I have no wish to renounce the world, reading his poetry is like shutting out the noise and focusing on the beautiful. Today I bring you one of my favorite autumnal poems by this haiku master.

If they were silent
flights of herons on dark sky –
snowflakes of autumn.

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Georgian National Ballet : Dance and Dazzle

If Georgia’s cuisine is any indication, this country’s other arts are equally dazzling, especially music and dance. The first time I saw Georgian dancing was when the Georgian National Ballet Sukhishivili-Ramishvili visited Kyiv during my childhood. By then I had already studied classical ballet for several years, so it was hard to impress me with complicated turns or jumps, but when the Georgian troupe took stage, it charged up the whole auditorium with so much energy that for the two hours of the performance I felt myself soaring. I have since seen hundreds of dance performances, both folk and classics, but this feeling of intoxication and euphoria returned only on a few occasions since, the most recent being during Natalia Osipova’s performance of Giselle.

And it’s hard not to be moved watching Georgian dancing with its energy, rhythm, complex technique and precision. The clip above is the rehearsal of the same troupe I saw as a child, but of course, with a new generation of dancers. Sukhishvili-Ramishvili Ballet is based on traditional Georgian dancing, though they incorporate classical ballet elements to polish the movements further. Men dancing on bent toes, though, is part of the traditional repertoire, predating ballet’s en pointe technique. Although this clip is only the rehearsal, it gives you a sense of the troupe’s virtuosity. I watched it at least ten times, and I still hold my breath when the dancers do pirouettes on their knees, then raise themselves en pointe before jumping in the air and holding a trinacria-like shape for what seems like minutes.

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