Travel: 106 posts

Searching for scents and sensory traditions around the world.

Rubbish to Gems : A Tale of Javanese Tea Wedang Uwuh

While driving around the Indonesian countryside, especially in Sulawesi and Java, you see sheets of tarp spread along the side of the road with cloves or scrolls of cassia drying in the hot sun. The archipelago produces most of the world’s nutmeg and clove, spices over which wars were fought and nations colonized. Most of the produce drying on the plastic sheets is intended for export; the higher the quality the better the price farmers would fetch. Yet, no part of a spice tree is wasted, be it cassia, nutmeg or clove. Javanese tea, wedang uwuh, is an example of this philosophy.

Uwuh means rubbish in Javanese, and the tea uses all of the refuse from the spice production–nutmeg leaves, clove branches, cassia foliage and stems. (Another theory is that the tea is so called because the bits and ends floating in the liquid look like garbage.) Either way, garbage it is not, and one legend credits the Raja of Mataram with the discovery of wedang uwuh.

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Contemplating a Peony : 5 Perfumes for the Peony Viewing

Cherry blossoms may be the flowers most strongly associated with Japan, but the peony is another beloved bloom. If you visit Tokyo in late spring, you can spend your days wandering the most beautiful peony gardens. The most striking peonies are the ones called botan in Japanese, or tree peony. They indeed appear as if they’re growing on trees, and their flowers are much larger than the more familiar stem peonies known as shakuyaku. Their colors, textures and, of course, scents vary dramatically.

So I’ve selected several fragrances that use peony in different ways, ranging from fresh and light to dark and warm. I also would like to share several favorite spots in Tokyo where peonies are displayed in all of their splendor. While going there is not possible for most of us, we can still admire the photos on line and dream up our perfect peony perfume.

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The Turkish Art of Kolonya or How to Wear Cologne

The sight of a driver bearing a bottle of kolonya on the bus journeys across Turkey has always left me with mixed emotions. They always insisted on waking you up and then drenching you with perfume, whether you wanted it or not. On the other hand, a splash of kolonya always felt refreshing, and I became so used to the ritual that I began to practice it myself whenever I needed a pick me up. Using my Turkish friends’ example, I would pour kolonya generously into my hands, rub and whatever remained, I’d dab over my clothes. Of course, one needs a light, cologne-style perfume to accomplish it successfully, and Turkish kolonya is perfect.

Kolonya comes from the word cologne, and it became popular in the court of sultan Abdülhamit II (1876 – 1909) before taking over the rest of the country. Kolonya supplanted rosewater, which was used in a similar manner, since it was seen as antiseptic and cleansing. Kolonya is still offered to people at the restaurants and cafes. Kolonya is the first thing you’d offered entering a Turkish home, along with a plate of candy. The former is for cleanliness and refreshment, while the latter is for ensuring a sweet conversation, according to one Turkish belief. The kolonya culture is part of an old tradition of hospitality and sharing as well as a reminder that perfume was once valued for its salutary properties.

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Lindens, Ukrainian Weaving, and Nataliya’s Other Favorite Things

I like meeting people who pursue their dreams. My friend and partner on our Ukrainian Scent and Taste Adventure, Nataliya Cummings, studied theater in Ukraine, lived in an anarchist community, researched traditional weaving and created an art festival. She now lives in the UK, but she spends most of her year traveling in Ukraine and helping other people fall in love with this fascinating and yet unknown country. Today I want to introduce Nataliya to you.

Nataliya started her travel company Experience Ukraine shortly after moving to Hereford in the UK about 10 years ago, but the genesis of the idea came earlier. After completing her theater studies degree at the university, she started to create art events for children in collaboration with the Longo Maï community. Since children couldn’t travel to cities to see plays and performances, Nataliya decided to bring theater to them. Her experience was so exhilarating that she moved to the village of Nyzhnie Selyshche in the Transcarpathia, a region in western Ukraine. (It’s the same village where we will be staying during our Ukrainian Scent and Taste Adventure this summer.)

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Postcard from Ukraine : Kalyna Berries

Guelder rose berries, called kalyna in Ukrainian, taste like cranberries and have a bitter-sour scent reminiscent of almonds and lingonberries. After the frost hits them, they lose their tannic pungency and become sweeter. They’re known to be a panacea for colds and sore throats, but we leave ours for the birds. The truth is that we prefer their red glimmer among the bare branches. No other sight is more quintessentially Ukrainian. No other plant has richer symbolic meaning.

In Ukrainian folklore, kalyna represents female beauty–the effervescence of youth with its delicate white flowers and mature sensuality with its red berries. Red stands for passion, and so the crimson hue of the berries represents love. If you look closer at Ukrainian embroideries, you can see kalyna berries and flowers telling their story of life coming a full circle.

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Latest Comments

  • Trudy in Recommend Me a Perfume : September 2021: I know I’m kind of late and not sure if anyone is still reading this months recommend posts but if you are: I’m looking for new perfume and I’d like… September 26, 2021 at 12:14pm

  • Linda in Recommend Me a Perfume : September 2021: Thank you all for recommending such intriguing scents for my walks, hikings. I cannot wait to test them and wear them. September 26, 2021 at 11:50am

  • Deanna in Recommend Me a Perfume : September 2021: Thank you Julien, and your wonderful description of the layers of Arpege inspired me to try again, with a fresh nose, as you say. Surprise – It Doesn’t Smell Off… September 26, 2021 at 11:38am

  • JulienFromDijon in Recommend Me a Perfume : September 2021: Chanel “Coco mademoiselle” would be a good start. Like “Miss Dior chérie” it has a natural jasmine veering on strawberry, with rose, on a soft oriental base. September 26, 2021 at 11:28am

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