Cherry Blossom: 3 posts

The Perfect Scent of Spring and Cherry Blossoms

Be wary of perfumes called Cherry Blossom. They promise a whirlwind of pink petals and poetry, but they’ll deliver a wan fruity-floral scent that doesn’t come close to the real thing.  What do they smell like, these flowers, that despite falling off almost as soon as they open, have captured the imagination of poets and philosophers? To contemplate a cherry blossom is to reflect on beauty and mortality, the passing of time and the power of subtle things.

The scent of cherry flower is indeed subtle, but it’s not bland. Neither is it sweet or fruity of the commercial fragrance type. The scent is bitter and green. If you bury your face in the petals and let the yellow pollen settle on your cheeks, you notice hints of Amaretto, honey and green sap. It’s surprisingly assertive, with enough character to stand out next to the pungent aroma of blooming pears and the sugary sweetness of apple flowers. Every spring, I wish I could distill it all into a fragrance, and every spring I give up on this idea. As Japanese poets have rightly noted, the beauty of cherry blossom is in its evanescence.

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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.

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Sakura Tea : Tasting Cherry Blossoms

Cherry blooming season is nearing its end in Japan, but our trees are just now bursting into bloom. “The cure for/This raucous world…/Late cherry blossoms,” wrote the great Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa, and as I walk to the subway each morning, I notice how the pink froth lights up the austere grey of the streets of Brussels. I take longer routes so that I can see more cherry trees and sometimes I take my lunch to the park where I experience my private hanami, flower viewing. Then I find stray petals tangled in my hair and clinging to my coat–reminders of our very late spring.

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Don’t believe the perfumes named Cherry Blossom–real flowers smell nothing like the cherries we associate with cough syrup or flavored candy. They have a fresh, green scent, with an earthy rose accent. It’s as delicate as the pink confetti of cherry petals. Given the love the Japanese have for sakura, cherry blossom, it’s not surprising that during the spring season you also find all sorts of cherry blossom flavored delights, including soft drinks, chocolate, pastries, ice-cream and candy. Pierre Hermé, the renowned French pastry chef, even offers cherry blossom flavored macarons at his boutiques in Tokyo.

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