Welcome, you have arrived to the journal today just in time for tea. What is your preference, Black, Oolong or perhaps a Green Tea? Today our Perfume Illuminated journey travels to the far east to focus on Tea. Camellia sinensis is what is most commonly thought of when the word tea in used. The leaves come from a small evergreen originating along the forest border of Burma, China and India. In some cases it is referred to as Camellia thea.
Related to our garden Camellia, the tea plant has been cultivated for more than 1500 years. Both green and black tea is derived from Camellia sinensis, the difference lies in the fermentation of the leaves.
The earliest accounts of tea consumption in China indicate that it was used as a stimulant. The Dao De Jing, a collection of writings by Chinese philosopher Laozi from the 6th century BC, references tea as an elixir. He has been sited as saying: ” I am not at all interested in immortality, only in the taste of tea.”
Although tea is now known worldwide, the leaves arrived in the west in the 17th century first in Amsterdam, then France and Russia. The introduction of tea in America arrived with Peter Stuyvesant, a Dutch, who brought it to the colony New Amsterdam, now known as New York.
Camellia sinensis plant will grow into a tree and should not be confused with the Aromatherapy essential oil known as Tea Tree, indigenous to Australia from the Melaleuca family.
In natural and botanical perfumery raw materials termed “tea” are Black Tea absolute, Black Tea C02 and Green tea absolute. The note, in general terms is described just as the aroma of the actual leaves, warm with an herbaceous quality. All these essences work well when paired with florals, woods and similar herbaceous notes. It is also very easy to venture into the gourmand fragrance family using tea notes by partnering them with vanilla, spice and fruit for example.
- Black Tea absolute Thea sinensis L. origins China. Dark and very viscous, best when used with alcohol rather than an oil base.
- Black Tea CO2 Select Extract from Kenya
- Green Tea absolute Thea sinensis L., origins China often distilled in France
Two other teas included in my palette are Yerba Maté absolute and Rooibos CO2 Select Extract.
Yerba Maté, a traditional drink of my homeland Argentina, is created from the dry evergreen leaves of the sub-tropics in the Amazon. Due to the red berries it is considered the Rainforest holly. The Quechua Indian word “Maté” meaning cup, in reference to the gourd used for drinking the tea, most often in indigenous regions. In Argentina is became the popular drink of the South America cowboy of the Pampas called the Gaucho.
Rooibos, referred to as Red Bush tea is high in antioxidants like the previously mentioned teas. The are picked while green and turn red during the oxidation process. Grown in the Western Cap Province of South Africa, the tea has a long list of beneficial health properties including strong antioxidant properties and the power to improve the immune system as well as repel aging.
- Yerba Maté absolute Ilex paraguayensis, origins Paraguay, distilled in France. Generally a base note available as a white powder or a thick, dark green, viscous material. The aroma is green and herbaceous like the drink but with a warm, coumarin-like note.
- Rooibos CO2 Select Extract Aspalathus linearis, cultivated and distilled in South Africa. A very warm and fruity heart note which imparts distinct honey tones to a perfume.
Besides using the above mentioned raw materials in perfumery, tinctures can easily be created with a variety of different black and green teas as well as maté and roobios. Each will add a completely different quality of their inherent aroma. Tea tinctures work well for alcohol perfumes and unlike the rather, odd musky note that some plant tinctures impart. Tea remains true a bit more true to the aroma of the material. Experiment and see what works best for you, some teas will not “give up their fragrance” in alcohol, while others will. I suggest allowing the tincture to marinate for a long period of time, in a dark location.
None of the historical perfume books contain formulas using any of the tea extractions since the material was not available in days of old. Thus, I here is one suggestion to build upon that I am working on.
Pair Green tea with one of the Jasmine extractions, like sambac, for a fruity tea accord that can be expanded upon in a variety of directions such as an Asian theme. Jasmine sambac is the material utilized for creating Jasmine Green tea. For this I would add wood notes and perhaps something with a “toasted” character to the base. In the a few notes of honey notes and hay with Ginger and Yuzu uplifting the entire composition. I’ll let you all know when my version is finished and in the shop, I think this will be really nice for Spring.
Alice in Wonderland image by Arthur Rackam
All other imagery has been created by Roxana using an old engravings, scanned parchment paper and photoshop.
Fun related items:
Taking Tea with Alice Book