Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Tea Project

Jean Claude Ellena did me a favor back in the late 1980’s when he created a scent that smelled of tea. Tea cannot be extracted into a fragrance like other notes, so Ellena had an idea that he could create a scent that smells like tea; the leaves, the water and a little bit of earthy smoke, and so he made it.

Ellena took his scent to Dior, who focus-grouped the smell to death and eventually turned it down. Then Ellena took his tea scent to Yves Saint Laurent, who also turned him down. Ellena ended up at Bvlgari, who thankfully had the good sense to understand this was groundbreaking. Bvlgari took Ellena’s tea scent, made it into a limited edition which sold only in their boutiques. Jean Claude Ellena’s first tea scent, Bvlgari Eau Parfumee au The Vert was a huge success and now just about every perfume house has a scent which centers on tea.

I tire of most light summery citrusy-green scents but the one note I can never have enough of is Tea. Maybe that’s because the tea note is extremely fleeting and I am forced to run after it like a stealthy butterfly never getting caught in my net. I mentioned this to Laurie Erickson, perfumer at Sonoma Scent Studio, and she confirmed for me that the tea note is an extremely fleeting one, an aroma that is just not going to linger for a long time. Nevertheless, unlike other fleeting notes, the tea note remains worth chasing for me.

I’ve been on a tea quest for quite some time so I thought I’d gather my findings together to assist others who might also be on the same journey. While I really love a good number of these fragrances, I’m still searching for the Perfect Tea Scent. This is part of the reason why I mentioned my quest to Erickson at SSS, I thought maybe someday she could create it. Sonoma Scent Studio fragrances all have excellent longevity on me, so if anyone can do it, I figure Erickson can. What I’m looking for is a strong black tea scent, with hints of fruits and florals. Imagine opening a fresh tin of passion fruit jasmine tea, or something along those lines. I love the smell of earthy black tea leaves, but I also love the mixture of fruits and florals with a touch of smoke.

..In the meantime, here are the tea scents I have:

L’Artisan Tea for Two: gourmand tea scent. Tea for Two is a fragrant cup of tea with milk and honey. It is to be worn by the fireplace in the winter months. For some reason, Tea for Two makes me a little nauseous; I think it’s the combination of lemon in this cup of milky sweet chai tea.

L’Artisan The Pour Un Ete: chilled jasmine tea with a wedge of lemon and sprig of mint. The Pour un Ete is among the few fragrances I genuinely love from L’Artisan. L'Artisan, for me, is a house which makes far too many fleeting fragrances, but I forgive them with The Pour Un Ete because we know the aroma of tea just doesn’t stick around no matter who creates it. I previously reviewed The Pour un Ete last year, and it remains a beautiful summertime tea staple for me. The tea note fades but what is left is an exquisite airy jasmine.

Dior Escale a Pondichery: black tea with cardamom and jasmine was a great idea but somehow this doesn’t live up to its description at all. I love Escale a Portofino and don’t even get annoyed with its fleeting nature because, well, it’s supposed to be light and short lived. I very much looked forward to Pondichery’s release last year but I find this one falls flat. It does smell of black tea with Indian spices and jasmine at the start but it quickly morphs into a vaguely citrus aroma with very little charm. If I wanted citrus I’d just wear its sister Escale a Portofino. If I want tea I’ll just wear something else.

Bvlgari tea trio: this consists of 3 fragrances, a green tea (au The Vert), a white tea (au The Blanc) and a red/roobios tea (au The Rouge). I prefer the red tea scent because I find it unique as far as tea scents go. Au The Rouge is a little fruitier and nuttier than the other two teas from Bvlgari. I do think it smells of roobios/red tea, which is a unique scent. I previously reviewed Bvlgari Au The Rouge because it’s my favorite of the tea trio.

Elizabeth W Sweet Tea: This is almost the scent I’ve been looking for except it doesn’t have enough fruits and florals. Elizabeth W Sweet Tea is a tall glass of summertime iced tea with a big spoonful of liquid sugar. You know you can’t mix granulated sugar into a glass of iced tea, right? Granulated sugar doesn’t mix and falls to the bottom of the glass. Mix in some (preferably flavored) liquid sugar and you have a delicious glass of summertime sweet tea. Elizabeth W brings sweet iced tea to us in a wearable fragrance.

Parfumerie Generale L’eau Rare Matale: “mate” is a type of tea common in South America which has a distinctly toasted quality. PG’s Rare Matale reminds me the most of CdG’s Sweet Nomad Tea (coming along shortly) but it’s more wearable for me. PG Rare Matale is a mildly sweet citrusy tea scent that is extremely natural and realistic and smells of this mate type of tea. This one works best for me layered on top of other scents which aren’t strong enough on the tea note. This is a tea jumper cable of sorts.

Aroma M Geisha O-Cha: this is a zesty powdered tea scent. I don’t mean powder as in baby powder, I'm referring to instant powdered tea in a packet as opposed to loose leaf tea. This smells like a packet of Lipton iced tea with a lemon. It’s still zesty and nice and if you spray it on your clothes it will stick around for the afternoon. Instant-tea-packet might not sound appealing but I actually find O-Cha quite nice.

Creative Universe Te: greenish oolang tea with hints of osmanthus and faint florals. CU Te is a relaxing tea scent, with a fresh citrusy quality that fades into a pleasant subdued floral. The tea note and celery note are interesting in the way the PG and CdG tea scents are but it’s immensely more wearable and typical instead of just plain weird.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz The Vert: brisk, realistic green tea. Longevity is decent if you spray liberally. DSH The Vert is closest to CU Te but it’s much more focused on green tea with less florals and citrus. If you are looking for a straight green tea scent this is the most exact I have ever smelled. It’s earthy green tea with an overall herbal quality and a touch of smoke.

Comme des Garcons Sweet Nomad Tea: another “mate” type tea scent but this one is truly weird. It’s more about sweet mint sprigs and very tannic tea. Sweet Nomad Tea is appealing if you like strongly herbal scents but it does also have a brisk tea note, as promised by the name. This won’t make much sense but Sweet Nomad Tea is sweet in the most unsweetened way. It’s actually quite interesting and unique but not something I normally wear. CdG Sweet Nomad Tea is perfect about 1 time per year when I get in the mood for something herbal and non-perfumey. Actually Sweet Nomad Tea smells a lot like fresh pot (aka marijuana, hemp, weed, whatever you call it) once it dries down.

CB I Hate Perfume Russian Caravan Tea: This, like a lot of the CB scents (and prior to CB, Demeter scents) is almost an exact replica of a cup of tea. It is a strong black cup of tea, with a dash of bergamot and a hint of smoke. It is really nice and lingers longer than most, I just need to layer it with something else in order to make it read as a perfume on me. Layering this (and I hardly ever layer) with Nez a Nez Vanithe after Vanithe loses its tea quality is quite nice.

Nez a Nez Vanithe: Vanilla Tea. This reminds me of Loulou with an herbal tea note at the start. Overall it’s very sweet and the opposite of most of these other brisk, refreshing tea scents. Vanithe was introduced to me by a kind POLer otherwise I would probably never have tried it. This is the most perfumey, sweet and synthetic smelling of all my tea scents in this list but it is actually one of my top favorites. The initial verbena, rosemary and Earl Grey tea notes are wonderfully balanced with the sweet vanillic base notes. The top notes vanish after awhile and even though I’m left with only the memory of them I do enjoy the sweet slightly woody-honey-vanilla base.

Annick Goutal Le Chevrefeuille: someone, somewhere, called this an iced tea fragrance which suddenly struck me as the reason I love it so much. Le Chevrefeuille is honeysuckle iced tea and absolutely gorgeous. Honeysuckle, as an exact note, might otherwise be awfully sweet and cloying but this sparse, fresh, hesperidic and slightly brisk tea/honeysuckle scent is genius. Please pray with me that this hasn’t been or isn’t about to be reformulated.

Annick Goutal Duel: a beautiful yet thoroughly too fleeting tea/citrus/smoke scent. Duel is almost perfect if only it lasted longer than 20 minutes. It’s not just that the tea note vanishes; the problem is that the whole scent vanishes for me. But it is an awesome 20 minutes.

Lorenzo Villoresi Yerbamate: grassy meadow of mild mate (tea). LV Yerbamate is less about tea and more about the softest green meadow and newly mown hay. It’s a bucolic country scene. I really should wear this more.

Do you know of some good tea scents that I don’t have listed? Please tell me! I’m always hunting for tea...


ElizabethN said...

Thanks for the list! I do like tea scents sometimes, and this will give me some ideas. I have been trying to get my hands on some LV Yerbamate, but it's not really is a gorgeous scent, not so much a tea scent, as you say, but addictive nonetheless.

ScentScelf said...'s not fair to say, in a way, given how she went on hiatus and is now back at perfume in only a limited fashion...BUT...

Ava Luxe Black Tea is the bomb, when it comes to tea fragrances. Black tea nicely saturated with spice, and almost too heavily sweetened for me, but never ends up falling over into treacle.

Mind you, I'm one who finds the sweetness in the Elizabeth W Sweet Tea to be just too much. So that ought to put a relative scale on things. OTOH, I'm fond of all three of the Bulgari tea offerings (the Vert you mention, plus the Rouge and the White).

I like my iced tea black, if you haven't guessed. :)

JoanElaine said...

Thank you for this post! I am have been on the hunt for more tea fragrances, as one is never enough!

I have CB I Hate Perfume Russain Tea Caravan and I love it, but it is fleeting. I have a sample of PG L'Eau de Rare Metale on its way to me and perhpas I wil layer it with Roger and Gallet's Thé Vert, which is really too light and a bit soapy to me, but the blast of tea at the moment of application is just lovely.

I will definately try some of your suggestions.. AG Chevrefeuille sounds divine, and of course, DSH Green Tea must be sampled. Thanks again.

Olfacta said...

Well not perfume but...our local farmer's market sells many kinds of tea, one of which is a black Ceylon slighty flavored with passion fruit. I add a tablespoon of jasmine tea to about 1/2 cup of the other, and make a half-gallon of iced tea with it. The jasmine is so fragrant it's like a perfume.

ggs said...

I love the tea note! Bulgari Au The Rouge was one of the fragrances I was thrilled to discover early in my journey as a perfume enthusiast, and it's still a favorite. (And I have Ellena to thank for many other favorites in my perfume collection as well.) Thanks for your post, which helped me add several fragrances to my "must try" list.

I was also disappointed in Dior Escale a Pondichery! Such a shame, as the description of notes sounded so promising, and it didn't measure up at all.

A sniffed a great black tea (maté) note in an advance sample of: L’Heure Fougueuse (the Spirited Hour) which will be one of 3 new fragrances in Mathilde Laurent’s Heures de Parfum collection for Cartier. Denyse posted about these in her Grain de Musc blog back in June, and was kind enough to bring them for me to sniff when I met her this summer. Suggest you keep your eyes peeled for this one when it launches in November ;)
Neiman Marcus carries the high end Cartier collection in my area.

Isa said...

Now I have to try Le Chevrefeuille. It sounds perfect!

I like Au thé rouge a lot. It smells exactly as a cup of red tea, with its wet and earthy scent which always makes me think of a cave.

OperaFan said...

You may want to try Perfumes Isabell's Ceylon, which has a nice dose of orange and flowers mixed in. The drydown is a little bitter, a little tart, as would be expected in a nice strong cup of tea.

Vanessa said...

Funny you should speak of chasing butterflies - I am wearing La Chasse aux Papillons today!

Ecume de The by CSP is allegedly one of Juliette Binoche's signature scents (the other being Cristalle), so that was enough for me to try it, and very pretty it is too. I don't know if it is still in production, mind.

And there is Ava Luxe Moroccan Mint Tea. That is a fresh one with a hint of mint, and I speak as a non-mint lover! There may be an availability issue with that one too, though decants of both are still doing the rounds on the swap scene.

Otherwise, you have listed all my other faves, especially The Pour Un Ete.

Sigrid said...

A little late to the tea party, but I wanted to say thank you for this post! I love tea notes and this is a great reference. My favorite tea scent is Aizen-Myoo, a fragrance oil by Black Phoenix Alchemy lab. The notes are yuzu, kaki, and mikan with cherry blossom and black tea. Smells exactly like the grapefruit black tea at my favorite tea place. Happy and refreshing!

Martha said...

I love tea. A few more, though you've covered most of the good stuff:

- CB I Hate Perfume's Black Tea Accord may be my favorite tea. You're probably already getting it in Rusian Caravan Tea, but I thought I'd mention that he sells the accord. I have it in the oil, which lasts a reasonably long time, though it has very little projection.

- Parfumerie Generale Harmatan Noir. I can't make up my mind whether I prefer this one or L'Eau Rare Matale.

- People call Hermessence Osmanthe Yunnan a tea scent. I don't quite see that, but it is lovely.

- Comme des Garcons Leaves: Tea is very, very weird. But I like it a lot.

- This one is almost certainly just my nose; Le Labo Patchouli 24 smells like tea leaves to me - more realistic tea leaves than almost any tea scent. I suspect that it's just how my brain interprets the birch tar.

- Another vote for Ava Luxe Moroccan Mint Tea. Though sadly, I seem to have a slight allergic reaction to it, so I guess it's just as well I didn't buy a full bottle when I had a chance. Though if I have another chance, I expect I'll buy it anyway.

Alyssa said...

Great post and recommendations! I'm always looking for a Ceylon type tea scent, so will have to give the Ava Luxe a try if it ever crosses my path. I totally think Osmanthe Yunnan is a tea scent--it smells very much like the Osmanthus Oolong I drink.

I was especially interested to see this as I've just been experimenting with some tea sorbet recipes--osmanthus and jasmine. It really is hard to capture the taste/fragrance of tea...