From the big, black, smoke and tar-chuffing tea perfumes like Annick Goutal Eau de Fier to the more delicate tea stylings of Atelier Oolang Infini, tea perfumes have long been a favorite go-to note when flora, vetiver, musk and other more traditional notes just sound not quite right.
March did a post some time back on tea perfumes, throwing in coffee fragrances as well. What she noted is absolutely true, conjuring up a tea scent is more abstraction than reality. Teas are often blended beautifully to encompass a season or event, like the gorgeous Christmas Mariage Freres Esprit de Noël that is the perfect Christmas tea. Speaking of which, mine from last year sat too long and lost all of its Go-Go Juice (bonus points for an oblique Honey Boo Boo term), so I had to quickly order more because it is not Christmas until the Esprit de Noel is brewing daily. [pullquote]I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea. – Fyodor Dostoyevsky[/pullquote]
Once you venture outside the smell of tea brewing in the kettle and wafting into your nostrils in the cup and try to find it in a perfume bottle, it becomes . Not a lot of tea fragrances would fit my idea of “reality” tea fragrances. Leave that expectation only for your teapot. Hey, I brew tea often because that smell is the best in the world, and I immediately feel comforted and safe.
My love for teatime and the rituals around it extends to my trips to England. I’ve planned entire days around getting to the next “Afternoon Tea.” I love the ritual, the china cups and that heavenly smell. Turning it to tea notes in perfume is a pleasure.
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Take it Easy on me Tea Perfumes
Let’s roll up to the tea cart slowly with some of the most lilting and delicate tea blossoms. The perfect place to start is Bvlgari. You can have your tea green with Bvlgari Au the Vert, red with Bvlgari Au the Rouge or White with Bvlgari Au the Blanc. All of these are light in fragrance, but very much tea scents – in other words, you aren’t getting Tea Lite where it’s listed as a note but barely even registers in your cracked Limoges cup – and Au the Vert is an iconic tea fragrance. It heralded Jean-Claude Ellena’s descent into the Perfume Smells Like Nothing Caverns, but while he still liked some scent in his perfumes. For tea perfumes, this is a great place to start – it won’t overwhelm you with the smoky black fragrance of tea and will give you a great idea of what these three different types of teas smell like when enclosed in perfume. When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. [pullquote]Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment? – Muriel Barbery, “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”[/pullquote]
Another great entry point is CB I Hate Perfume. Christopher loves tea notes in perfume, and he serves it up with cedar, rose, lavender and then a much more smoky version in Russian Caravan Tea. You won’t get much “perfume” tradition in these, just a lot of lovely, lovely tea. CB I Hate Perfume Cedarwood Tea is a gorgeous woods infused tea, slightly sweetened, like smoky tea with honey served aboard the deck of your yacht. CB I Hate Perfume Lavender Tea is just that, with more emphasis on the Lavender – an English country morning sitting by the lavender fields with a fresh cuppa in front of you. CB I hate Perfume Tea Rose appeared in the rose perfume guide, but gets a quick mention here just because the tea in it is so darn pretty! CB I hate Perfume Russian Caravan Tea is the smoky entry in his tea series and my personal favorite because I loves me some smoky, dark tea..
Atelier Cologne Oolang Infini is another excellent not scary tea point. While it has a lot of the same notes as some of the more, um, robust tea perfumes – leather, tobacco – it puffs little bits of smoke with its tea instead of filling the room with big black tea smoke. An excellent starter tea perfume that doesn’t get enough attention – think smoky black tea with training wheels.
Annick Goutal Duel is mate tea, slightly smoked with leather and tobacco and a lovely lilting citrus note on the top. Duel hits every single aspect of a tea perfume exactly right. Allegedly a masculine fragrance, just ignore that and the square mannish bottle. This one is perfect for anyone and one of my favorite tea scents that hits right down the middle of not too strong and not too weak.
Make mine Green, please
Creed Silver Mountain Water is green tea, blackcurrant and patchouli. It’s a little metallic, intentionally so, but it is a unique take on tea, berried up with metal gilded on top. Masaki Matsushima Mintea Mat is a lot more green than most of the tea perfumes, with just a hint of mint, veers off into aquatic. Being quite aquatic averse, I really can’t say much more about it because it’s not my personal taste, but it’s a great economical tea perfume that’s done well enough. Comme des Garcons Nomad Tea is from their Sweet series, but it isn’t that sweet. It’s more of a woodsy green (artemisia) tea scent. Guerlain Tokyo is a typical Guerlain take on Japanese transparency, which means, well, it’s not that transparent. It is lighter, incredibly refreshing, woody, and it does call to mind a Japanese approach to fragrance. Okay, it’s like a tiny Guerlain nod. It’s a beautiful fragrance to wear. If you want a green tea fragrance, you would look a long time to find something better. As long as price isn’t an issue. Jalaine Green Tea Oil is an incredibly nice rendition of green tea. Probably the greenest of this batch, it’s maybe closer to hay. If you love green tea, I think this is the truest green tea fragrance. Oops, just checked the price. $90 for 6 mls in a refill, eek! I’m not sure it’s that nice, but I do like it a lot.
Going all Suthe’n – suhweet teah.
Demeter Chai Tea is just that – chai tea, sweetly spiced and does exactly what Demeter does well, make it smell like it should.. Nez a Nez Parfums Paris Vanithe is tea, vanilla, honey and pretty much defines this category for a southern sweet tea. Well, except the vanilla, and I’m thinking this really should have found its way into the vanilla perfume guide instead. Oops! Well, move it over in your head.
Serge Lutens Five O’Clock Gingembre is tea, honey, ginger, vanilla, gingerbread, cinnamon, cacao. If you like you tea flavored and full of sweet references, just go with this one. Olivia Giacobetti’s tea fragrance for L’Artisan veers a little sweet and lands in this category for me, Tea for Two, now sadly discontinued, combines cinnamon, ginger, smoked tea, honey, vanilla and guaiacwood to make this beautifully balanced sweeti’ish tea. I’m not entirely sure it should go in the sweet group, but there is enough honey and vanilla to soften the smoky darkness of the tea that it’s just going here because I’m in mourning for it and would like to put it in every category.
Les Parfums de Rosine Rose Praline has tea! Yeah, surprised me too until I re-sniffed it. Rose, cardamom, chocolate. Seriously, the most yummy suhweet teah perfume ever made. Don’t let the sweet open scare you off, there is a beautiful tea gem buried in this. Love + Toast Mandarin Tea is from the same company that brought you Tokyo Milk. They deliver a great price point with some decent juice, and Mandarin Tea is no exception. Just sunny, happy tea with bright orange in it.
Tea loves Osmanthus
Parfum d’Empire Osmanthus Interdite is a beautiful merging of osmanthus flowers and tea, which is a fairly popular pairing and stunningly successful in all cases. Slightly sweet, a little citrus with a gorgeous drydown, and it doesn’t get nearly the love it should get. It’s long been as much a go-to scent for me as Hermessence Osmanthe Yunnan (always on my best of summer list). Both are just sunshine and comfort. Osmanthe Yunnan pairs up more citrus with the osmanthus and tea. Osmanthus Interdite and Osmanthe Yunnan are nothing alike, but they both have the same gossamer airiness that makes them perfect when you are in that “I don’t know what I want” mood and just want something that is beautiful and easy and immediately makes you feel happier and makes you 10 pounds lighter. The other osmanthus and tea pairing incorporates figs in as well. Parfums de Nicolai Fig Tea will appear in the fig guide, but it’s got enough tea in it that it belongs here as well. Beautifully done, the tea gives a dryness to the woody fig notes, and the osmanthus and davana add a dollop of sweet. Seriously these three tea perfumes? They could see you through an entire summer, spring, fall and maybe even winter.
Citrus and Mint Tea
Olivia Giacobetti’s The Pour un Ete from L’Artisan is the perfect citrusy tea. Balancing the peppermint, tea and lemon in an amazing tension, it is perfection as only Olivia can deliver it. Parfumerie Generale Hyperessence Matale is a gorgeous citrus wood pepper tea scent that I loved when I first smelled it on release, and nothing has changed. The pepper in it has it a great kick that many tea perfumes don’t have – well, and should! Which I didn’t really think about until i smelled this tea perfume. Parfumerie Generale Harmattan Noir is their other tea scent, the odder one, the one you just don’t expect to like. I had this to say about it back in 2006 “I keep thinking this is what it must smell like on a yacht anchored off the African coast in the cool of the night, sand still on your feet, drinking strong, rich tea with a sprig of mint that whispers around the edges of your privileged existence — or whatever vision you have in your head where life has no deadlines or budgets, your wrinkles are beautiful smile lines and it feels great to be alive. ” Mint, tea, spices, it is dry, cool and incredibly refreshing and soothing.
Demeter has more tea scents. You can pick them up for practically nothing and indulge your tea perfume habit with zero guilt. The ones I like best from Demeter are in the citrus tea area, like Demeter Grapefruit Tea. Accord Parfait Chypre (The Noir and Bergamote) is a great budget option as well, and it’s pretty much straight up black tea with a wee bit of bergamot. Not a fussy tea fragrance.
Jo Malone did a whole tea series that was a limited edition, and I’m not going to go through them because I’m not sure you can get any/some/all of them now. I think I read somewhere that they may bring out a couple more next year. They were quite good and are well worth hunting down if you are a big tea fan. But prepare to have your heart broken since they don’t seem to want to land them in the permanent collection
Spiced Christmas Tea
AbdesSalaam Attar Te delle Isole is a Christmas teacake. Warm, spicy, peppery, cloves and cinnamon. It leans heavily on the spices, but it’s a really great perfume that seems to encompass that warm spiced Christmas tea that feels like comfort.
Smoke, tar, black, tough tea – often with asscrack
[pullquote]I’d watch her, amazed at just how much a person could accomplish fueled by tea and regret. – Katja Millay, The Sea of Tranquility[/pullquote]
You could stop and start with Annick Goutal Eau du Fier if you wanted. Fier cracks me up every time I spray it on. It is tea that has stormed into the room billowing black smoke and birch tar fumes radiating from its leather pants. It strides to the bar, sits down on the stool revealing epic asscrack, emitting another big poof of kerosene and black tar. Sitting next to him is Bvlgari Black, huffing black tea, rubber and vanilla, looking at least as fierce, both bathed in so much smoke you can barely make out their shapes. These two are the iconic dark smoky black tea scents. Coming in a little behind them, a wee bit milder, is Comme des Garcons Tea. Smoked woods and roses swirl around the mate and black tea in this one.
If you’ve thought what you really want is a tea perfume paired with horse, Cartier has taken care of this – Cartier L’Heure Fougueuse. Once you have smelled a horse, you will remember it forever. Mathilde Laurent took that smell, as applied to only the finest bits of horseflesh on the planet, then curled up very clean hay with them and a cup of tea, I’m so glad I did this tea post, I’ve fallen in love with the scent all over again. When I put it on, I am 10, a child who daydreams nonstop, acts out plays on her way to the pasture to bring the cows in, buries her nose in Princess (her horse’s) neck and imagines she is commanding armies and conquering the world. Fougueuse will always be the way the idea of me without limits or morals smells. Cartier La Treiziéme Heure is the grown-up version of that little girl warrior taken out of fantasy and put on a warhorse leading armies across the world, burning and pillaging. Mate, birch, leather, narcissus. This reads like the notes accompanying the Queen Bitch from Hell. Do I love it? Ohmygod, yes. I never quite understood why the Les Heures series never got the widespread love I thought it deserved. It has a lot of admiration, but people would say they wouldn’t wear them. Huh? I think a huge chunk of them are amazing not just as art, but as wearable art, and I wear them a lot. I do realize it could be that I have odd tastes that run to birch tar, horses, asscrack and huffing smoke, but, hey, I won’t make any apologies for that, those are great smells!
I have no reason for these except weirdness and threats
Phaedon Cendres de The is tea and myrrh and camphor. Weird, but also a little compelling. Musette will kick my ass if I don’t mention Agraria Bitter Orange, i think it is. I don’t HAVE that in the perfume, but I do have it in the burning sticks, and it is the closest thing to heaven I know, except the incense made for Fornisetti. Speziale Te Nero I thought I had around here, but could only find some lotion of it. Simple, cheap, great tea scent. I wanted to make sure it got a mention even though I don’t have a better description from memory.
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What are your favorite tea scents? LIke them zen and mild or full of birch and smoke?
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Perfumes samples provided from my personal collection and Surrender to Chance