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Watermint



Mint is almost as widespread as mankind itself - with representative species in all continents except Antartica. There are citrus scented mints (Bergamot mint), apple or pineapple scented mint,  and even a chocolate mint (a type of peppermint, really). In her book Fragrant - The Secret Life of Scent, author Mandy Aftel praises mint's homely qualities, and how it can be not only grown everywhere but also used in family recipes books called "Books of Secrets". I have many recipes in my own "Book of Secrets" that incorporate mint in this form or another: my first tea blend, for example, which was inspired by the Charisma perfume and the beautiful herbs that grew on the footsteps of my cottage in the Galil (lemon verbena, spearmint and lemongrass) combined with jasmine green tea are the brew to inspire dreams and happiness. Likewise, a more earthy and rustic brew of cinnamon sticks and wild, medicinal white mint can always be found in my mother's spice shelf, and if you're lucky she'll also have some of her own home-made pickles, which she beautifully serves on a tray with crackers and aged cheese, blanched almonds and whichever other dried fruits or nuts from her pantry. Each home has its own secrets, after all...

What gives mint its refreshing aroma and cooling sensation is a molecule called menthol. In its pure form, menthol has the consistency of white crystals in room temperature. When mixed with all the other elements of peppermint oil the appearance would be liquid. But this winter, temperatures in my studio plummeted, and my peppermint oil (and several others, including ginger lily CO2 and rose otto) have radically crystallized. It certainly is amusing, but makes working with the oils a bit cumbersome in the winter months.

It is interesting to note that menthol from natural origin (that which is found in countless mint varieties), as well as the leaves of pelargonium (AKA geranium) is different than that which is synthetically produced and in used profusely in the flavour industry - in anything from soft beverages, liquors, candy, bubble gum, toothpaste and other medicinal preparations. It is a very subtle difference, but nevertheless noticeable. Natural menthol is the isomer d-menthol, while the synthetic one is l-menthol. There is also a subtle difference that can be detected by discerning noses - it has a more metallic, cold quality than the (natural) d-menthol.

Most mint oils for the flavour industry are rectified in order to remove some of the grassy components, as well as the bitter-tasting component menthone. They are also more stable this way, resulting in a water-free, and colourless liquid (the water content can spoil the oil). Different mints have different molecular contents.
For example: peppermint has mostly menthol (29-48% or even more in some teroir), mention (20-31%), menthyl acetate, menthofuran, limonene, pulegone and cineol.
Spearmint has a significantly different chemical makeup, containing as much as 50-70% L-carvone, which gives it its characteristically warm mint-like character, as well as dihydrocarvone, phellandrene, limonene, mention, menthol, pulegone, cineol, linalool and pinene - which add a sweeter, more refreshing and complex aroma to spearmint. 
Lastly, Japanese mint (AKA Cornmint) has an even higher menthol content (70-95%), menthone (10-20%), pinene, methyl acetate, isomenthone, thujone, phellandrene, piperitone and menthofuran. The menthol is usually removed, because that would make it solid at room temperature!

Peppermint oil is the most versatile and useful of all three for aromatherapy, medicinal and flavour purposes. The oil can be mixed with a fixed oil and then rubbed on the belly to relieve stomach ache, can be added to smelling salts or to lavender and rosemary oils to relieve headache, and also added to cough drops and syrups to soothe sore throat. Spearmint is less potent medicinally, and is used as a milder, gentler substitute for young children. It also has more versatile use in soaps, colognes, sweets and soft drinks etc.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita), one of the most popular of all mints, is in fact a cross between
Spearmint (Mentha spicata) and Watermint (Mentha aquatica), the mint that grows wild on the banks of brooks and creeks in Europe and the Middle East. There are countless hybrids of mint, as the species spontaneously cross-fertilize (something to keep in mind when growing them in your garden - if you are interested in keeping a particular type of mint and maintaining its qualities), creating many new varieties with subtle flavour and aroma differences. 



As far as its limited perfume use goes - I've enjoyed working with peppermint in an eau de cologne formulation to add a distinctively cooling effect; and with spearmint in Charisma - one of my favourite perfumes, where the refreshing coolness of spearmint is contrasted by sensuous jasmine and precious woods. I also used spearmint in a OOAK perfume that was inspired by the quiet afternoon teas with my Moroccan grandmother - alongside rose, anise and almond notes.

When visiting in Israel this month, we spent a blessed day in the wild hiking with my brother, sister in law, her parents and my two nieces. To call it hiking is an overstatement - because we followed the pace of my 3 year old niece, and the trail was a very easy, relaxing one. Which allowed us to fully appreciate the beautiful scenery. Snailing along between the old growth oaks and the flowery meadows was a most relaxing way to spend a Friday afternoon and pay attention to the versatility of flowers in bloom in all colours of the rainbow. 


Towards the end of the day, we stopped at Tzippori creek for a little impromptu outdoors tea party. We picked wild mint that grew along the banks - probably Silver mint (Mentha sylvestris), AKA Horse mint (Mentha longifolia). We brewed a simple tisane, and enjoyed it with fruit and nuts, plus chocolate bars that a generous Bedouin woman who picnicked with her family under the eucalyptus down the stream offered us - perhaps as a prize for the girls for being able to so bravely cross the step-stone bridge. If you've been following SmellyBlog for long enough, you'll know by now that this is not the first time I experience an outdoors tea party with my brother. It's never too much of an ordeal for him to carry in his backpack a small propane burner and a kettle, and brew on the spot wild herbs we find on the way - white mint (Micromeria fructose), sage, or whatnot. Worse case scenario, there is always some black coffee in his backpack to cook a strong cup of Turkish coffee.  



White mint (in Hebrew we call it Zuta Levana, in Arabic it is called Isbat Il Shai - meaning tea herb) can be found in the east Mediterranean countries: Israel, Lebnon, Turkey and the Balkans) is a precious wild herb most valued for its fine aroma as well as its medicinal properties. In folk medicine and herbalism it is used to reduce stomach pain, and also is considered helpful in reducing blood pressure, as well as colds, flu and coughing. It is especially fantastic when combined with cinnamon, for a warming and sweet-tasting tea in the cold winter months. It dries very well, maintaining its delicate flavour very well. It is reminiscent of both spearmint and hyssop in flavour - fresh yet a little warm and spicy as well. The fresh leaves are fantastic when paired with citrusy herbs such as lemongrass and lemon verbena, as well as pelargonium.

Are there any wild mint varieties growing in your area? Or any other wild herbs you an brew as tea on your next hiking trip? 

New Teas!

New Teas! by Ayala Moriel
New Teas!, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
At long last, I've re-launched my entire tea collection at the inaugural Vancouver Tea Festival this past weekend - including the long-time favourites Immortelle l'Amour and Roses et Chocolat teas, which were both out of stock for longer than we could tolerate... It's been a long, painstaking process of sourcing, sampling and testing teas and various fragrant botanicals from different origins, comparing them, formulating, tasting and fine tuning my vision for each one of the teas, complete with the tea label design, French translation, and printing... The entire process took 4 years!

Each of the 4 teas in my collection was inspired by a distinctive perfume from Ayala Moriel Parfums' line of all-natural, artisanal fragrances that are handcrafted to perfection from the finest flower extracts in the world. The teas themselves are a blend of carefully selected perfumed teas (read: not-aromatized, but rather fragranced with the real whole fresh flowers such as jasmine, rose, etc.) and further perfumed with top-quality, freshly dried and organic or wild-harvested botanicals.

Charisma tea was Ayala's first tea blend, and the house blend she served only to guests at her West End perfume studio during the summer months, it was blended from fresh lemon verbena and spearmint leaves mixed with premium jasmine green tea. It is now available in its dry loose leaf tea form for your enjoyment year around! Charisma can be re-infused 4 times, and makes for an excellent chilled tea or add a splash of rum and a slice of lime to turn it into a tea mojito!
The tea was inspired by Charisma perfume: a fresh floriental fragrance based on the contrast between cool and warm notes: jasmine sambac, gardenia, tonk a bean, kewda, green tea, sandalwood, spearmint and bergamot.

Zangvil tea was created in 2011, to coincide with the Zangvil fragrance launch and our White Potion fragrant chocolate bar we collaborated on with CocoaNymph (you can read more about our amazing tea party we hosted to celebrate this triple accomplishment). Zangvil is all about ginger - a note that is comforting, warming and sexy. The perfume is a honeyed amber-and-ginger fragrance that is as cozy as a cashmere sweater; and the tea reflects that with delicate silver needle jasmine white tea, infused by rare botanical musk seeds, vanilla beans and of course - crystallized ginger. It can be infused up to 7 times to produce a clear, shimmery liquor that is a delight to all the senses!

Immortelle l'Amour tea is an elixir of love, and full of anti-oxidants yet caffeine free. This rooibos-based tea is perfumed with vanilla bean slices, organic orange peel and Ceylon cinnamon bark. Calendula petals add a stunning visual effect - like threads of sunshine within the beautiful red-maple hue of rooibos. Immortelle l'Amour perfume was inspired by a love story, and the Quebecoise tradition of making Tire sur le neighs (taffee on the snow). It has notes of immortelle, maple syrup, rooibos, cinnamon, orange and an overdose of vanilla. The tea is wonderfully sweet on its own, and can be re-steeped twice (which is very unusual for a rooibos tea!). It is particularly luxurious when served with pure maple syrup, and makes a wonderful accompaniment for a brunch of cinnamon waffles :-)

Roses et Chocolat tea is arguably the most luxurious and seductive of all 4 blends. It also was the most challenging one to blend and took Ayala 4 years to perfect: it required an expert patience and masterful blending of China black tea, rose petals, fine Darjeeling,  cacao nibs and exotic spices to create the perfect balance between the smooth, rich, floral and spicy elements. This tea is a message of romance and seduction in a cup. Enjoy this whenever you have a chocolate craving (but don't want the calories ;-) Or if that's not your concern - it may very well be served with a square of dark chocolate or Rahat Loukum (Turkish delight). Roses et Chocolat perfume, which inspired it was originally created for Valentine's Day 2005 as a limited edition. We could not keep it on the shelves long enough ever since. It is also available as a chocolate bar (72% cocoa with rose otto, saffron and chilli, which we've developed with CocoaNymph) and a scented candle made of organic soy wax (designed in collaboration with Gabriel's Aunt).  

Vancouver Tea Festival

Alicia at our booth at the Vancovuer Tea Festival (November 2nd, 2013).

Fresh Charisma

Lemon Verbena by Ayala Moriel
Lemon Verbena, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
After a long retirement, my teas are finally being gradually re-stocked. It's been a long journey - and I'm still walking the last few steps of it - getting all my ducks in a row so to speak. Tea blending is a whole other world, and its similarities to perfume development are also the culprit of this endeavor. Tea requires TIME. Time to source, evaluate, steep, re-steep, take notes, blend, make errors, re-blend, steep, re-steep, re-steep again... You get my drift.

As for Charisma tea, the formula or recipe was developed long time ago. In fact, it was the first tea I've designed by myself. The challenge now was acquiring lemon verbena. I'm a bit sentimental, but I am incredibly partial to the lemon verbena that grows in my home village of Clil. I've told you about it and how much I enjoyed the fresh leaves this summer. Whenever possible, I prefer to source from small grower and harvesters, or harvest myself. Verbena only grows in the summer, and is dried late summer and early fall. Which means that once the supplies run out, you'll have to wait another full year to enjoy it again.

This is true to most if not all tea types. Some are harvested only once a year (such as the white teas), and therefore once they're sold out, it requires taking the product off the shelves for a while. This is perfectly fine by me, and part of the beauty of nature's cycles. However, it did take me a bit of time to learn these cycles - and I still am learning. Which means that my teas are not available year-around, but only while quantities last and until the next harvest is ready.

The other ingredients in Charisma also had to be top quality: fragrant jasmine sambac tea, organic spearming, and the most luscious, apricot-y and velvety osmanthus blossoms available.

I love the new packaging for my teas, and each tin holds different weight of each tea (but the volume is, roughly 2oz). Some leaves are larger and looser than others (i.e.: the silver needle that makes most of Zangvil tea), and some are more dense (i.e.: Immortelle l'Amour, which is based on rooibos tea, is like tiny packed red twigs).

I'll be releasing more teas as the winter holidays approach and the packaging is ready for my full collection to be re-instated: Charisma, Immortelle l'Amour, Roses et Chocolate and Zangvil.

And next year, prepare to enjoy some more innovative teas, some featuring wild-harvested botanical from the Pacific Northwest rainforests!

Afternoon Tea Party & Private Sale


Join us for an afternoon tea and a presentation about tea notes in perfumery and a private shopping event.

On the Menu:
5-tiered tray of fragrant sweet and savoury refreshments will be served along with Ayala Moriel’s exceptional perfumed teas created for us especially by Inner Alchemy Tea Co. to match selected scents from Ayala Moriel ready-to-wear perfume collection.

Tier 1:
Wild Hyssop mini pita bread
Cumin & Hummus Tea-Rolls Wasabi-Cucumber Tea Sandwiches Tomato-Basil Tea Sandwiches Minted Radishes Tea Sandwiches

Tier 2:

Sweet scones with rose petal jam & devonshire cream
Savoury cumin scones


Tier 3:

Middle Eastern semolina pastries with almonds and honey syrup

Brownies
Cupcakes


Tier 4:

Crystallized rose icebox cookies

Fennel biscuits

Aniseed biscotti

Halva cookies

Pistachio-Lime Buttons


Tier 5:
Hand-rolled Flower-Scented Chocolate Truffles
Assortment of Moroccan dried-fruit and orange flower water petitefours


There will be door prizes and a lucky draw for all guests to win a gift certificate for creating your very own signature perfume (value of $550) and other exciting surprises and gifts with purchase.

At 2pm, Ayala will give a presentation about the role of tea in perfumery, accompanied by a fragrance sampling of tea-scented perfumes (including some of Ayala’s own creations).

When:
Sunday, June 14th, 12:00-4:00pm
Ayala will speak at 2pm

Where:
Ayala Moriel Parfums Studio
#314-1230 Haro Street (corner with Bute)
Buzzer #295
Vancouver, BC

RSVP now (778) 863-0806

En Route

I am traveling to France for a business trip, and while posting here might be limited, I would like to assure you all that all orders placed while I'm away are shipped promptly thanks to the help of my friend and assistant-on-demand Tina. She has kindly taken care of my shipping while I was away before, and has done an immaculate job. Tina likes to wear Bon Zai perfume in the roll-on perfume-oil version, and sip Charisma tea while burning an ArbitRary candle.
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