Gaucho's Journey - Part 4: Maté Break

Beauty Behind Bars, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Straying from chronological order (skipping ahead, that is…), we will now take a little mate break to talk about the Gaucho perfumed tea. This is the third one in an ongoing collaborative project between myself and Dawna Ehman, an incredibly knowledgeable woman who has her ways with plants and beauty like no other. Dawna has worked for years with people, plants and plant essences, studying and utilizing both their therapeutic and aesthetic properties. Her connection to nature and her deep understanding of human-plant-environment relationship never ceases to amaze me and I feel blessed and very fortunate to have met her and be able to learn from and work with her.

The concept for the perfumed teas in general was conceived with the launch of Tirzah in June 2007. Later that summer, we sat in a park in Kitsilano after a short walk and I let Dawna smell some of my new creations that I have been working on – among them an earthy sweet vetiver scent, a gardenia soliflore (which turned out to be Gigi which will be launched this spring), and Gaucho – the perfume that I was working on for several years now, and now dreaming up the possibilities of turning it into a perfumed tea with Dawna. All I knew was that it had to be mate based. I was also hoping that the bittersweetness of green will somehow come across it as I was hoping it would in the perfume (I was still struggling at that point though…). I knew Dawna is the only person that will know how…

It wasn’t difficult to decide about launching the perfume and the tea in the spring, for the therapeutic value of the bitter herbs and the ways they work to stimulate the liver after the long winter “hibernation”. The choice of a green, fougere perfume paired with a bitter mate based tea seemed perfect for the beginning of spring and the re-awakening of nature and people.

And yesterday I came face to face with the result. Let me just tell you, by spending 2 hours with Dawna sipping various brews of the Gaucho tea, I’ve learned that the art and science of tea does not begin just in creating the right blend, nor does it end in the tasting. The preparation of the tea itself requires attention to detail, consideration of factors such as the water, its temperature, the temperature of the container used for brewing, the type of herbs or teas brewed, steeping time, the temperature in which the tea is sipped and what to serve it with, to name a few.

The experience of sipping Gaucho was familiar and peculiar at once. It is quite bitter (though not overtly bitter, Dawna took careful care to create a very balanced blend…), and even long after it was sipped, the tea left a sensation in the mouth that was both sweet and tingling. A sensation that is familiar to me from overbrewing lemongrass leaves from my garden back in my home village, and many of the organic tisanes we would brew from fresh herbs in the wild and from our organic gardens.

Of all the perfumed teas it is the most earthy, herbaceous, even medicinal. From all the perfumed teas created for me by Dawna, Gaucho is clearly the most therapeutic one by nature. Just imagine the cleansing your liver gets from drinking this magical herbs… It is, I think, exactly what I need after a winter’s hibernation.

Here are a few tips for how to successfully brew Gaucho to make the most out of it:

1) Use hot water rather than boiled, in order to eliminate some of the bitterness. However, be careful as to not let the water cool too much, this will create a completely “wrong” impression of the tea (emphasizing the spearmint and the lemongrass and making the tea seem too light and almost floral, which was not our intention!).
2) Make sure the teapot is hot. Rinse it with hot water before you add the tea leaves, to make sure the temperatures don’t drop too low as soon as you add the water for steeping.
3) At this point, when you being brewing, you may want to add a pinch (not more!) of green stevia as a sweetener. If you prefer other sweetener such as honey or sugar, add them after steeping. And of course, if you like the bitterness of mate, embrace it unsweetened…
4) Serving suggestion: serve with an apple and rosemary polenta. We couldn’t quite find the recipe to share with you, but the rosemary note will beautifully accompany this perfumed tea. Or any pastry that is not too sweet and has some herbaceous accents…

Gaucho - Perfumed Tea no. 3

by Dawna Ehman

mate?, originally uploaded by itsjustanalias.

Fresh herbaceous notes of lemongrass and rosemary highlight bitter green yerba mate and sencha tea leaf to capture the Fougere-like essence of 'sparkling greenery' that is Gaucho. Damiana leaf, spearmint and the true coumarin quality of red clover blossom soften the aromatic finish and taste profile of this beguiling tea.

Gaucho perfumed tea is the perfect balance of spring color and flavor- and in being so, gently and safely stimulates the very activities that support spring's expansive, rising qualities within us. When sweetened with a slight amount of raw sugar or green stevia, Gaucho tea balances the stimulating energetic actions of spring in a form that is unique in quality and pleasure.

Brewing Suggestions
Bring fresh water to a boil. Let sit to cool slightly and infuse 1/2 tsp. of tea for every 5 oz. cup of tea desired. Steep for 1 to 2 minutes. Strain and enjoy. If desired, sweetened with a slight amount of raw green stevia leaf, honey or sugar to bring out the natural sweetness and flavour balance.

Ingredient Listing - All Ingredients 100% Certified Organic
Damiana Leaf - Mexico (Turnera aphrodisiaca)
Lemongrass - Guatemala (Cymbopogon citratus)
Japanese Sencha - Japan (Camellia sinensis)
Green Yerba Mate - Brazil (Ilex paraguariensis)
Rosemary Needles - USA (Mentha spicata)
Spearmint Leaf- USA (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Red Clover Blossom - Canada (Trifolium pratense)

Dawna Ehman is the founder of Inner Alchemy Tea Co and has lectured, taught and written extensively on the intricate relationship between plant energy and human experience. The essence of Dawna’s work arises from a wholistic perspective and is informed by a vision of re-connection with the Natural world. Drawing on her expertise in the plant based healing modalities of herbalism, aromatherapy and flower essence therapy, as well as the art and culture of tea, Dawna creates unique plant based tonics, elixirs and formulas for clients worldwide.

Copyright © 2008 by Dawna Ehman.

St. Patrick and the Challenge of Green

making a clover chain, originally uploaded by amber_b..

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy St. Patrick’s Day before it's over! – Enjoy the rest of the night if you are celebrating, and especially your Guinness beer!
I’m not much of a beer person but I heard this particular kind is actually really healthy…

Without much time to post (the day was very busy with Spring Break starting today and lots of work remains undone as a result), this would be just a quick post to tell you that my day started with trying Gaucho tea for the first time. There will be a lot more about it tomorrow. For now, before I pass out after a very long day, I just wanted to share a few thought in regards to the challenge of green.

One of the things that both Dawn and I experienced when creating the perfume and the tea, was the challenge of creating something that is different from our own personal tastes and overcoming our own prejudices and preferences. As much as I find it difficult to wear green fragrances, I can tell you that mate is not Dawna’s favourite tea kind. We both had to overcome the natural impulse of rejection that comes from the smell and taste of sharp, bitter greens.

Interestingly enough, what this as an exercise has taught me (I can’t speak for Dawna but I can sense that she enjoyed the challenge…) how close opposites really are. As I was sipping Gaucho this morning with increasing curiosity as we let the tea steep longer and stronger – I noticed that strangely, the more bitter the herbs are, the more sweetness they leave in the mouth after sipping the tea. This sensation has left such an imprint on me that I can still feel it in my mouth as I write…

Tune in for a guest appearance tomorrow – a piece by Dawna Ehman about Seasonal Attunement and the Therapeutic Use of Flavour

Gaucho's Journey Part 3: Glamour Profession, Procrastination

To fill in the gap in of nearly 5 years that followed the unsuccessful first 2 mods of Gaucho (February 2002) and the renewed trials in the lab (January 2007), here is the next track from Steely Dan’s Gaucho album – ironically titled Glamour Profession… True, it’s pretty glamorous if you ask me, being able to sit on an idea for 5 years and not be bothered by anyone...

I personally prefer the recorded version, which I invite you to listen to as long as you ignore the photo montage (sorry for repeating myself but this is really important; just close your eyes and make your own story board in your head; or read the lyrics as you listen. Do whatever you possibly can to always avoid watching photo montage from Youtube...

Gaucho’s Journey Part 2: Premature Steps

I have left for the Pampas as soon as the spark was lit. I first went on a short expedition trip and explored the lands with whichever tools I had with me. I jumped right at the vision of bonfires, ponchos, Asado, gray wool blankets, horses and cows grazing on dry thorny grass, and pretty much everything that I personally associated with the South America cowboy and could somehow relate to scent or texture...

In the very beginning, besides my imagination and vision for the perfume, I had only limited essences that seemed appropriate for achieving what I wanted. All I had was the exotic South American woods to play with, along with some smoky notes. Some other materials I couldn’t even think of at the time as I haven’t smelled them yet. Guiacwood, rosewood, cabreuva, this is where I started. Rosewood seemed too lighthearted for what I was looking to achieve, so I stuck to the guiacwood and cabreuva and added Virginian cedarwood to the top notes, to accentuate the smoky elements I was trying to play up.To this I added tobacco and cade to create and even smokier, leathery impression which was what I mostly associated with the concept of a gaucho; and costus for an animalic presence. For no clear reason, I’ve included basil, a note that seems completely out of place now, many years later… Thinking back I’m not sure what was I thinking putting it in there. Perhaps it was to represent the grassy elements of the landscape. Whatever the reason was, it did not seem to do justice to the blend at the time. It created too much of a dissonance with the other elements. To sum it up, here’s the list of notes for my first Gaucho attempt:

Top notes: Cabreuva, Virginian Cedarwod, Basil, Juniper
Heart notes: Guiacwood, Allspice Berry, Clary Sage, Rose Geranium
Base notes: Cade, Costus, Peru Balsam, Blond Tabac, Vanilla Absolute

5 maturation years later (for both me and that jus…), I have to say that this first Gaucho attempt does not seem so bad at all. The basil does add a bit of grassy and fresh linalool element at the opening that I now find interesting and not as out of place and dissonant as it did back than. This first Gaucho mod is very similar (not surprisingly, if comparing the elements in both) to Espionage, but with the additional herbaceous green notes. Still yet, I think it is a bit too muddy and I’m happy that I have, after this initial failure, decided to wait several years until the right time and let the ideas evolve within me.

I even tried an identical version with added champaca, hoping this will smooth out the composision, but alas, it made it too sweet, albeit somewhat reminiscent of a different perfume I’ve created that same year – Rebellius.

And now comes the song to soundtrack this part of the journey - Hey Nineteen, about a love affair with a 19 year old that is practically doomed, just like jumping at a perfume theme without knowing what you're doing... I'm posting this link from Youtube because of the music not the visuals; although I'm very thankful for the photomontage artists out there who put a lot of good songs out on Youtube, I can't say this artform is my cup of tea. So do me a favour and hit play and move on to read the rest of the blog entry please...

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