Gaucho - The End of a Journey

Cansando o cavalo, originally uploaded by Eduardo Amorim.

Crisp. Bright. Sweet. Melancholic. Herbaceous. Where Spring meets Autumn and Autumn meets something else... I knew it but I only had to make the grass grow in the right direction now.

The end of my search for those final drops that will make or break my Gaucho schemes was certainly the most challenging part. Too much was at stake now so my adventurous side was a bit timid (a disadvantage?); On the other hand, I was so close I knew what I need is just the minute amount of the right essences, and it would be perfect. Jasmine auriculatum in minuscule amount seemed to be adding the right effect - rounding off like this indespensable floral note yet without smelling like a flower. I wanted more bitterness though. Would wormwood be too much? I think not... Let's just try it and if it doesn't we'll have to start all over again... Yes, just this tiny bit was perfect. Getting very close now... But something IS missing. Something to add to the quirky, unusual side of things. All of a sudden I realize: booze. Yes, booze to let my Gaucho a little loose... The formidable green cognac absolute. In this context not so much as a booze breath, but rather adding a juicy, green-grape quality, chiming like a crystal bell with the galbanum top notes. Perhaps even metallic. All of a sudden it's the brass band in a Steely Dan intro, streaming vocals filtered through studio acoustic effects and all blending together into oneness.

Crisp. Bright. Sweet. Melancholic. Herbaceous. Where Spring meets Autumn and Autumn meets something else... This is where my Gaucho was heading, with herds of cows and spreading wilderness ahead of its horse. It was time to set my Gaucho free, let him loose to meet the world outside of my mind's internal trails and grasslands.

Well, the big day has finally arrived March 21st 2008: it's time for Gaucho to go to his journey on his own. This time to meet new people around the world. For a limited time only, it will be packaged in a different shape of bottle than the rest of my collection - a crystal-clear rectangular bottle rather than the frosted teardrop one. After all, this is my first big release that is decidedly masculine (even though the first two customers who bought it were ladies).

Gaucho's Journey - Part 6: Evolución

evolución, originally uploaded by faw.

Further refinement was evidently needed, even though I really liked the way the bergamot was working out in this composition. Thinking about it, there was no other time I enjoyed bergamot that much in a composition, nor did it remind me so clearly of Earl Gray tea before in a scent. Must be the yerbamate base, even though it is not quite a tea leaf.

Concluding that the henna, although interesting and peculiar, does not quite do justice to the other elements and promotes murky qualities, I set for a new mod, now eliminating the henna (or helycrisum for that matter) and arrived at a place that felt, all of a sudden, like a new starting point. I was as they say it – back to square one. I was also a lot clearer on what I wanted to achieve and was very weary of wasting more material… Everything from now on was added scientifically, keeping very careful log of each addition, and making sure I also keep the “pure” original “blank slate” version on hand at all times. It was my new blueprint.

I have to admit, the next few batches, from batch no.6 and on to no. 10 are so similar, that I won’t bore you with the details too much. Suffice to say that each one evolved slowly from the previous one, and to make it simple I’ll just draw a basic set of notes and show you how it grew into what is going to be the perfume of tomorrow (literally, as Gaucho will be launched tomorrow!).

At this point, I have created, in fact, two blueprints – one with and one without angelica.
Mod. 6 had the following notes:
Base: mate, hay, Africa stone tincture, liatrix tincture, angelica absolute
Heart notes: guiacwood, honey, broom, lavender Seville
Top notes: Bergamot, French Neroli

Mod. 7 is the same, less the angelica and plus a new element: a relatively high dosage of galbanum of a very sparkling, green and fresh quality, as well as the sweetly herbaceous rosemary absolute
Base: mate, hay, Africa stone tincture, liatrix tincture, angelica absolute
Heart notes: guiacwood, honey, broom, lavender Seville, rosemary absolute
Top notes: Bergamot, French Neroli, Galbanum

From there we move on to Mod. 8, which is identical to mod. 6 only with the addition of galbanum.

While mod. 9 introduced the idea of a floral note – the quirky jasmine auriculatum absolute - it was still very much lacking the depth and finesse I was searching for. Jasmine auriculatum is a grassy-green jasmine (which also happens to be the only jasmine I dislike when smelled straight up…); Mod. 9 still maintained the presence of rosemary, but with no angelica in sight.

At this point I felt I was walking on a very tight rope above a busy street… Every little thing could distract me from my task: to focus and achieve that exact green perfection I have been so challenged by for so long. I felt that I was almost there, but not quite there yet. Something was missing – something to add true character, to push it forward even just a little more and at the sime time round it off and make it come together for real. My only rival here was myself, with my whimsical impulses to skip to the end...

Gaucho’s Journey Part 5: Scouting the Grasslands

Rumbeando ao pago, originally uploaded by Eduardo Amorim.

It wasn’t until the beginning of 2007 that I had the materials I needed to realize my Gaucho theme. By now, my olfactory concept has morphed into something greener and stranger. That’s what I wanted it to be: green and strange. I have to admit, I was already greatly convinced that Gaucho is going to be a fougere at this point. A fougere along the lines of Villoresi’s Yerbamate – something very green and at the same time also very sweet.

Here are the formulas for the two initial trials:

January 30th, 2007
Gaucho Mod. 02
10 Mate absolute
1 Hay absolute
2 African Stone Tincture
1 Patchouli Absolute
4 Guiacwood
2 Seville Lavender Absolute
2 Rosemary Absolute
2 Henna Flower Absolute

January 31st, 2007
Gaucho Mod. 03
8 Mate
2 Hay Absolute
2 African Stone Tincture
1 Helycrisum
4 Guiacwood
2 Seville Lavender
2 Broom Absolute
4 Galbanum

The result? Exaggeration of everything green and coumarin I could fear. Murky and herbaceous in an almost medicinal way. Reminiscent of dry fava beans (one of my very few least favourite smells…). I let them sit for a long time, and don’t come back till June. At which point I add a few redeeming elements to the idea presented in Mod. 03 (the one with the Henna absolute): tincture of liatrix (a new element that I have prepared myself by steeping the dry leaves in pure grain alcohol); angelica root oil and angelica root absolute from China (which has a smoky, carroty aroma), rosemary absolute, broom absolute – and finally, the final touch: an abundance of bergamot and a minute amount of French neroli. The result is very sparkling at the top yet deeply rooted into the ground. It’s almost balanced, but I’m here for more.

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.

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