Tea in Gastown

I dropped by the new experimental Gastown Farmers' Market this morning. This market is a first in this neighborhood, which has very few grocery stores. So I hope it goes well and continues to happen throughout the summer – because if the starving artists in the lofts who live there have some food money to spend, they better get something local, freshly picker and/or organically grown.

And like any Farmers’ Markets, there is more than just fresh produce (even though that on its own is pretty darn exciting if you ask me!). There are some bakers and hand made soaps and cosmetics

We have a Farmers’ Market in the West End, just a few blocks away by Nelson Park every Saturday. But the purpose for my visit to the Gastown one was to pick up more Moonbeam Glory tea from Inner Alchemy's tent. From there the plan was to continue on to Powell Street Festival (the Japanese-Canadian cultural celebration that happens every year on the BC Day weekend).

Dawna's display was as lovely as could be, simple and elegant. And of course there is nothing better than hearing from her in person what is in each tea, how it tastes when warm or chilled, and see the passion and the glint in her eye as she tells the tale of each tea blend.

I also picked another favourite: Verdant Jewel, which I'm sipping now as I write this: a gorgeous melange of green tea and silver needle white teas with just a hint of refreshing mint leaves and crystalized ginger. It makes a stunning chilled tea and is a good, interesting substitute to more traditional green teas.

I also decided to be adventurous and buy to new teas that I've never tasted before: Little Star, which is a Puerh with hand-picked Chrysanthemum flowers; and Chartreuse Eau de Vie, an aperitif/digestive tea or cordial with French tarragon, fennel, chamomile and osmanthus. I am still waiting for my friend Tina who is a die-hard Chrysanthemum lover to try Little Star. But I have brewed the Chartreuse Eau de Vie several times since the market and will tell you more about its licorice-floral wonders on a separate post.

There were other artisans and vendors in the market that caught my eye, including this French Clay and Vetivert soap from Royal Herbs. They sell several other soaps and herbal preparations (i.e.: infused oils and various cosmetics and lotions) as well as some essential oils and synergies. But this grabbed my attention immediately because I’m suck a sucker for anything with vetiver, and recently I’ve been trying various vetiver soaps. This hand made soap bar smelled so nice and simple. The soap is a little sofat and has a nice rich lather, is not drying at all, and the best of all – has an incredibly nutty vetiver aroma, all natural.

And last but not least: Say See Bon Pattisserie, which makes the only macarons worth eating in Vancouver. The chocolate ones were served at my Tropical Tea Party. I tried Charlene’s matcha macarons this time, which she said have a new recipe for the filling, incorporating a white chocolate ganache. They were fantastic! I like them just as much as the chocolate – they are both perfect in flavour and texture, which is very challenging to achieve with French macarons.

And speaking of green tea - after that we went to the Powell Street Festival finding refuge from the heat in the shade and enjoying some summery Japanese street food, such as this shaved ice with green tea and azuki beans. It does not come with a cherry on the top - that was just part of the picnic I picked up at the farmers' market.

When Fir Met Fig

Quiet*, originally uploaded by imapix.

What happens when Italian fashion designers creates a Canadian-inspired perfume? Perhaps a polite Italian perfume?… Or maybe a combination of fig and fir, which is precisely what I find in this new perfume, which can be found only in Milano or Canada’s Holt Renfrew. For a change, a scent that lives up to both its image and packaging – woods and wetness.

To be more precise, the fir is not so important here as the vetiver. Don't expect fir needles either, I suspect the part used was the bark, and even this was notquite recognizable. Even the cedar note is not as dominant as the vetiver is. And while vetiver is, in fact, a root, it has distinctively woody presence, particularly when its cool and clean notes are played up a bit as in this fragrance.

DSquared2 is a perfect balance between wetness and woodiness. The two things that are in abundance in Canada, for sure. The wetness comes from a number of sources – namely violet, mimosa and cassie, which together create a somewhat fuzzy, but very wet opening – without feeling the list “aquatic”. Cedar, vetiver and sheer vanilla notes (vanilla CO2 comes to mind) underneath with a clean yet sensual wood accord.

Surprisingly, He Wood has a distinct “boutique” feel to it without feeling overly done or pretentious. It simultaneously reminds me of a few scents that I’m very fond of: Philosykos (fig and cedar), Mimosa pour Moi (mimosa and vanilla), Verte Violette (violet and a hint of vanilla) and Vetiver Extraordinaire. The idea of combining together all these elements is brilliant and very refreshing without smelling even the list like a male fragrance cliché. Plus, I must admit that the idea of getting these four fragrances for the price of one appeals to me on a certain practical level (it will make my accountant happy, for one thing, and save me some space too)...

Canada rarely appears in the way of inspiring perfumes. Although plenty of scents are inspired by travel, Canada just isn’t considered exotic enough to be considered for olfactory inspiration. This is not to say that Canada does not have any olfactory contribution to the world of perfume in the way of notes: many if not most of the coniferous notes are a by-product of the logging industry (one of the world’s – and Canada’s – largest). Fir, spruce, juniper - you name it; Canada pretty much got it all...

Perhaps this is because there are so very few Canadian perfumers (only three that I can think of at the moment – and one of them residing outside of Canada; if you know of more, please let me know). Or maybe it’s just because of Canada’s famously growing fragrance bans. Heck, even Elle Canada’s list of fragrances pales in comparison to lists recommended by other magazines. FYI: last time I checked there were merely two (2!) fragrances on their shopping guide (if you care to know, these were Betsy Johnson and Elizabeth Arden's Mediterranean) And they seem to be OK with that too…

In the case of DSquared2 He Wood, the Canadian inspiration may not come as much of a surprise. DSquared2 belongs to Ontario-born twins Dan and Dean Caten. Apparently, even their store in Milano has fake snow and Canadiana in doses that won't embarrass a tourist shop on Robson Strasse all over it.

The perfumer is Daphne Bugey, Firmenich (Daphne is also the creator of Kenzo Amour and Le Labo’s Bergamote 22, Le Labo Neroli 36 and Rose 31), and the notes, as one can gather from the packaging (and the sample card) are strangely divided into Air (White Fir, Vegetal Amber and Musk), Water (Violet Leaves, Violet Blossoms and an Aquatic Note) and finally – Wood (Vetiver and Cedarwood), which are the theme of the fragrance. While fig may not be listed, it definitely felt thoroughly throughout the composition, even if it might be an olfactory illusion...

According to OsMoz, these divide into the fragrance pyramid as follows:

Top note: Violet Leaves, Violet Blossoms, Aquatic Note

Middle note: Vetiver, Cedarwood

Base note: White Fir, vegetal Amber, Musk

He Wood is available at Holt Renfrew in Canada in the following sizes and formulations: Eau de Toilette 30, 50 and 100 ml / 1, 1.7 and 3.4 oz ; Moisturizing After Shave Balm 100 ml / 3.4 oz. Ladies may not need the aftershave, but could enjoy the scent just as much if not better than men. In fact, DSquared2 garnered a far more animated response from myself than from my perfume-loving brother. While I'm ready to take the plunge at one of those wood-framed bottles, he stated he wouldn't wear it often, even if it was handed to him as a gift. I guess he won't be getting any for Christmas... We ladies are quite known for our fondness of vetiver, eh?

Images of bottles courtesy of Sfilate.it

Verte Fig on Foodista

Sel de Vetiver

The concept of using minerals as a theme in perfume is relatively new. Although there are distinct mineral notes in perfumes such as Aqua Allegoria Pampeloune (Sulfur) and l’Eau d’Issey (Chlorine), the mineral presence in these fragrances was kept hush-hush only to be noticed by the keen noses; Yet the Elena family seems to be taking this concept into a whole different direction, spearheading the elemental or mineral movement in perfumery, with Sel de Vetiver by Celine Elena (Salt) and Terre d’Hermes by Jean-Claude Elena (Flint) and in general by their minimalist approach that is more mineral than organic.

Sel de Vetiver (Vetiver Salt) from The Different Company meant to evoke the barely-there scent of ocean salt on a sun warmed skin. Although I can understand the salty reference and association with vetiver, warm it is not. Rather, it’s a cool, dusty vetiver with a clean earthy presence. It may recall the gritty, ground-sea-shells sand, salt sticking to driftwood and the rough dryness of skin that was soaked and masked with mud, salt and sulfur for too long. But it does not quite smell like salt or skin.

Sel de Vetiver opens with an astringent, clean accord of grapefruit, ginger and a hint of cardamom that reminds me roasted dark coffee more than the spice itself. I can smell hints of ylang ylang, but they are not obvious at all, being rather heady and fleeting. Other notes that are mentioned are orris and geranium, but I can’t say I was aware of their presence at any given point. Vetiver and refined patchouli (smells more like a patchouli isolate rather than the full-bodied oil) step in pretty fast and dominate Sel de Vetiver for most of its life on the skin – the sweet, clean scent of these two earthy essences combined.

Top notes: Grapefruit, Ginger, Cardamom
Heart notes: Ylang Ylang, Geranium Bourbon, Orris
Base notes: Vetiver, Patchouli

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