Un Crime Exotique

Tea and petite fours, originally uploaded by arora_anshu.

I imagine that this is what Alice in Wonderland has experienced when she opened the bottle that said “drink me”. Succession of decadence pours effortlessly out of Un Crime Exotique, as if the occident and the orient have simultaneously decided to pack their most refined treats into one little bottle, with an endless supply of surreal liquid fantasy.

Star-anise infused pastries. Madeleine steeped in steamed milk. Dim-sum sponge cake soaked with jasmine tea. Gingerbread baking in the oven. Black sesame and honey. Osmanthus incense burning and Japanese body incense sprinkled on a sleepy skin with penetrating camphor and sweet cinnamon and vanilla. Milky bubble tea.

This is a comfort scent if there ever was one. Soft, soothing, mysterious, imaginative and like no other. Uncork that bottle and experience a stream of pouring thick lactonic vapour, floating above, transporting me to a place where there are no worries and only rewards, only tea and desserts and none of the savoury prerequisites. Truly an (exotic) crime.

Notes: Chinese Osmanthus, Gingerbread, Tea, Cinnamon, Star anise, Mate Absolute, Vanilla Sugar, South Sea Island Sandalwood

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.


pennine mate, originally uploaded by itsjustanalias.

My struggle with green fragrance per-se has never been a secret. Yes somehow, Fougères never posed any struggle for me. Their intense complexity, the headiness of herbs tamed by mossy undergrowth and, as I said, the “bittersweetness” of green” makes it easy for me. Fougères make me feel confident. Perhaps it is their intense masculinity (by association or design? This is hard to tell, as we are pre-programmed to believe in the masculinity of Fougère simply by the bold packaging and the fact that most of our fathers – particularly the ones who shaved and bothered with aftershave – smelled like this kind or another of Fougère – and Brut comes to mind effortlessly as an example).

I’ve stumbled upon two unusual, modern, bittersweet greens: Yohji and Yerbamate. The first being more of a green oriental rather than Fougère – combining an unusual dosage of galbanum (to the point of choking! And what’s more – its combined with a weird aquatic top note as well that is almost off-putting at first, until one gets used to the inseparable oddness of the entire composition, which is precisely what makes it so wonderful on those days when you’re in the mood for it). The combination of galbanum, a spritz of ozone, caramel, raspberry and an overdose of coumarin and vanilla at the base, which turns powdery after hours of wearing is unusual, odd, strange and at the same time appealing.

The other scent, Yerbamate, is a lot easier to stomach at first. Starting terribly green, nearly to the point of an Absinthe poisoning, I was always surprised I’ve enjoyed it so. I detect a fair amount of lavender as well as Artemisia, and again a very odd green – this time not only from galbanum, but also from the unusual note of tomato leaf. But what begins astringent and bitter like a very dry Martini suddenly changes direction and turns into an uber-sweet concoction. There is non of the berries or caramel here, yet like most of Villoresi’s scents (I find), it ends with a very sweet amber. This time, the amber is cleverly concealed amongst heaps of dried hay and powdery coumarin. If you think of a hay ride (or a more grown up type of hay ride), this would be a surprisingly soft one. And this is to the point of extreme indulgence in powdery ambery feathery fluff bordering on the dessert kind. The sip of bitter yerbamate was rewarded by sweetness that would have made you forget you might heard that name earlier…

To give you a completely different view of this prestigiously sought-after perfume, I will have to share with you a little story which my perfume friend Alden shared with me – simply because it put a big grin on my face in a much needed moment: “I read so many wonderful reviews about Yerbamate. I adore all things greens. So I was on a quest for perfection. It was first on my list of must-smells last Thanksgiving in NYC. I read the company's description over and over until I was virtually spellbound. So, I go up the sixth floor of Yah-whatever the Japanese department store on 5th Avenue and wander over. I spritz. Smells exactly like Canoe. I giggle and leave with a silly smile on my face. Anyway, I just wanted to share.” Thanks for sharing, Alden!

I haven’t had the opportunity to smell Canoe in recent years (the one time it turned out in the drugstore as a candidate for grandpa’s Christmas gift there were no testers, and that was about 6 years ago), but I can say oe thing about Yerbamate: it’s a fougere. And the emphasis here is on the concept of fougere, of juxtaposing fresh green with dry green (literally – as in dried hay); of bitter and sweet; of sharp and soft. Yerbamate may be the name, but I wouldn’t say it particularly stands out. It just adds to the extremeness of bitters at first, and than disappears like a Gaucho into the night.

Top Notes: Citrus, Tarragon, Tea, Maté, Rosewood, Ylang Ylang, Galbanum

Middle Note: New Mown Hay, Tomato Leaves, Lavender, Tea, Maté

Base Notes: Galbanum, Labdanum, Benzoin, Maté, Vetiver, Sweet and Powdery Notes

* Yerbamate bottle image from Barfumeria.com
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