Broken Hearts Tea Party

Broken Hearts
Here are some photos from my latest event on Sunday, February 10th - the 4th annual Valentine's tea party, with Broken Hearts theme... I hope you'll find some ideas for celebrating today - regardless if you're single, broken-hearted or in a loving happy relationship. By the way - the broken hearts above were part of a game. Guests had to find their "better halves" and the first two who found it won prizes!

Setup by Ayala Moriel
This is the setup - relaxed, casual but still luxurious, and with splashes of hearts and colours. It was an unusually small crowd because of the multiple holidays happening that weekend: Chinese New Year and Family Day long weekend - a new holiday just recently invented so that Canadian kids will get even less education than before. So, many people were away, and I will have to better plan for next year so it doesn't fall on a long weekend again. The good thing was that I got to spend quality time with my guests instead of boiling 20 liters of tea; and also considering I was sick all week I was able to sit down a relax a bit, and have civil conversations with people instead of standing up and running around for 5 hours straight (which is usually my share on my always overbooked Valentine's events).

I also really enjoyed preparing for and presenting perfumes that were inspired by tragic love stories. This will be a part of a separate post though - so please visit again later today. Below are more photos and the menu as well as some recipes you can easily whip up at home tonight for your sweetie or just with a bunch of single friends that don't want to feel sorry for themselves tonight!

Minted Radish Tea Sandwiches
Minted radishes tea sandwiches - a surprisingly classic combination that never fails.

Cucumber & Watercress Tea Sandwiches
Cucumber & watercress tea sandwiches. Another classic.

Banana & Peanutbutter Tea Sandwiches
Peanut butter & banana tea sandwiches - not just for kids. Did you know that bananas are an aphorodisiac? And can you guess why?
To make this flavour a tad more grown up, spread a thin layer of hot red pepper jelly on one slice, and peanut butter on the other.

Meyer Lemon Scones + Blueberry & Meyer Lemon Marmalade
Meyer lemon scones - hot from the oven, and promptly served with Devon cream and with a blueberry & Meyer lemon marmalade.

Chocolate Madeleines with Orange Flower Water
Madeleines are fantastic, shell-shaped cross between cookie and a cake. They are dense, moist yet light and are flavourful yet neutral enough to dip in a tea. Might even be superior to shortbreads in that regard, if only it wasn't for the extra work they require. These are chocolate flavoured and are scented with orange flower water. Sounds just like the kind of recipe I will invent; but it is actually from Maxine Clark's excellent book, Chocolate: Deliciously Indulgent Recipes for Chocolate Lovers.

Mint Chocolat Wafers Sandwich Cookies
Chocolate mint wafers, enclosed between two layers of sugar cookies with hint of black pepper. This recipe is so easy, yet so elegant. You have to try it! Use your favourite sugar cookie recipe and cut in whichever shape you like (circle or square works best). Place a chocolate mint wafer in between the cookies while they are still hot, and - voila! You have a cookie sandwich that is flavourful and looks very professional, without ever needing to whip up a filling, and with very little mess to clean...

Rosewater Buttercream Cookies
Rose almond sugar cookies with a layer of rosewater buttercream piped in between. Want the recipe? You got it!

Bleeding Hearts Truffles - with Ylang Ylang & Cassis
The cherry on the top, or the jewel in the crown are always the scented truffles I make for my special events and celebrations. Some were so popular that they've became a timeless chocolate bar (created in collaboration with CocoaNymph). But for the new flavours you will have to visit my studio and participate in these events. You're always sure to be surprised by an unusual, new flavour combination, featuring essential oils and tea infused ganache. This time was my first to experiment with organic ylang ylang oil of the best quality. I paired it with creme de cassis liquor, a combination inspired by Chamade. The result is a melt-in-your-mouth tropical floral experience with a round berry backnote. Introducing: the one and only Bleeding Hearts truffle!

My lovely guests, customers & friends!
I love to see everyone having good conversation and playing around with the essences and perfumes. Sometimes they don't even need my help picking a scent - they just dive in and smell them all and share their insights with their friends and other guests; and then I know that they are real fragrance lovers.


Lovers Tea
Lovers Tea: 1 hand-tied jasmine green tea + 1 teaspoon rose petals. Beautiful visual effect and ever so lovely fragrant cup of tea to sooth the soul and seduce the imagination. It's like a garden in a teapot!
You might want to strain the tea before serving; but I find that letting a rose petal or to through the spout creates a more sensual tea-sipping experience.

Bleeding Hearts cocktail

Bleeding Hearts cocktail. I'm willing to share my recipe:
1/2oz Creme de Cassis
1oz Hendricks gin
1/4oz Elderflower cordial 

Club Soda
Angostura Bitters
Blood Orance, sliced- Shake with ice. 
- Top with club soda. 
- Add a dash of Angostura bitters. Stir. 
- Garnish with a slice of blood orange.
- Sip slowly, savouring every drop. 

- And please don't drive!

Eau d'Hadrien

Valdorcia, paesaggio., originally uploaded by creativik67.

The mundane meets the magical in Annick Goutal’s Eau d’Hadrien*. There is nothing particularly original about this fragrance, which pairs a few intensely astringent citrus notes with a woody base. In fact, the particular accord of grapefruit, lemon, ylang ylang, patchouli and cypress reminds me of a particular aromatherpeutic synergy which left so little impression on me that I completely failed to remember what it was or where I smelled it. Upon research, I discovered that this particular combo if essential oil would result in a synergy for menopausal varicose veins and cellulitis**…

The initial citrus overload can be likened to getting sprayed by grapefruit essential oils right from its pores when attempting to peel it – resulting in two things: grapefruit juice dripping down your wrists and arms, and teary eyes. It will leave those tangy, tingling residues on your tongue for hours to come, and your fingers will remain bitter for the day. The citrus monopoly gradually becomes tolerant to soft, woody, powdery-sweet floral note of ylang ylang (I believe it’s the third grade of the essential oil by the smell of it), and underpinnings of sappy-green, bitter and warm-woody notes of cypress and patchouli. Cypress and lemon are one guaranteed way to smell like cleaning agents. For some reason, in l’Eau d’Hadrien this does not bother me.

Yet, the non-ambitious banality of Eau d’Hadrien is precisely what accounts for its charm: it gives you the same satisfaction of thoroughly cleaned house, fresh acrylic paint fumes still emanating from the walls, the carpets are still moist and exhaling that intensely orange aroma, the beds are made with fresh white sheets, and all you need to do is light a little candle and put your cold (and damp) feet up and relax while your bath tub is getting filled up with a pine-scented bubble bath.

I’ve been ignoring Eau d’Hadrien for many years, solely because it is a citrus. I mostly smelled lemon and a few herbs on the few occasions when I tried it, but I never really worn it properly (i.e.: on my skin, for an entire day). But I did enjoy tremendously the Eau d’Hadrien shower gel and lotion, which I found to be quite different from what I remembered Eau d’Hadrien to be: Sappy, green, citrusy, fresh, woody, brisk, bitter, sour, astringent, herbal. It does not feel mudnane at all. In fact, it has that sappy, resinous leafy feel reminiscent of Grand Amour's mastic. I really love it.
I even lit the candle last night and today (you guessed it, my place and my studio are being painted... I can now enjoy the fruit of my - and other people's - labour). The candle has a gentle throw, which fills the whole house with a delightful green tea and citrus aroma. It is significantly sweeter than the Eau de Toilette, and has the balsamic leafy tonalities of the body products.

Top notes: Lemon, Grapefruit
Heart notes: Citron, Ylang Ylang
Base notes: Cypress, Patchouli

* This review is for the Eau de Toilette, by the way. I haven’t tried the Eau de Parfum yet, but I’ve heard it is softer and sweeter, with the ylang ylang more pronounced and the cypress mellower. The lasting of the Eau de Toilette is excellent – it lasted on my skin for a good 7 hours, and there were still traces of citrus in the dry down.

** With no disrespect to aromatherapy at all, so please don't get me wrong; I do, however, lack the knowledge of understanding how a synergy such as that would work, so my knowledge is based on the separate actions of each of those oils and what they have in common, not being able to predict beyond that...
Both cypress and grapefruit oils are good for treating cellulite and water retention; Lemon and cypress help reduce varicose veins; cypress and ylang ylan gare excellent in helping to cope with menopausal symptoms, as well as menstrual crapms and PMS symptoms; and both cypress and citrus oils in general are stringent and disinfectant, which might explain why they are used so often in household cleaning products.

*** This is the first in a series of citrus-based perfumes, before they disappear on us completely. Let's hope not!


I Surrender, originally uploaded by Ana Santos.

Chamade. A perfume like no other. Green. Fruity. Floral. Aldehydic. Mossy. Balsamic.
When I first read about it in the Guerlain pamphlet I received at The Bay, I did not expect to like it at all because it was described as an aldehydic floral. But to sum it up as belonging to one category or another would be missing the whole point: Chamade is Chamade. You must enjoy it for what it is rather than attempt to classify and categorize it. This would be likened to locking a beautiful songbird in a cage, or a free spirited woman in a house and tell her what to wear, eat or do. If you love Chamade you should know better than that!

Yet, the magic of Chamade is not so much in the fact that it is so versatile, but rather, in the unusual assembly of notes that are so different, yet harmonize perfectly with one another. Notes that seemingly contradict each other so much you wouldn’t think they’ll get along at all: the briskness of galbanum and the caramely sweetness of vanilla; the fruitiness of black currant buds and the acrid oakmoss; Not to mention the florals and aldehydes in between which on the paper create an unresolved olfactory mess.

Yet in the Cupid’s arrow-stricken reversed heart bottle, these elements form a balanced tension that leads from the briskness of galbanum and fruity sharpness of cassis to an oily-urinal aldehydes combines with the above mentioned berries. Creamy and hot, pulsating floral notes of ylang ylang mingle with the powdery, green yet sweet hyacinth creating an impression of a flower warmed in a sunny spring garden. And this all leads to a base that is first mossy, slightly acrid-bitter-dry-woody of sandalwood and oakmoss. Hourse later, the magical vanilla that only the dynasty of Guerlain could use so appropriately without making it seem banal or overdone. The same vanilla of Shalimar parfum – dark, resinous-sweet and sexy in the most intimate, close-to-the-skin tastefulness of the classic parfum extrait of this house.

I’ve been fortunate to wear Chamade in a few concentrations and vintages: vintage EDT from the generous Char (I won a contest, can you believe it?), a Parfum Extrait from eBay, in a pristine 30ml sealed bottle; and of course, a brand new EDT, which is delicious and quite true to the original I think (though this will probably change any minute because of the strict oakmoss regulations in the EU and by IFRA). The new Chamade of course smells fresher, and the top notes are more apparent. It shows its vanillic face faster than the vintage I would say. Yet I can still feel the same Chamadeness beating in there. The vintage EDT is fantastic, the top notes are less pronounced, but you can still feel them, and overall the perfume feels much softer, rounder, and goes form phase to phase seamlessly. The powderiness of the aldehydes and ylang ylang is more pronounced, and there is also a bit of a note that I can only liken to the Mousse de Saxe of Caron, or otherwise to Peru Balsam essential oil (rather than the balsam itself). The parfum extrait is a completely different story altogether. It has such pronounced notes of rose and jasmine (and wow! what a jasmine!) that is barely resembles what I learned to know as Chamade from the other two versions. There is some of the galbanum though, but hardly any cassis (if at all) or ylang ylang at first. Which makes me think, it was probably reformulated after all, though I will not be able to give you any dates. The reformulation primarily seems to be downplaying the rose and jasmine to insusceptible quantities and replacing them mostly by the more cost-effective ylang ylang (probably from Guerlain's own plantations; I wonder in which year they got these...).

Top notes: Galbanum, Black Currant Buds, Aldehydes

Heart notes: Ylang Ylang, Hyacinth

Base notes: Oakmoss, Vanilla, Sandalwood

A few words about the timing for this perfume: designed by Jean-Paul Guerlain, the last in the line of the Guerlain heritage of exemplary high-class perfumery (which lasted for almost two decades and was brutally interrupted only in recent years by globalization and greed). The timeless beauty of Chamade only got to show you that Jean-Paul did not lack inspiration before LVMH got into the picture (rather, stole the picture) and perhaps than it was finances that designed the fragrances more than its own talented nose. Chamade was launched in 1969, marking the beginning of the 70's, which in the perfume world was significantly characterized by the emergance of soapy and green compositions, such as No. 19, Private Collection, Silences, Ivoire, Diorella, and very much influenced AnaisAnais which launched almost a decade later, as well as the much later excellent celebrity perfume Deneuve by Catherine Deneuve.

Flower of Flowers

ylang ylang flowers, originally uploaded by chotda.
Background and Origin of Ylang Ylang:
Ylang Ylang is an evergreen tropical tree, remotely related to the Magnolia family (they are both from the Magnoliales order), native to Indonesia and possibly also the Philipines. It grows wild in many tropical countries, and is cultivated for its essences mostly in Nossi-Be, the Comoro Islands, which produce about 80% of the worlds’ production Madagascar and to a lesser extend in the Phillipines, Indonesia, Zanzibar, Madagascar and a few of the French South Pacific islands.

The trees grow very fast, and therefore they are pruned in such a way that they start growing horizontally after they reach 7 feet in height. This way, the blossoms can be easily picked by hand. The flowers are green at first, and have little or no scent, and only start to develop their intense aroma when they are fully mature and have turned yellow in colour (some varieties are mauve or pinkish, but their aroma is considered inferior to that of the yellow variety).

The essence of Ylang Ylang is unusual amongst the florals, because it has an extremely high yield and therefore has a much lower price than any other floral essence. The flowers are most commonly steam distilled, and to a lesser extent are solvent extracted to produce an absolute. The trees bloom all year around, which further contributes to the relative abundance of this oil in comparison to other floral essences.

The scent of Ylang Ylang is considered an aphrodisiac. The flowers are spread on the bed of newly wed couples in Indonesia, and are used to adorn the hair and in lays with jasmine sambac flowers (Sampaquita) in the Philippines.

Aromatherapy uses of Ylang Ylang:
Ylang ylang is considered to have aphrodisiac, euphoric, anti-depressant, and stimulant effects on the nervous system. It is recommended to use for conditions such as depression frigidity, nervous tension, and is generally considered an elevating yet soothing aroma.
Hair: Rinsing the hair with Ylang Ylang encourages the hair’s growth
Skin: Acne, irritated & oily skin, insects bites and general skin care
Circulation: Helps to regulate high blood pressure

My Experience with Ylang Ylang:
Ylang Ylang essential oils vary tremendously in quality and character. A good quality Ylang Ylang essential oil should smell creamy, fruity, tenacious, and headily floral but in a very pleasant way. A poor quality ylang ylang can be so terrible it can give a bad reputation to the essence altogether. My first impression of Ylang Ylang was terrible, because I was first introduced to a very poor quality oil. Even though it was graded an “Extra”, it had an unbrearably unpleasant odour that was sharp, heady and almost peppery-dry. This is not how ylang yang is supposed to smell like! Once I explored different oils from different suppliers, I discovered that I actually like this essence a lot. Enough to make an entire perfume dedicated to it – a Ylang Ylang soliflore!

The Ylang Ylang essences I work with now are many and vary, but they all have a very distinguished, soft, exotic, sweet, full-bodied aroma. Some are more heady than others, but they are all so beautiful. Even though Ylang Ylang is yellow in colour, I consider it to be a "white floral". Yet, my association with it are quite colourful - tropical fruit such as mango and pitango, creamy coconut, lays of flowers, and the many colours of corals - orange, red and pink hues... Besides my new Ylang Ylang soliflore, Coralle, I also used fair amounts of Ylang Ylang in White Potion and Tamya, where it plays a key role in the composition (coupled with tuberose in the first and jasmine sambac in the latter); and lesser amounts in Viola (an excellent example of Ylang Ylang's bouqueting abilities) and Autumn. (a Chypre to which the Ylang Ylang adds a fruity nuance)

Ylang Ylang Essences and Grades:
Ylang Ylang essential oil is distilled into several different grades, which are collected in several stages during the distillation:

Ylang Ylang Extra – Contains almost half of the yield of Ylang Ylang. This grade is characterized by a tenacious, sweet, balsamic, fruity odour. It is the most similar to the absolute, but with a lighter, airy opening reminiscent of lilacs, lilies and linalol. Upon drydown it can even be a tad soapy.

Ylang Ylang 1 - I have yet to encounter this grade (or fraction) of ylang ylang as it is most commontly found blended with Ylang Ylang 2 to form the so-called "Ylang Ylang Complete" (see below).

Ylang Ylang 2 - I have encountered only one specimen of Ylang Ylang 2 from a reputable supplier that sells high quality and organically grown oils for aroma therapeutic purposes. This particular specimen is good enough to pass as an "extra" until you hit the dryout and some sharp, slightly green and almost horseradish-like notes appear.

Ylang Ylang 3 – The third and last portion of the distillation. This grade is suave and sweet and full bodied. It also reveals some of the more woody aspects of this complex raw material.

Ylang Ylang Complete – this is suppose to be a mixture of all the four other grades, or an unfractioned distillation of the ylang ylang in its entirety. However, nowadays a Ylang Ylang complete is most likely to be composed of the less desireable grades – Ylang Ylang 1 and Ylang Ylang 2. Because of the unpopularity of these two middle grades (1 & 2), there is, unfortunately, frequent adulteration of Ylang Ylang essential oils by the different grades – either “upgrading” or “downgrading” them (i.e.: mixing the Ylang Ylang 2 with Ylang Ylang 3, to lable it a “Ylang Ylang 3” and the Ylang Ylang 1 with the Ylang Ylang Extra to label it an “Extra”).

Ylang Ylang Concrete is produced by solvent extraction of the flowers. This is an unusual, hard to find floral concrete, and well worth it if you can find it. It is ever so smooth, creamy, sweet, tenacious and warm. It has a unique fruity and creamy nuances, reminiscent of bananas. Unlike most concretes, which are waxy or semi-solid due to the content of floral waxes, ylang ylang concrete is completely liquid, deep amber coloured, with what seems like little waxy particles floating in it.

Ylang Ylang Absolute is obtained by alcohol washing of the concrete. Again, the yield is extremely high (75-82% of the concrete). It is similar in appearance to the concrete, less the waxy particles, although I have encountered some specimens with an olive green colour. It is similar to the ylang ylang extra, only deeper, richer, sweeter, and with less “top notes”. It is more spicy and fruity, presenting the eugenol and cinnamyl acetate; with fruity notes suggesting banana and mango; and animalic-jasminey-like tonalities as well as creamy buttery qualities. But most notably, it feels like a perfume on its own right, with layers upon layers of silky depth and warmth.

Ylang Ylang's Role in Perfumery:
The importance of Ylang Ylang essences to perfumery is tremendous. It blends well with almost everything, and has a particular importance in almost all floral bouquets and compounds, including: hyacinth, lily of the valley, violet, sweet pea, narcissus, lily, gardenia and many, many more. It blends particularly well with jasmine, rose, vetiver, peru balsam, sandalwood, cassie, vanilla, citrus notes and rosewood. It also plays an important role in oriental compositions, lending a sweet, warm, soft bridge between the heavy bases and the spicy top notes. Ylang Ylang is often used in soap bases, and you may be interested to know it plays a key role in perfuming face powders!

Principal constituents of Ylang Ylang:Benzyl acetate (25%)p-cresyl methyl ether (20%) – which is what gives ylang ylang its distinguished fragrance, though on it’s own it does not smell pleasant at all.
methyl benzoate
methyl salicylate
cinnamyl acetate

Perfumes with Prominent Ylang Ylang Notes:
Mahora (now called Mayotte)
No. 5
(to name only a few...)
A few words about the meaning of the name – up until very recently, I knew it meant “Flower of Flowers”. I now read that in Tagalog it is derived from the words “Wilderness” and “Rare”. If any of you, my dear readers, who is from the Phillipines, can enlighten me with the true meaning of this fantastic flower of your country – I would be most grateful.

Bibliography (besides the sites that are linked to on this article):
Stephen Arctander, Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural OriginJulia Lawless, Encyclopedia of Essential OilJulia Lawless, Aromatherapy and the MindPoucher's Perfumes, Cosmetics & Soaps Volumes 1 & 2


Coral Tree, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

I’m proud to introduce to you Coralle – my newest addition to “The Language of Flowers” soliflore collection.

Coralle is centred around Ylang Ylang, the tropical creamy-yellow coloured tree flowers with a heady aroma that is like no other – heady-floral, sweet-fruity and creamy-smooth. I chose only the softest, sweetest and creamiest ylang ylang there is, including ylang ylang concrete and ylang ylang absolute from Comores Island, and paired it with the sparkling aldehydic juiciness of Clementine and grapefruit. The heart includes the fruity, full-bodied wine-like aromas of Geranium bourbon and Davana. Sweet vanilla adds a tropical charm and is tampered by a hint of vetiver, creating the olfactory illusion of sun-bleached driftwood.

takes me to a soft sandy beach and a skin-caressing sun. I lean on a trunk of driftwood and let all the worries of the world dissolve in the salty ocean breeze and sink into the sand. I dive into the turquoise water to explore myriads of coral colours. I sundry my skin and wear nothing but bright lays of tropical flowers – orange, pink, red and pure white… They scent the air around me, connecting me to the things that make me the most happy – beauty, nature and scent.

Top Notes: Ylang Ylang Oil, Grapefruit, Clementine
Heart Notes: Ylang Ylang Cream, Geranium Bourbon, Davana

Base Notes: Amber, Vanilla, Bourbon, Vetiver

P.s. The coral necklace in the image above does not come with the perfume. It is a family heirloom passed on to me by my ocean-loving grandmother. Her two daughters always wanted it, so to avoid hard feelings between them, she gave it to her one and only grand daughter - me :)

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