Tea is a hot beverage made by infusing dried leaves of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) in water. The rich history and rituals surrounding drinking this drink also provide plenty of inspiration for perfumers.
History and rituals
There are multiple stories of how tea discovered like the following. According to a Chinese legend, drinking tea was discovered more than 5000 years ago when, by chance, leaves of the tea plant swirled in warm water and a rich scent arose.
Many countries and cultures have tea ceremonies and rituals. Like the Japanese Sado, a serene tea ceremony, where precise rules according to Zen traditions apply to both the brewing and the drinking of special tea.
In the sixteenth century, Europe and the Netherlands also became acquainted with the valuables from Asia, when the VOC started transporting tea leaves from China to the Netherlands via Batavia.
Tea is now consumed all over the world and the versatility in which a cup of hot water is flavored shows how many variations on this theme are possible.
Wide variety of flavors and scents
What a variety of tea: the softness of green sencha tea, the full spiciness of chai, or the refreshing of earl gray. But also the imaginative combinations of tea, fruit and flowers. Enjoy the crisp freshness of green tea, discover the unique profile of matcha tea, or the dark and bitter of black tea. Or how about the surprisingly smoky Lapsang Souchong or the warm, spicy Rooibos?
The tea plant
Did you know that the classic teas all come from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant? The differences are not in the type of plant, but how the leaves are processed. China, India and Kenya are the largest tea producing countries.
Black tea: the green leaves of the tea plant are fermented (by the naturally present enzymes in the plant), whereby the leaves turn dark. This oxidation process releases a lot of flavor, which also produces the most bitter notes, as well as relatively the most amount of caffeine (also called theine).
Green tea: here the green leaves of the tea variety are not fermented but steamed. The steaming stops the oxidation process and the refined ingredients such as antioxidants are preserved and intact.
White tea: once a year, only the youngest top, fresh green shoots of the tea buds are picked as the top tip of the tea plant. The natural fermentation process is quickly stopped by short steaming and the leaves are dried unprocessed only very gently.
Tissane, infusions, herbal infusions
Infusions in hot water can also be made from other plants or parts of plants. Mint, chamomile, liquorice, nettle, Rooibos (native to South Africa), Maté (Yerba-Mate in Spanish, native to South America) and lime blossom Just to name a few.
Tea and perfumes
The flavoring of tea leaves goes back centuries. The most famous form is to add the essential oil of the sunny bergamot citrus fruit to black tea, which characterizes the elegant Earl Gray and Lady Gray.
But additions of flowers (for example osmanthus), fruit pieces and spices are also very common.
To give shape to this inspiration and fascination, the perfumer has a wealth of natural tea leaf tinctures and absolutes in her palette. In addition, imaginative tea chords are played, which vividly evoke the associations and scents of tea.
Did you know that memories are also linked to smell? This has been discussed most extensively by Marcel Proust in his book Du côte de chez Swann (part of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu). He describes a scene where the main character dips a madeleine cake in lime blossom tea and immediately thinks back to his youth. The phenomenon of a very vivid memory experienced by smelling a scent is now often described as the Proust effect.