The sweet smell of tea

Scent has always been an important, if not sometimes misleading, aspect of tea drinking. Most of us will have experienced the disappointment that follows when a tea smells absolutely delicious but then tastes rather insipid. It’s an experience that almost always occurs when I try a fruit tea, particularly those blackcurrant ones that smell so sweet and taste so bitter. Such a let down. In fact, the only tea that I think smells as good as it tastes is a simple mint tea.

However, what about the other way around? Can a fragrance that is based on tea ever be appealing? Even when I think of my most delicious smelling tea, a lovely Turkish Rose and Jasmine variety given to me by my brother and his girlfriend Sally, I don’t feel compelled to dab it on my wrists.

But when Jo Malone, the fragrance queen, and maker of my current fragrance du jour (the wonderfully subtle English Pear and Freesia ) recently launched a limited edition collection of fragrances based on tea, I was forced to rethink my view of the tea/fragrance relationship. If Jo thinks tea can smell good, I’m not going to question her.

Jo Malone Tea Collection (image from jomalone.co.uk)

The first variety of the Jo Malone Tea Collection I tried was called Sweet Milk. This one did nothing to change my view of the odd relationship of tea and fragrance. It literally smelt of milky tea and on my skin, smelt slightly like sour milk! Perhaps because I never take milk in tea, I was destined not to like this one.

I then moved onto the Asaam and Grapefruit variety, and it was lovely. I’m no fragrance expert so I’ll share with you the Scent Critic’s amazingly detailed description of this one:

“There’s an ever-so-slightly expensive-soap note in this – before a very definite yet fragile black tea edge soon kicks in:  literally like burying your nose in a caddy of Assam leaves.  To me, it’s clean sheets.  It’s sunlight streaming through a muslin-curtained window.  It’s a little bit of dew, on the grass:  the maté tea that’s been blended in makes this intriguingly aromatic and slightly herby.  I get stone cloisters.  No, honestly:  imagine walking down a stone corridor on a sunny morning which promises to be baking hot later, while you enjoy the cool limestone under bare feet.”

Wow – I didn’t realise so much could be taken from a sniff of perfume!

All this talk of tea and fragrance made me remember that actually one of my first ever perfumes was in fact based on tea! Elizabeth Arden’s Green Tea was a significant presence throughout Elle Tea’s teenage years. I don’t know what that says about me as a teenager – it certainly doesn’t sound like very cool, particularly when everyone else was probably pouting around wearing CK One. It was the 1990s after all.

Anyway, despite its very retro packaging and complete lack of marketing (well, I haven’t seen any), this faithful fragrance is still around. I tried it the other day and I still think it’s lovely. It’s just the sort of fresh, zingy, light fragrance you need for this balmly weather. I may have to regress to my teenage self and buy a bottle.

Elizabeth Arden Green Tea (image from elizabetharden.com)

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