What is Your Cup of Tea? and an aside on experimental infusions – Jo Malone Oolong Tea, Midnight Black Tea and Golden Needle Tea

The sheerness and longevity issues of the typical Jo Malone output has not exactly made them high on my favourites list, yet the combination of finding a new favourite in (the limited edition) Tudor Rose and Amber as well as wearing (another LE ) White Lilac and Rhubarb at lot this spring, when I first heard of the new ‘Rare Tea Collection’ I was intrigued.

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The collection has a new and interesting price point, they are 300€ each for 175 ml, so I bought three small decants from a split of the ones that I thought might be what I was looking for in a tea fragrance. The three I left out were; Silver Needle, delicate floral, enveloping musk and a rose (- did anything ever NOT spell out my name quite so loudly?), Darjeeling Tea with freesia, jasmine (- ‘It’s not you it’s me, Honey’), Jade Leaf Tea, sencha, pomelo and maté (– chase me with maté tea).

What I have been looking for in a tea fragrance for some time, is a note of that dark smokiness, a real ‘brew’, a tarry, leather substitute note almost. A black tea that isn’t sweet. No more Chai Tea Lattes or Fresh Green Tea kind of thing. With 6 perfumes to choose from, each focussing on a different tea, surely it wasn’t too much to hope for, that one of them had that note?

The Rare Tea Collection contains 6 fragrances all ‘tea infused’. I’m not sure that the ‘infusion’ is not exactly my problem, but more of this later, first up the three fragrances that I ventured to try.

Midnight Black Tea; funnily I am not entirely convinced I would have smelled black tea at all had I not known of it. Midnight Black Tea has notes of vanilla, amber, guaiacwood and puh erh tea. On the strip I got more sweetness, and I detected something berry like and what seemed like almonds, none of which appeared on (my) skin. Its honeyed amber, a little inoffensive wooden smokiness and a touch of delicate spices is lovely and cosy, even if not exactly groundbreaking. It has good longevity, and for me it has just the right kind of airiness to not become cloying or sticky. It’s strikes a similar chord as Ambre Narguile, Nu_Be Helium, Oajan etc.

Golden Needle Tea; is another one where I’m not sure exactly how important the tea is. Supposedly it’s yunnan. The notes say; leather, sandalwood, benzoin and spice. It actually smells golden upon application. It took me some time to figure out why.

Last year, and here we actually get to the infusion part, I spend some time in the spring and summer collecting various plants, roots and resins infusing them (with perfumers alcohol) as an experiment and as a way of getting to know some plants and notes better. Among the stuff I retrieved were the fresh tears from the spruce tea, Picea abies. imageThe stuff is as sticky as it is fragrant, which is VERY. However, the scent is truly magnificent, with its golden bitterness. It’s almost as if you can smell the colour of the amber ‘stone’ it might turn into in some thousands of years given the right circumstances. It is this exact smell that I’m reminded of in Golden Needle, not ‘just’ myrrh or other resins.

A short note on the infusions is, that an infusion of a material is only very rarely a lasting or strong scent in itself, and wonderful as a 100 hour tea infusion sounds, it doesn’t really say much about whether it will actually add any significant flavour to the fragrance or not.

Back to Golden Needle and the slightly bitter resiny feel; it also reminds me of orange oil and ginger powder (remember always, we are talking Jo Malone, these associations are homoeopathic doses). It goes into a lovely suede like leather before resting on a sandalwood base. And a few hours in, best as you think it ends there, that little golden sticky resin pops up again, now as a faint driblet.

Oolong Tea has notes of cacao, tonka, hay and tobacco, and to me is the tea’iest of the lot.

It is powdery cacao dust, dry hay and smoked tobacco combined with a moist tea feel. I’m briefly reminded of the tea note in Bulgari eau parfumée au thé bleu, not least because of the buttery orris vibe I get, not that it’s mentioned anywhere in the minimalist note list. The tobacco sways and sometimes adds to a smoky tea feel and sometimes to a teaspoon of honey in a slightly bitter brew. It’s somewhere between haughty and enveloping and as such the perfume keeps itself poised and interesting, by always changing its nature slightly each time I wear it.

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As it is I like all three, especially the last two, yet not enough to splurge on a humongously large bottle. I prefer my tea to be more than infused; I want the builders brew version of infusion, also when it is wrapped in a sheer and airy composition. And perhaps just a little bit more Mad Hatter than Tea in China.

So, like with my coffee search, my tea search goes on too. In the meantime I shall enjoy the scent of the Oolong Tea à la Guerlain called L’Heure Bleue, but that’s another story and it will have to wait for another time…

Have you found your perfect tea perfume yet?

17 thoughts on “What is Your Cup of Tea? and an aside on experimental infusions – Jo Malone Oolong Tea, Midnight Black Tea and Golden Needle Tea

  1. Oh this was lovely, I’m a big tea scent fan. Golden Needle sounds great, I just can’t get with how the prices have suddenly inflated to such a degree.

    I tried Infusion Assam on Saturday by Cloon Keen Atelier and really liked it at the time but we tried so much I honestly couldn’t bring it to mind now – my note says that it was a bergamot laced black tea. I will go back to it at some point. Tea Tonique by Miller Harris is very nice for summer but I already have Osmanthe Yunnan for that. It you’d like a decant, let me know.

    Love the tea cups illustration especially. What did you use to create it? Is it a watercolour?

    • You should try them then, they are really nice, even if the price point is aspirational… Cloon Keen? One I haven’t heard of, but it sounds like a good black tea. Is it perhaps one we can read about chez A Bottled Rose soon? Thank you very much for offering, I like the smell and find Osmanthe Yunnan great, but it doesn’t feel very me.
      Yes, it’s watercolour, I don’t even think I layered, just a quick one layer water colour, and thank you.

      • I would have asked for a sample of Infusion Assam but Les Senteurs have stopped doing them which is a shame. You can read about the perfume crawl I did with Tina G tomorrow though 🙂

        Thanks for the painting info. I must try watercolour at some point but I hear it’s tricky!

        • Yes, I’m sure it’s easier if you actually learn how to do it, rather than being me and just throwing myself at it without knowing the first thing about watercolour. Ah well, I suppose it gets a ‘unique’ touch that way 😉

          • You’re AMAZING for self-taught. I wouldn’t know where to start.

    • Hi OH, yes Lapsang Souchong is a great tea, there are other teas which give my that same feel, I’ll have a look at Ravenscourt thank you for suggesting it 🙂
      I suppose if all the perfumes I’d like to smell were already made, my perfume journey would be a very short one.
      Thank you for stopping by and for the lovely compliments, much appreciated.

  2. How much do I love you for writing ‘a faint driblet’?

    On to tea, a drink I drink intermittently all day long, yet oddly I am rarely drawn to tea-themed perfumes. Off the top of my head, Bvlgari Black and Oolong Infini are two perfumes that I like with the note in them, but I am broadly happy to drink my tea rather than wear it.

    That said, these all sound interesting in different ways – however, the one you are still on a quest to find I know I definitely wouldn’t like – for I hate all things lapsang souchong-y or in any sense smoky. From which we can conclude that we are evil tea scent twins on top of everything else, hehe.

    • Ha! Well of course we are, remember I’m truly a coffee drinker, so when I drink tea it’s mostly as a substitute because I can’t drink as much coffee as I would like to. Sorry, my tea-drinking readers. And I do like tea a lot, I just love coffee.
      As for faint driblets, well just making sure the homeopathic dosage sank in 😉
      I think only Midnight BT verges on gourmand territory, the rest is all perfume with a hint of tea, so quite safe for you to try, should you want to of course. and a ps, I’ve found another interesting rose…

  3. Hi Asali!

    That golden needle resiny stuff you wrote about sounds really interesting. I can never decide how I feel about tea in my perfume. I like Oolong Infini, but it felt rather cold to me when I was searching for warmth. However, recently I tried Philtre Ceylon (also by Atelier Cologne) and I found that one a bit intriguing – very tealike, which some funky cumin and cardamom to splash things up. Have you tried that one?

    • Sun Mi, I think I know what you mean, tea often gets too cold as a note, and meaning you want warmth is not the same as Chai Tea Latte. Yes, that’s probably how I feel too.
      Philtre Ceylon, I will definitely try that one, I also remembered that I do like Guerlain London for its tea note, which is definitely an earl grey black tea, even if the perfume is of the fresher kind it is still warm’ish.

      • Yeah, it’s bizarre that in real life hot tea can be soothing, but I never get that sense from tea perfumes. At least not yet. I will continue to try some. The only others I’ve tried were Russian Tea and Osmanthus Oolong, neither of which I could even tolerate on skin. I don’t remember Oolong Infini too well anymore, I should go back and reread my review and try it again to see if my opinions have changed at all!

        • Russian Tea is another one I’d really like to test. My tea unicorn is Eau de Fier from Annick Goutal. I don’t remember Oolong Infini too well, but that’s why it’s useful to keep samples, to go back to them and compare when the right mood strikes 🙂

  4. What a lovely illustration as usual! I’ve been wondering about these “tea” but haven’t had the chance to try them yet. I have a few tea perfumes that I love wearing but still haven’t found “the one” yet. I’m certainly drawn to your descriptions of Golden Needle and Oolong Tea. Should sample them, really.
    By the way, I found a great lovely smelling tea to drink at a local tea store. I wouldn’t mind having that as a perfume!

    • Thank you Magpie 🙂 so you are looking too. I like the idea Sun Mi had, that it might be that tea fragrances are rather cold when one is looking for warmth. I feel there’s still so much more to explore, that tea fragrances tend to all go in that same direction, it would be nice to see something new, and these JM’s kind of are, only I’m not sure how tea-heavy I find them.
      But while we’re searching, finding a really good tea is wonderful.

  5. “the tea’iest of the lot”!!! I loved that line 🙂

    As always, I’m a step or two behind you with my tea-themed post, but answering your question, I love Tea for Two and like Oolong Infini (Atelier Cologne), Earl Grey & Cucumber and Assam and Grapefruit (both Jo Malone’s).

    I would love to try all perfumes in this new line but under no circumstances I see myself buying those bottles – the size is just ridiculous!

    • He, yes I rather like making up silly words, which says it better than a perfect phrase, so I’m glad you liked it.
      I wish I loved tea for two, it’s even a Giacobetti creation, a perfumer whom I admire, but no, it wasn’t a love match, just like. I didn’t try the two JM teas you mention. I think a) because they were limited editions and b) the cucumber/ grapefruit made it not so high on the test list.
      I’m looking forward to your Tea post.

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