June 10, 2017
I have been fascinated with the scent and taste of tea since childhood. As an inveterate collector of anything and everything and an aspiring tea connoisseur, I enjoy brewing high mountain oolong teas in the Chinese style and serving them in tiny, elegant teacups. I also maintain a small stash of vintage pu-erh compressed tea cakes, most received over the years as gifts. My obsession with tea extends to the garden where I grow and propagate cold tolerant Russian cultivars of Camellia sinensis (the tea plant).
Parvati Offering Lord Shiva tea
One of my favorite teas is Darjeeling, grown in the steep, misty, high altitude foothills of the Himalayas.The Darjeeling district, elevation around 2050 meters, is located in the Indian state of West Bengal. The name "Darjeeling" ("Dorje Ling") is translated loosely from Tibetan as "The Land of the Thunderbolt", the abode of Lord Shiva and the name of a centuries old Buddhist monastery in the region. Darjeeling teas can be some of the most expensive and rare in the world. Twenty thousand individual leaves, after processing and curing, might yield only about 100 grams of finished tea. Darjeeling tea is picked four times a year, each harvest, called a flush, has a very different taste and scent profile. I love the bright, mildly astringent and floral character of the first flush and adore the mellow, warm, muscatel flavor and aroma of the second (the summer) harvest.
CaFleureBon Jo Malone Darjeeling Tea Gail's bottle amidst her tea plants
Considering my love of tea, it would seem that I would have a fondness for most tea fragrances. Not so! The perfect cup-a tea, in scent, has eluded me until just this year when I discovered Jo Malone London's latest tea centric colognes. The Jo Malone Rare Teas Collection was introduced and released in April of 2016. I know I am a little late to this tea party, but my enthusiasm for the new collection prompts me to a review.
I was surprised and pleased to learn that the Jo Malone Rare Teas Collection, crafted by perfumer Serge Majoullier, incorporates infusions of macerated tea leaves, processed from 10 to 100 hours, depending on the variety. Each tea in the collection has a unique, multifaceted scent. The specific fragrance characteristics, derived from the infusions, are interpreted, amplified and colored by the perfumer's art, resulting in colognes that showcase the fragrance profile of each tea and convey the cultural and environmental milieus from which the teas originate. The Rare Teas Collection includes: Silver Needle Tea, Darjeeling Tea, Jade Leaf Tea, Oolong Tea, Midnight Black Tea and Golden Needle Tea. I begin my discovery of these rare and beautiful fragrances with Darjeeling Tea.
The first flush of the fragrance recalls the aroma and flavor of tea created from the leaves gathered during the first harvest in early spring. Tea plants are dormant during the winter months. While they do not lose their old leaves, the new growth does not appear until late February through early April (in the Northern Hemisphere). These first new tea leaves are plucked in the early morning, still wet with dew. Jo Malone's Darjeeling Tea cologne, like the new, wet tea leaves, is bursting with fresh life, buoyant and green, tender and fragile, sparkling with a silvery sheen and translucent hints of jasmine, freesia and peppery spice. After about 30 minutes this initial radiant zest blooms into a fragrance similar to the second or summer flush of finished, fermented black Darjeeling tea.
Painting by Neleema Pirni
The second tea harvest, when processed and cured, will have a warm, full bodied, fruity taste, similar to Muscat grapes, rich with flowery overtones. Jo Malone Darjeeling Tea embraces this effect by amplifying the floral notes with the fruity apricot and fermented grape elements of Indian davana, fragrant facets that add depth to the green jasmine, freesia and the tea infusion. The fermented fruit and floral heart of the fragrance lingers for another two hours, dusted with the spicy freshness of the initial harvest. Five to six hours after the first spritz, Darjeeling Tea retreats very close to the skin, finishing as a fading aura of white flowers and a memory of afternoon tea. Jo Malone's beautiful Darjeeling Tea cologne has me dreaming of a vacation to the foothills of the Himalayas, to the "Land of the Thunderbolt" and the home of some of the best teas on earth.
Do you like tea fragrances? What is your favorite Jo Malone London Cologne?
Notes: Black Darjeeling tea, jasmine, freesia and davana. Sillage is moderate and longevity is good.
Disclaimer: I would like to thank Jo Malone London for the gorgeous bottle of Darjeeling Tea from their Rare Teas Collection. My opinions are my own.
-Gail Gross, Editor
Art Direction Michelyn Camen, Editor in Chief
The fragrances in the Jo Malone Rare Teas Collection are available in the US at Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and online at Jo Malone London.