Warm jasmine petals, green twigs, cedarwood shavings… Iclose my eyes and inhale again. The top notes are crisp and bright, reminiscentof fresh leaves, but underneath I notice a musky sweetness. This complex scentis so heady and rich that I imagine it in a perfume bottle, but instead itblossoms in my cup of jasmine pearls tea.
Tea contains layers of flavours, and even a cursoryexploration is exciting. White teas blended from minimally processed buds smelllike white grapes and peony petals. Japanese green teas have a sparkling, verdant freshness, while Chinese lapsang souchong is the basso profondo of the teaworld; it reminds me of smoked pinewood and pipe tobacco. All of thesevarieties are derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, but the processingmethods result in a diverse spectrum of aromas. Most of them smell good enoughto be worn as perfume.
As I brew cup after cup – to enjoy the scent as much asthe taste – I search for the tea notes among my perfume bottles. Manyperfumers find the complexity of tea inspiring, and some of the biggestblockbusters (such as CK One and Tommy Girl) are based on tea accords. PerfumerJean-Claude Ellena was so moved by the rich aroma of teas at the Mariage Frèresboutique in Paris that he created Bulgari Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert (from £42 for 75ml). This radiantperfume is based on woody violet and sheer jasmine, scents that are naturallypresent in certain types of green tea. It opens on an effervescent citrusy notebefore dying down to a velvety, warm finish.
Lancôme Aroma Tonic (£20 for 100ml) is a green-tea-inspired fragrancethat spikes its lemony beverage with cardamom and osmanthus – the apricot-scentedblossom of the Chinese olive. Soft and romantic, L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Thé pour unÉté (£55 for 50ml) is reminiscent of Le Palais des Thésjasmine pearls tea. The perfume unfolds in sheer layers of jasmine, bergamot andgreen-tea leaves, with a cool bite of mint lending it a crisp accent. A thincotton dress and a splash of Thé pour un Été are the staples of my summerwardrobe.
But on cold winter days, I crave warmer blends, in bothteas and perfumes. A swirl of tea in Eau d’Italie Paestum Rose (€98 for 100ml) gives itsroses a dark hue. Comme des Garçons Tea (Series 1: Leaves, £48 for 50ml, from Dover StreetMarket), an even richer blend, amplifies the smoky complexity of tea withincense and cedarwood. It has a tangy, leathery darkness that makes me crave acup of Russian caravan tea. Add a warm fireplace and a sprinkle of snow, and mygrey winter afternoon becomes a beautiful daydream.