Coffee, Tea or…


Wake me up or put me to bed. This month’s One Note Wonders is a focus on fragrances that delve into the psyche of our morning rituals somewhat. Here I’ve collected two handfuls of perfumes that touch on Coffee & Tea. Caffeinated or not, dark and light, herbal and roasted – there are endless combinations of how these perfumes are blended. I’m a huge fan of coffee, heck I have a LOT of time to catch up as my first true sip of any roasted bean didn’t come until age 36 (!!!), and I am not kidding. Time in the Pacific Northwest will do wonders for culinary blindspots. That said, I grew up on a variety of teas, and have been delighted by everything from a sleepytime chamomile to chicory root to the darkest smoky black teas, to a strange gunpowder as well as green and white varieties for many years. I’ve been to high tea in both British and Russian traditions, indulged in day-long brewed spiced chai, had Morroccan Rose tea and even been to a traditional Tibetan meal with butter tea. If my tea leaves are read right I will be in Japan for my first sacred tea ceremony come this October! What a better way to energize or relax, depending. The exciting thing about this field of fragrances is that these are celebrated worldwide in such various ways, as they are in these scents. I hope you enjoy this collection, we hope one of these ten perfumes may just be your cuppa. There’s much to cover here (and much I wish I had samplings of to share) so let’s get to getting…..

Caffeine Poisoning (Sucreabeille, USA, EDP): This is oddly like the residue left on your clothing from a trip to a cafe, that lingering smudgy roasted scent that looms long after you’ve indulged. And yet it’s also animalic and slightly fruity. I didn’t really understand the fruity essence of coffee until rather recently when I received a good quality grinder/maker as a gift and decided to branch out and try new single origins and rare roasts. This blends coffee, dark tea leaves, hints of powdery chocolate and some Chinese cinnamon with a swelling smoke provided by agarwood. This captures that rush you get from entering a bistro or coffee shop, the good and bad (pissy/sludgy), the fresh and the ‘afterglow’. It’s unusual, but it hits the spot during lockdown for sure, though the future may allow for a return to your favorite wifi nook to indulge in a divine espresso.

  • Nose: Andrea Fender (2020)
  • Rating: 81%

Notes: black teas, espresso, sweet mocha, coffee absolute, cassia, black oud

Crystal Moon (Maher Olfactive, USA, EDP): This contains a Ethiopian coffee bean extract which is known to be, as far as I know, a bit on the fruity/floral side, which blends well with a bit of softness provided from the lavender and daffodil. This has a green leafy feel to it as well as a bit of plastic quality, maybe referring to one of those foam or wax-lined takeout cups? It does have a peppery feel, likely provided by the paper-thinnest of wood shavings. The resinous quality is also unusual, it’s less dark and ooey gooey and instead is more like an amber wildflower honey, but one that has an organic raw essence. The name of the fragrance bodes well for the transparent-ness this provides. It’s a bit of olfactory theater, like a haze of tiny particles suspended in time.

  • Nose: Shawn Maher (2020)
  • Rating: 82%

Notes: Osmanthus absolute, lavender flowers, jonquil absolute, Yirgacheffe coffee tincture, raspberry, hinoki, juniper, Peru balsam, dried fruit, amber resin

De Toma à Zouma (Motif Olfactif, USA, EDP): This just happens to be my absolute favorite fragrance from this up-n-coming artistic house. It’s not at all what you might expect at first glance of its notes, it’s much more. It comes off like a pungent spice cabinet of rare treasures at first, but then you begin to understand the nuanced undulations between raw coffee beans just ground, all that bitterness and the overall organic flow and process that goes into making an exceptional (and exotic) cup. A fragrance for those looking for something quite different – one that walks the edge between spice and the unknown. It’s got a pleasant earthy side, and a complex, evolving structure. The spice that rises highest is a green cardamom which happens to be one of my favorite smells on earth, invigorating when you want it to be and incredibly calming at times. This, for me, centers the perfume and trips it from being what may be easily referred to as a gourmand, and sure it has some of those characteristics – but think more ancient Middle Eastern spice trader. There is a twist of vanilla and chocolate, richly blended, powdery, into the other accords. This is done in such a way that it keeps you guessing – and the overall effect has this delightful pop of color, a spectrum of warm tones. So rare!

  • Nose: Oswald Pare (2019)
  • Rating: 92%

Notes: coffee, cardamom, cocoa, vanilla, tonka bean, benzoin, nutmeg, cedar

Earl Grey Tea (Demeter Fragrance Library, USA, EDC): So fresh from instant atomization to the nose. I do not get the ‘expected’ or typical blast of bergamot-induced Earl Grey, rather the lighter side of this pungent citrus. I so appreciate the wisp of freshness, and this essence of real open air cleanliness. It’s the lightest spirit of an angelic glow, and I can see why it’s been around now for twenty-five years! It’s lovely, it’s intimate, but it will not suffice those who require a big sillage plume, nah ah, no way. But for those who like a soft purr, this will more than suffice. Maybe it would be great as a layered fragrance to add a little extra to a citrus that needs a slight jolt, or spray it on a pillow before bed! And it’s an EDC, so it is supposed to be a bit faded in composition. This may not last long, but it has a certain grace that is attractive. So, if you want a watery and light citrus that has all those gentle tea-like spirits, try it on, it’s affordable and will offer a little light in your life, and some calm to the overly urban among us!

  • Nose: Christopher Brosius (1996)
  • Rating: 80%

Notes: bergamot, black tea

Gunpowder Cologne (Urban Scents, Germany, EDT): Warm and cool, green and emboldened by the beauty of bergamot. A fresh green scent with a softened woody hue that has a golden warmth at the base. The coloration seems to shift like a clear day with just a few clouds that shield and reveal the sun in time-lapse. There’s a hint of herbaceousness at the core and that soothing green tea note that is so hard to really capture, unless you are an afficiando who has tried some of the finer Japanese ground powders. The greenness is lucid and vegetal, not bitter or too grassy. At the heart you have a lovely, enduring aroma, a soft and silky musk of tea notes and faded yet lingering citrus. This is one of those fragrances for deeper introspection.

  • Nose: Marie Le Febvre (2016)
  • Rating: 86%

Notes: green tea, Italian bergamot essence, lavender, wooden notes, velvet musk

Hafez 1984 Intense (Alexandria Fragrances, USA, Parfum Extract): A welcome switch in energy. This perfume is a boost of the spirits with a hearty balance between a deep honeyed tobacco and a stellar oud accord that is drenched in rich warm roasted coffee and buttery leather. It’s a sensual combination, really. This reminds me of something from the house of Xerjoff, just with a bit of a fizzy lift! It feels as though root beer and fresh air has been pumped into this making all the other yummy notes crystal clear. The warmer it gets the more present the double dose of tonka/vanilla bean become. This is a celebration of the two beans that taste even better together (choco-nilla)! This is gourmand on one side of the brain, and gentlemanly on the other, but it has a tendency to bend toward the risque, and we could all use a little of that in our lives right about now. 😉 A sensuous, epicurean indulgence. Gorgeous!

  • Nose: Hany Hafez (2019)
  • Rating: 90%

Notes: Oud, Coffee, Leather, Saffron, Jasmine, Tonka Bean, Vanille, Sandalwood

Hothouse Flower (Ineke, USA, EDP): At first it’s a trickle down of green leaves and trees and flowers. But there’s quite a bit going on in this complex perfume. There’s nothing else like this unique work, it brings together a medium warm glow with an aromatic, somewhat organic feel with what seems like the thinnest waxy film, like that on the outer cellular surface of many shiny leaves, it’s an interesting accord that puts you immediately in a lush garden at the height of Spring. If you enjoy fig, well Hothouse Flower provides the greener side of the fruit, not overly sweet, but not quite bitter, more contemplative. There are tea-like essences, perhaps a twist of green citrus as well. This is not showy, its like a dreamcatcher in a light breeze, while still serving sillage. When I first smelled this I had this to say: “Something completely new to my nose here. Its got warm and cool notes – a touch on incense, and spice. It’s semi-sweet with a dry finish. There are florals but this is a unique blend that brings the forest, and all its wonder. This is subtle with a side of mystery…” My opinion has evolved, as this fragrance does on your skin.

  • Nose: Ineke Ruhland (2012)
  • Rating: 84%

Notes: Earl Grey Tea, Green Foliage, Cypress, Gardenia, Galbanum, Fig, Frankincense, Guaiacwood, Musk, Corn Silk

Intense Cafe (Montale, France, EDP): Sometimes this house is a bit too strong for my taste in perfume, however, this one is done, well, just right! It’s a floral-scented coffee perfume (with a capital ‘P’). A sophisticated flight of fancy that takes you from the coffee bars to the discoteca without batting an eyelash. Actually, it does bat its extended lashes to show off its big brown eyes that are enriched with a sweet coffee elixir (reminds me of being steeped in condensed milk), mixed and matched with rose no less! Honestly I had no idea how the two would meet in the middle, I know rose tea is quite nice, but this blend is twice so and then some). The musky amber base helps a lot to boost this up, and my guess is this will appeal to a huge cross section of wearers as it is fully gender neutral in the best possible way, not ambiguous, not androgynous, just open to interpretation and expectation. It’s got both a warm and a sheer side making for something quite marvelous.

  • Nose: Pierre Montale (2013)
  • Rating: 89%

Notes: Floral Notes, Rose, Coffee, Vanilla, Amber, White Musk

Remember Me (Jovoy, France, EDP): Lighter than air, fresher than a Summer breeze, or equivalent thereof – with that twist of bergamot. This is bright, lush, creamy and delicate. It’s like sitting down for a spot of tea, really sitting down to relax and concentrate on a sense of stillness, on the tiny pleasures life may offer. In one breath I get some kind of vanilla custard, in another its flowery spices with that citrus boost. But this perfume is incredibly laidback for the most part, maybe it reminds me of a big slice of lemon icebox pie with a heaping dollop of sweet whipped cream. Maybe. Or am I only dreaming? The spice is uber soft, streamline, offering time for pondering the moment. A bed of silk florals to recline upon and pie in the sky. Tranquil and light-filled.

  • Nose: Cecile Zarokian (2018)
  • Rating: 83%

Notes: Bergamot, Cardamom, Lemon, Frangipani Tree, Ginger, Tea, Wood, Cedarwood, Milk, Vanilla

Tea & Rock ‘n‘ Roll (Voyages Imaginaires, France, EDP): Oh yes, this is a blast of ripe, bold citrus and the South American caffeinated staple, Maté! It’s alive with a lemongrassy outdoors spirit. It’s fully herby and quizical. It sort of reminds me of keeping the mosquito population at bay in the heat of Summer with citronella. That and the base warmth that blends a smooth, stretched leather accord doused in a vanilla-like breath. The bright tea perfume that will open your eyes wide, and then sooth with its honey-ish glaze. This is an intriguing one that makes it hard not to go back for another deep whiff. A very contemporary fresh take on how the tiny lil’ leaves can be infused into something easily taken with you wherever you go. This is more of a rouser than others in this spotlight – so if you want to pop the top and go go go, try this on for size, you’re going to need a bigger travel mug!

  • Nose: Camille Goutal, Isabelle Doyen (2020)
  • Rating: 85%

Notes: Bergamot, Maté, Lime, Leather, Tonka bean

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