Sunday, December 29, 2013

sherapop's Best of 2013: Betting on the Long Shots!!!!!

While perusing the spate of perfume blog posts entitled "The Best of 2013," I was struck by the convergence of the results. Some combination of a small cluster of perfumes seemed to be showing up over and over again. And yet, I had never had the good fortune of sniffing any one of them! And yet, I review a perfume nearly every single day. I began to worry that there might be a conspiracy in play. So many perfume bloggers converging on so few perfumes? How, pray tell, could this be? 

In my quest to get to the bottom of this mystery, I visited the Parfumo database, where I learned that, lo, there were 2,397 perfumes launched (to date) in 2013! Something very fishy does indeed seem to be going on here... Is it perhaps true, as I have long suspected, that perfume bloggers really do form a cloister of sorts, a small group of self-selected people all of whom test the very same perfumes--and agree upon their worth?! 

We live in the twenty-first century, the epoch of the internet, the age of the democratization of everything, and yet this pernicious holdout to oligarchic days remains unchanged. To counter this nefarious vestige of benighted times, I hereby offer sherapop's Best of 2013, featuring an array of perfumes unlikely to be celebrated by any other perfume blogger on planet earth--or beyond.

Bucking the trend, I'm betting on what you may regard as the long shots, but I'm sure that, on reflection, you'll wholeheartedly agree that these fragrances are much, much more likely to have an impact on the future of the industry and the perfume world beyond the blogosphere than are the "Best of 2013" bloggers' chosen few!

The envelope please ... and the winners are, in no particular order:

Escada Cherry in the Air

Katy Perry Killer Queen

Diesel Loverdose Tattoo

Kenzo Flower in the Air

Lanvin ME

Guess Girl Guess

One Direction Our Moment

Nicki Minaj Minajesti

Justin Bieber The Key

Pink Sugar Aquolina
Simply Pink

Repetto Repetto

Playboy Play It Pin Up

Moschino Forever

Victoria's Secret Bombshell Forever 

Heidi Klum Surprise

Christina Aguilera Unforgettable

Mark my words: these creations, my fragrant friends, not the haute niche decants of your best blogging buddies (BBBs), will set the tone for the future of perfumery. Stay tuned... Or not! 

Happy New Year!
Best Wishes for 2014!

Monday, December 23, 2013

In Praise of Natural Stuff: Wherein the Flagrant Lies of the IFRA are Exposed

The twenty-first century has seen a massive increase in the power and wealth of chemical companies, especially the big pharmaceutical firms. The proportion of Americans who now dose themselves with "medications" for "ailments" such as anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and depression doubled over the course of only a few years. Somewhat remarkably, many parents are now medicating their children, though their brains are obviously in the process of developing—or not.

This will come as a surprise to many, but during the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, about 20% of active-duty U.S. soldiers were prescribed (by military physicians) drugs such as Seroquel and many other medications whose primary clinical application is to treat psychosis. Record numbers and percentages of the veterans of the recent U.S. wars have taken their own lives. Is there a connection? Do soldiers sometimes awaken from their artificially induced state of apparent equanimity to discover that they have committed unforgiveable acts? Or perhaps they can no long bear the memories of what they have seen?

One thing is clear: pharmaceuticals are being prescribed more and more in lieu of "talk therapy," and conditions such as attention deficit disorder (ADD) are being diagnosed much more frequently than ever before. A skeptic might reasonably ask whether the advent of the internet is not itself a primary cause of what may appear to be ADD but in fact is a part of the structure of social life in the twenty-first century.

Persons plied with Prozac and the many other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) being pushed by their doctors (who often have financial incentives from the pharma firms for doing so) may not care that they are being drugged into conformity. Indeed, they will gladly swallow another pill if any inchoate questions threaten to erupt in their mind. But is this a form of happiness? Or is it just a short-lived escape? Will these people one day awaken to discover that in their quest to "Don't worry, be happy," they have squandered their lives away?

I believe that SSRI bliss is not genuine happiness, because it is not a form of flourishing but an evasion of the human condition. Popping pills induces a sort of stupor, serving the primary function of squelching criticism of the source of discontent. It also suppresses social criticism and artistic creativity. Why do anything, when you can simply cop a buzz instead—and do so legally, with the blessing of your physician?! The last time I had a physical examination, I was given a questionnaire with a battery of queries about my state of satisfaction with my life. I presume that had I expressed dissatisfaction, I would have been offered a pharmaceutical “solution” to my “psychological troubles”. Fortunately, I did not mention to my doctor that I enjoy the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky.

This will seem a stretch to some, but I honestly wonder whether an analogous process might not also be underway in the realm of perfume. We are told by the IFRA that a wide range of natural materials used for thousands of years in the production of perfumes are suddenly "dangerous". They cause varieties of dermatitis—above all, skin contact allergies—and for this reason, the suddenly “evil” substances are being purged from perfume. In their place, "safe" aromachemicals are being used.

The specious reasoning behind this entire pretext for what is diaphanously a ploy to maximize the profit of the ever-expanding multi-conglomerate corporations now controlling most of the formerly independent design houses is so patently fallacious, that it is in some ways difficult to believe that apparently intelligent spokespersons for the IFRA and the big houses can promulgate this charade with a straight face.

If Guerlain Mitsouko was mangled by the “need” to adhere to the new IFRA restrictions, we can now rejoice, some say, that the once-great perfume has been largely restored to its former glory through the ingenious use by Thierry Wasser of a "new molecule" which mimics the precious properties of the original masterpiece while avoiding all of the alleged dangers which led to reformulation in the first place. Huh.

Pierre François-Pascal Guerlain

I, for one, don't buy it, and I know that others do not either. We ask, first, whether these newfangled molecules are really just as good as the natural stuff for which they are said (by their promoters) to serve as surrogates. Single molecules are simple; natural substances are complex and may comprise hundreds of molecules. Second, we ask why in the world we should believe that these surrogates are safe for us at all. New molecules are new. Yes, that's a tautology, but the implications, as far as human health are concerned, are wide-ranging and easy to deduce.

Anyone who has lived long enough to see a couple cycles of the artificial sweeteners—first there were Cyclamates, then Saccharin, then Nutrasweet (aspartame), and now we have the repulsive (to me) Sucralose—is well aware that at their inception the molecules are invariably hailed as "the answer". Cyclamates were demonstrated to be carcinogenic, so Saccharin was substituted in place.

Then Saccharin was found to be dangerous, but synthetic organic chemists had another new "miracle molecule", aspartame, waiting in the wings to fill the void. (Dare I point out that official denunications of the "suddenly hazardous for your health" penultimate synthetic solution never seem to be articulated until a surrogate is ready to launch?) Sure, if you happened to be phenylketonuric, you'd die if you consumed the stuff, but the chance of that happening could be minimized through rigorous FDA-enforced labeling. 

Only later, after the market was awash in Nutrasweet did people start to question the safety of a substance which can induce severe headaches—and much worse in those who consume diet sodas in copious volumes. (One of the breakdown products of this dipeptide is formaldehyde. That's right, as in: used to preserve organs in jars and to fix cadavers.)

No matter: now that Nutrasweet has fallen out of favor we have Sucralose! As sweet, it seems, as licorice root—only a lot less expensive, because it's synthetic, and a lot more neutral, because it's ... abstract! Sucralose is being overdosed in nearly every product in which it appears, leading consumers to believe that their drinks should really be considerably sweeter than ordinary sugar-sweetened drinks. Some who are turned off by the cloying quality have turned to Stevia and other "natural" artificial sweeteners—not a contradiction in terms! There have been critical studies about testicles and Stevia, but, whatever: pass the Prozac and Carpe Diem!

So what's my point? Let's connect the dots. Artificial sweeteners have always been used to replace sugar in products, but mostly drinks. That's right: liquids which people imbibe. It's supposed to be a good deal: one drinks “the same” Coca-Cola, but without cutting into one's recommended daily allowance (RDA) of calories at all. Sure, some people drink diet Coke as they eat candy bars, but that just means that they get to eat more candy! It seems like a great deal, in the short term. Will it be later on down the line?

I believe that the same questions must be entertained by any rational perfume user today. The more abstract perfume becomes, the less confidence one should have in the claims being made by chemical industry advocates—including the IFRA—that these newfangled molecules are better than the real thing. Just as persons who attempt after years to wean themselves off pharmaceutical crutches which they never really needed in the first place may face even worse problems engendered by their very addiction, we should expect that at some point in the future, at least some of these "miracle molecules" being used in perfumery to replace substances which were worn happily and safely by countless people since time immemorial will prove to have much worse effects on the human body than those which they were ostensibly designed to circumvent.

Key word: ostensibly. In truth, I believe, the health pretext is a big fat lie. We live in a liberal society where people are allowed to choose their poisons in nearly every other realm. Does it make any sense, really, that patent paternalism should have infected perfumery but without any federal regulation at all? We are told by the very people attempting to fob off aromachemicals in place of natural substances that the natural substances are dangerous, and the new molecules are safe.

The only reasonable response to such sophistry is for true perfumers to revolt. Those consumers who have recognized the contours of this veil of lies will unite in solidarity with you. We shall stand by your side and continue to buy your wares.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Critical Notice: Maison Guerlain, Cinquième Génération

Last week, on December 14, 2013, TV3 aired a fifty-two minute documentary on the house of Guerlain which will surely be of interest to all francophone perfume lovers. The short film, directed by Geneviève Vaudran, traces the early history of the house of Guerlain and offers glimpses into many aspects of the recent changes as well. Among the highlights are:

  • Thierry Wasser is featured in many scenes and at one point toes the IFRA line, reporting that rose, ylang-ylang and jasmine may be hazardous to your health--not only allergenic, but ... carcinogenic!
  • At a dinner out with Wasser, Alberto Morillas corrects Jacques Cavallier's characterization of the three men as "artists", saying that in fact they are "artisans".
  • Several attractive celebrities, including Jade Jagger (Why? you may ask) share their early encounters with perfume.
  • According to Guerlain, the first truly modern perfume was not Chanel no 5 (for its aldehydes), but Jicky, for its coumarin! 
  • The house of Guerlain version of the story of post-World War II G.I.s on the Champs-Elysées: they were lined up to buy ... L'Heure Bleue
  • Soap (glorious soap!) was an important part of the early house of Guerlain output.
  • A brief treatment of the "racist slur scandal" involving Jean-Paul Guerlain (when he said he worked "comme un nègre" [like a nigger]".
  • But the man has a heart: JPG is brought to tears as he reminisces about his father.
  • An acknowledgement that some believe that the second rupture (beyond the end of the family line represented by the appointment of Wasser as head perfumer), the acquisition of Guerlain by LVMH, has caused the illustrious house to lose its "soul". Others are said to regard the acquisition as an opportunity for change. (I think that you know my view...)
  • In the history of perfumery according to Guerlain, Gabriel was more important than  Gabrielle!

All of this and more awaits anyone fluent in French (there are no subtitles). For others, the images (and sweet sonority of the French language) may be worth your time as well... Here is a link:

Thursday, December 12, 2013

When Tea Is Not Tea But A Panacea--and a Perfume!

A variety of herbal infusions have been devised over millennia by human beings attempting to contend with all sorts of medical conditions. Ever had some tummy rumblings? How about a sore throat? Occasional insomnia, anyone? It turns out that substances to address all of these problems simultaneously have been rolled into a single delicious place: Tazo Settle. Here are the ingredients listed on the back of this gleaming silver envelope:

Ginger Root
Orange Peel
Green Rooibos
Lemon Verbena
Licorice Root
Natural Flavors
Orange Oil
Lemon Essence Oil

All of the ingredients are organically grown, and my first question is: who in the world dreamt this stuff up? Green rooibos? What? Have I ever encountered that before?  As an avid fan of ginger tea and really all things ginger, this very gingery composition laced with sweet licorice root and a soft chamomile accent really hits the spot. But wait: there's more. Organic Tazo Settle, believe it or not, has a distinct development trajectory, just like a bona fide perfume!

The "opening," if you will, the trail of the dried chunks of stuff, smells almost like fruitcake. The orange rind is quite dominant, and as it mingles with the ginger and fennel, my mind naturally floats away to memories of Christmastime.

As soon as hot water is poured into the brewing vessel, the ethereal scent of chamomile is released, and it is much stronger at this stage than either the orange rind or the ginger.

Once the infusion process is complete, the honey-colored liquid has a richness characteristic of licorice root infusions. It's thick and sweet--perhaps the most miraculous zero calorie sweetener on the earth--or beyond!

The taste surpasses that of the best ginger brews--both beers and teas!--and the glorious scent only enhances the flavor as the liquid passes one's lips to its ultimate destination: to serve as a panacea. An amazing olfactory creation, under the guise of a lowly beverage! 

I have been storming through my 4 ounce package of this delicious and truly satisfying ginger-centric herbal composition, first and foremost, because it tastes so great. I have not really been drinking this elixir to combat stomach troubles, flu symptoms, or insomnia. Perhaps drinking three large cups of this stuff every night has staved off all of those ailments? I don't know, but I have been feeling fairly healthy of late.

Another unclaimed benefit of this herbal blend--for me, if for no one else--is that it raises all sorts of questions in my mind about the alleged distinction between tea and perfume composition. Just think for a moment about  the beautiful bounty of natural substances rolled together to produce this lip-smacking cure-all. Someone somewhere (probably in Seattle) thought this creation through, and tested it, and retested it, and modified the proportions over and over again until just the right combination was achieved. How different is this process, really, from the composition of a fine perfume?

There are other questions to contemplate as well. Here, in the case of Tazo Settle, an anonymous creator--or, more likely, a group of creators--designed a substance to be imbibed by consumers. There, in the case of a famous perfume, a usually anonymous but sometimes named creator--or, more likely, a group of creators--designed a substance to be worn by consumers directly on their skin. 

We are ingesting these substances, people. These are not paintings on a wall. These are products to be consumed. Why do perfumistas get so hot and bothered when people think of perfume as a toiletry, yet no sane person in the universe, in all of space and time, is screaming out in rage about the refusal of people to give credit where credit is clearly due in the case of this golden brew????????

I anxiously await your replies to these impolitic provocations, my fragrant friends and fellow tea lovers!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Quick Sip and Sniff: Yogi Green Tea SUPER Anti-oxidant

Here we have another case where a green tea comes labeled with prominent attention drawn to its health benefits. The first line of the text reads simply Green Tea. The second reads, in all caps, SUPER, and the third line reads Anti-Oxidant in a larger font than even the name of the type of tea! 

All of this makes sense coming from the Yogi Tea company, because they are all about health benefits and offer a wide range of products intended to ameliorate every woe known to humankind. Their priority to health-related matters is demonstrated by the very fact that they assay everything, so that the consumer knows precisely the amount of caffeine in a bag of this tea: 19mg. Most tea companies do not take the trouble to do this, because it is difficult, time-consuming, and no doubt expensive to maintain a precise and consistent caffeine level in tea. Batch variations, anyone? These are natural substances, let us not forget!

I have had mixed experiences with Yogi, probably because they are more interested in health than in tea, with the result that some of their salubrious blends strike me as a bit lopsided in terms of flavor, especially the ones in which heavy spices such as clove loom large. This particular brew is a dark golden color, veering toward brown, so it definitely is not a sencha-style tea--but Yogi never claimed that it was, and they are very good about accounting for the ingredients in their products.

In this case, it's quite clear that not only is the tea blend of a variety of green teas probably sourced from China, but some flavorings have been thrown in as well. I no longer have the box in which this bag was packaged, and the ingredients are not written on the bag, but I detect lemongrass and probably a smidgeon of jasmine in this blend. There is also a slight sweetness here. In fact, let's just find out what precisely these flavorings are! Back in a jiffy...

Here they are, straight from a fact-finding mission to the Yogi Tea website, the ingredients in Green Tea SUPER Anti-Oxidant:

  • Lemongrass
  • Green Tea Leaf
  • Licorice Root
  • Jasmine Green Tea Leaf
  • Alfalfa Leaf
  • Burdock Root
  • Dandelion Root
  • Grapeseed Extract
  • Irish Moss Powder
  • Amla Fruit Extract 

Well, I have to say that I would never have guessed most of those, but the jasmine and the lemongrass were unmistakeable to my nose. I am reminded by this little foray of perfume note pyramids, which often list items completely undetectable as separate substances!

All in all, this is a drinkable blend, but it does not satisfy my sencha cravings at all. (I ran out of Stash Premium Green yesterday!) Nonetheless, if I drink a cup of Yogi Green Tea SUPER Anti-Oxidant and evaluate it on its own terms, for what it truly is, among other things, NOT a sencha-style tea but an herbal-laced blend, then I find it to be a perfectly acceptable cup of medium-grade green tea embellished with a complex assortment of flavors. This is definitely better than the low-grade grocery store blends, but it has been adulterated for a reason: to smooth out the rough edges of the tea.

Teabag rating: 6/10

Monday, December 9, 2013

Tea Time: Neither Black Nor Green, But Tea All The Same!

White tea is something of an anomaly. The dried leaves can be green just like regular green tea, but the caffeine level rivals that of stout black teas, in my experience. The tea is lightly processed and said to contain more antioxidants than other varieties. The brewed beverage has a rather faint color, relative to green and black teas of any kind. 

My experience with white tea has been limited, and restricted to flavored white teas. Partly this has to do with the simple fact that white tea only made an appearance on the scene in the late nineteenth century, unlike other varieties of tea, which have been around for millennia! 

I have enjoyed all of the types of white tea I've tried up to now, and have noticed that I never have any desire to add adulterants, which is always a good sign, as Jalé mentioned recently in a comment about fine green teas. It's the flavor of the tea itself which makes the cup enjoyable, not the extras thrown in. It may be that people are accustomed to serving and drinking most teas with lemon or cream and sugar because such measures have been necessary to render the liquid potable. Not so with white tea!

I do not have any examples of straight-up, unflavored white tea on hand, but I recently happened upon this lovely specimen, Tazo Berryblossom White, which features white tea leaves laced with huckleberry and cranberry flavor. That may sound like the liquid should be red, but this is not a rich elixir composed of literal pieces of dark red fruit, à la Rote Grütze. Here we have only a soupçon of fruitiness, the intention obviously being to allow the tea flavor itself to shine through. White tea is light and refreshing like sencha, and also very smooth, but not at all vegetal. The natural berry flavoring in this case is quite subtle--so much so that I would never have guessed which fruits were implicated. Yet the tea is delicious!

As you can see in the above images of Berryblossom White in the process of brewing, this is a whole leaf tea--no dusty lint in this snazzy package:

There is quite a lot of caffeine, however, which makes this an early afternoon-only tea for me. My experience suggests that white tea may contain even more caffeine than black! I was very surprised at this discovery, because it seems logical that a dark Assam would be more laden with caffeine than a light wispy white tea. Doesn't Assam look a lot more like ... coffee?

White tea is bound to appeal to those who like Darjeeling and oolong teas, which are also on the lighter side (though not as light as this) and best imbibed without cream, in my opinion. I cannot really imagine adding anything to this particular brew, which is perfectly composed. The flavor is very appealing, as is the scent. The dried leaves offer a gentle fruitiness mingling with the parfum characteristic of flavored black teas.

Now it's your turn: please share your experiences with white tea!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Quick Sip and Sniff: Harney & Sons Japanese Sencha

The subtitle of Harney & Sons Japanese Sencha (indicated on the bag envelope) is "nourishing green tea". That must be included for those who do not appreciate the taste of sencha and need some inducement to finish their cup--for this is indeed sencha, yes it is. It's also telling that they identify the tea as "Japanese" Sencha. I do not believe that they are doing this for connoisseurs (who would be aware that there is such a thing as Chinese Sencha); it seems rather to be an attempt to educate the Lipton tea-swilling masses.

One look at the color of the brewed tea, and the Japanese origin of this tea is immediately confirmed:

The scent of the bag is unmistakeably that of sencha, as is the gorgeously hued brew. Unlike "anonymous" green teas, sencha does not smell like dried grass clippings or dusty herbs; it smells like sencha, a clean and limpid vegetal scent. If you like sencha, you will in all likelihood imbibe this cup happily. 

Harney & Sons' subtle sencha brews up light, clean, and refreshing, with no bitterness whatsoever. This tea is similar to hotel-staple sencha tea bags in Japan, albeit slightly weaker and not quite as crisp. Still I found this to be a satisfying cup for the early afternoon.

Teabag Rating: 8/10

Friday, December 6, 2013

Tea Time: Magical Matcha

Americans are not generally speaking very sophisticated tea drinkers, but matcha, a finely powdered, high-quality tea from Japan, has achieved something of a small cult following as a result of its successful marketing by a number of widely franchised companies, including both Jamba Juice and Starbucks. For those unfamiliar with matcha, the best analogy to something in your experience may be this:

matcha: green tea :: expresso: coffee

Intense, concentrated, bitter, slightly medicinal in flavor, both matcha and expresso have an immediate effect on the drinker because they pack so much into such a tiny volume. I am not a regular matcha drinker, but I do appreciate matcha as a means of amping up the flavor, texture and, of course, caffeine of green tea. 

Today's brew is just such a matcha-infused tea, coming from Muzi:

Muzi is already a high-quality, organic sencha tea (not a blend), but this particular batch has been dusted with matcha as well. My first matcha-dusted tea experience came by way of Stash, perhaps unsurprisingly. For a while, their matcha-dusted Premium Green was my go-to green tea. Unfortunately, they appear to have ceased production of that splendid blend, as it is not available anywhere--not even at Amazon, where I used to buy boxes of 100 bags (which generally last me a month or two). 

The problem, I believe, is that true matcha comes always from Japan, and there have been lots of issues with products coming directly from that lovely archipelago since the tragic nuclear power plant accident at Fukushima on March 11, 2011. Many consumers have been paranoid about radiation of anything being produced in Japan since then, and I confess that I was too, which is why I called the Stash company to ask whether their Premium Green was affected. They assuaged my worries by revealing that for a while now they have been sourcing their green tea from Brazil. So that was good in one way (though we naturally prefer Japanese Japanese products!!!!), but the matcha was still being sourced from Japan, so it may be that it became prohibitively expensive or difficult. I know that companies continue to subject their products to rigorous radiation testing, and all of that has got to take a toll. Stash probably just decided that it wasn't worth it.

What to do? Well, it turns out that I happen to have a decent supply of matcha on hand:

A while ago, when I started to realize the potential for matcha--not only for dusting medium-grade tea, but also for cooking--I bought a couple of large bags of the silken peridot green powder. I store it in airtight jars (such as the one above), and it holds up well. 

Matcha has a bitter, alkaloid taste similar to cocaine or Vicodin. (Yeah, I know what they taste like.) But it makes a fantastic flavoring for ice cream (which you'll know, if you've ever experienced green tea ice cream at a Japanese restaurant), and also for baked goods. Basically, you can turn any humdrum recipe for vanilla or sugar what-not into a matcha masterpiece by simply throwing in a spoon or two of the magical powder. Major yum.

I bought two bags of matcha powder. One is "culinary grade"; the other is "drinking grade", which is more expensive and produced under very rigid conditions, because it is consumed directly, with no filtering, by "whiskers". I don't produce matcha that way, with a whisk and a bowl. I only use it to improve the taste of other teas, and I have found that the culinary grade works perfectly fine for my tea infusions. (Matcha snobs may snicker, but it's simply the truth.) 

Once again, on reflection, I realize that when I told Jalé the other day (on Facebook), that I do not mix my own blends of tea, I was wrong! In fact, I was also wrong when I claimed that I never add anything to sencha. I add matcha! I was thinking of course about "condiments" such as sugar and cream and lemon, added to brewed tea. Matcha, in contrast, I mix into the dried tea before brewing. With the following effect:

As you can see, the tea is thick and brothy as a result of the matcha. I also use a medium-grained mini-colander-type strainer, which lets the smaller particles through:

This means that the tea which I end up drinking is fairly opaque:

But it tastes delicious!!!! Maybe I am closer to the "whiskers" than I think, given that the small tea particles and matcha which pass easily through the filter ensure that my final beverage has quite a bit of oomph to it! One thing that this juice is not, however, is bitter. The intense bitterness of whisked matcha is not found in matcha-dusted sencha, in my experience. This method simply produces a good, hearty, broth-like brew. Perfect for cold winter days!!!!!

Kim mentioned in a comment on the previous (sencha) post that she starts the day with a green tea latte, and I have to say that I love that beverage, too! I accidentally began drinking green tea soy lattes when I purchased some Kikkoman green tea soy milk. It's basically indistinguishable from a prepared green tea soy latte. 

To my consternation, I recently learned that the matcha at Starbucks is a sweetened powder. I learned this the hard way, because when I ordered a green tea soy latte with half the syrup and double the matcha, it was still way too sweet for me. Upon Googling "Starbucks matcha powder", I learned that each scoop has 25 calories! Pure matcha powder has no or negligible calories, so I basically sabotaged my effort to reduce the sweetness level by doubling the matcha powder. (The issue for me was not calories, but sweetness...) Oh well, next time (if there is a next time for that drink...), I'll request ZERO syrup and a couple extra scoops of matcha and see how that goes...

Now it's your turn. Please share your matcha stories and experience!!!! As for me, I believe that it is time for another cup of matcha-dusted sencha...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tea Time: Let's Talk Sencha!

I feel obliged to begin the Tea Talks with the brew most often imbibed by me: Stash Premium Green. This is a sencha-style blend of green teas, which the Stash company originally sourced directly from Japan. However, several years ago, they set up an outpost in Brazil, and now the tea is produced there, though to my palate it is the same tea. I have easily ingested 1000+ cups of this simple, crisp and clean green tea. The big surprise is that most of the cups which I've consumed were brewed from ... drum roll: BAGS!

People who are really into tea tend to look down on bags, and I tend to agree. However, there are a few cases where bag tea has achieved the stratum of imperial craft, and sencha is probably the best developed tea bag in the universe because in Japan sencha is consumed more avidly even than water! Seriously, they serve sencha constantly. Every meeting, every meal, every pause, every talk, every event is accompanied by a fresh pot of sencha. In the hotel rooms, there is even a tea center every bit as obligatory as the writing table and the bathroom! The Japanese do not mess around when it comes to sencha, an essential part of Japanese life! Or should I say essenchal?

Yesterday, Jalé commented on Facebook that she found it odd that the British so often prepare tea from a bag, and I agree that most tea is better produced using loose leaves. In many cases, the improved brew is worth the pain of cleaning up the mess later. With well-dosed and produced sencha bags, however, the tea produced using the bag method is PERFECT. You cannot get any better than perfect, so why even try? 

Like the Japanese, I am a purist when it comes to sencha: nothing is better than sencha alone! No cream, no sugar, no honey, just pure clean, crisp, peridot-citrine colored sencha! Sencha has a delicious, almost food-like, slightly vegetal and nutty taste which should not be masked, and I never, ever add anything to it. There is something deeply satisfying about this tea, as though it were liquid food--or manna from heaven!

I like the double-walled Bodum glasses (pictured above), because they are cool to the touch but keep the brewed tea at the perfect temperature from the first sip to the final drop. The secret is the thick cushion of air between the two layers of glass, and I applaud (and am grateful to) the designer of these ingenious vessels! I am very picky about the temperature of hot drinks, and if my coffee or tea becomes a degree or two too cool, then I have to give it a zap in the microwave. (If that is not possible, then I toss it or else (if caffeine is the issue) guzzle it with some disgruntlement.) My preference is to drink tea at its optimum temperature over a few minutes, but sometimes I get distracted by this or that.

Sencha is a superb green tea, and judging by the amount I've consumed, it has to be one of my favorites. The Stash Premium Green teabags are foolproof for me and offer nearly instant gratification and happiness. I was thinking about the perfumes to which I'd compare this composition, and it would have to be these:

Do I believe that these are the best perfumes on the planet? No, I do not. But they are dependable, and never, ever let me down. I can wear them day or night, and even to bed, which is how I managed to drain the bottles! (Yes, I am working through backups of each...)

Now it's your turn: how do you feel about sencha? Are there any perfumes analogous to your sencha experience? Which drinking vessels do you use, if you drink sencha? Do you add milk, sugar, or other adulterants (in my view)? 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tea Time: Please Join Me For A Cup of Tea!

I begin each day with a triple (or is it quadruple?) expresso, followed by a large draught of ice-cold water. I do not eat any food before noon, at the earliest. Every afternoon I recaffeinate, in one way or another, and nearly every single day I drink tea, whether as a part of my caffeine regimen, or at night for the opposite "medical" effect.

Tea is a source of great comfort and joy to me, partly because of its exquisite scent. In fact, the range of tea scents rivals that of perfumes, though the former are not usually thought of as "composed". Teas are harvested and prepared, however, and the best teas are accorded every bit as much care as a well-composed perfume. 

For these reasons, I've decided to start a little tea corner here at the salon de parfum, a place where you can pull up a chair, take a look at what I've brewed up, and hopefully share whatever you may have enjoyed on that day. The festivities will begin tomorrow afternoon, but I wanted to give everyone a head's up.

I do hope that you'll join me at the salon de parfum's tea corner and bring your tea stories to share!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Grantville, USA, Part 3: "I'm Every Woman"

part 1 

part 2

Reflections of Kelly in

The Naked Kiss (1964)

a film by Samuel Fuller

There's a lot more going on in Grantville, USA, than a run-of-the-mill boy-meets-girl, boy-and-girl-fall-in-love, and boy-pops-the-question narrative, which we've all seen and read and heard about so many times, along with the all-too-predictable sequel a decade or two later on down the line: aging cad and hag file for divorce, go to the mat for custody of the kids and, above all, the manifold possessions acquired over the course of the spiraling vortex from bliss to hell that their marriage eventually became.

It turns out that Kelly, the former-bald-prostitute-turned-orthopaedic-nurse and blonde-haired central protagonist of our not-so-little tale, has a lot more to offer Grantville than simply the ability to make a husband of the town's heretofore most eligible bachelor, Mr. Grant.

When Kelly first arrived in Grantville, it was not immediately obvious what a female-rich environment the town really was, perhaps because so many loafing menfolk, including Captain Griff, seemed to be hanging out at the bus depot scoping out new prospects. Meanwhile the respectable womenfolk were all away tending to baby carriages, caring for sick children at the hospital, designing and producing wedding dresses, or purveying bons-bons to the well-off gents who left their wives in Grantville to make their way across the city limit line to Candy's place.

Like a Leibnizian monad, Kelly reflects and refracts all of the women of Grantville, USA, embodying their qualities, aspirations, dreams, and desires, in addition to having already surmounted the dilemmas and challenges which any one of them might ever face. Kelly is not only a lover and future wife. She is a sister, a daughter, a mother, and a confidante. All it takes is a pick and a hammer, or a bit of hermeneutic exegesis to crack open the Platonic Form of Female Geode which Kelly truly represents. 

Look closely at every child in every baby buggy in Grantville and you will find tiny images of Kelly reflected off their every cell. Kelly was born just such a little infant, with no character traits to speak of. Instead, she grew slowly over many years and was shaped by her environment along the way.

Kelly learned to play and smile and to trust adults who were her earliest and sole sources of a concept of morality.

By adolescence, Kelly may have had a fling or two and found out that she was no longer just a daughter but a potential mother as well.

Having achieved the freedom and independence of adulthood, Kelly may have succumbed to the temptations presented by the superficially glamorous world of wine, women, and song.

Kelly's one true love may have let her in the lurch--whether intentionally or not.

Career or Family? Kelly may have determined at some point that "You can't have it all."

Or perhaps Kelly, an intelligent woman, realized at some point that it was her particular choice of profession which precluded the possibility of a normal family life.

When Grant entered her life, Kelly's world seemed to transform from black to white overnight.

to be continued...

Note:Using the open source program AndreaMosaic, the above collages were built of combinations of 523 screen captures of Kelly taken from the film.