One Thousand Scents

Sunday, June 22, 2008

30 Demeters in 30 Days: Day 22, Earl Grey Tea

It's a basic principle of perfumery. Fragrance molecules have different molecular weights which govern the rate at which they evaporate, and lightweight molecules are going to fly off the skin quickly, while heavy ones are going to stick around for a long time. Imagine little puddles of butane, lemonade, and mineral oil: one of them is going to be gone in a matter of minutes, one will last maybe a few hours, and one will be there for weeks or more.

In a cup of Earl Grey tea, there are zillions of molecules (no, I'm not going to calculate the exact number), a fair number of which are the aromatic components that give the tea its characteristic scent; even though some of them are evaporating at a rapid pace, there are so many that the tea retains its aroma for quite a while.

In a spritz of an Earl Grey tea fragrance, though, there's only so much room for aromatic molecules, and once they've evaporated, that component of the scent is gone.

All of this is just a preamble to my telling you that Demeter's Earl Grey Tea fragrance is entirely accurate, a marvelous simulacrum of the real thing, for about five seconds, no more. Then the bergamot--the citrus fruit that gives the tea its characteristic brilliant zing--is gone, a victim, like all citrus notes, of light weight and rapid evaporation, and what's left is not unpleasant but certainly nothing like a cup of Earl Grey. Even the black-tea scent is muted; the whole thing turns into a sort of a cologne, with oddments of scents, but nothing coherent and obviously nothing like a cuppa.

If it's worth it to you to smell like Earl Grey tea for a matter of seconds, or if you want a cologne with the top note of the tea, then this is just the thing. If you want to smell like Earl Grey for any length of time, you're out of luck.

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