GRASSE, France — Less than an hour away from Nice, in the South of France, there is a small town that I call the “tea blenders’ paradise.” For us tea alchemists, the use of favouring is paramount to our tea creations, and Grasse is definitely the place to go for understanding and experiencing essences.
The city of Grasse is known worldwide as the “international capital of perfume” because since the Middle Ages the area has specialised in manufacturing essences for the food and perfume industry.
Aroma has always had an essential role in sensory compositions. Nowadays, we tea blenders, the new alchemists, are the ones who use them in our blends to give spirit, life and meaning to our creations.
Flavourings and aromatisers are called “essences.” But in perfumery, the word “scent” is used to define the smell of a plant, while “essential oil” is used to define the liquid extracted from that plant. Natural essences (essential oils) are extracted directly from different parts of plants: stems (e.g., cinnamon), leaves (e.g., mint), flowers (e.g., rose), roots (e.g., ginger), fruit (e.g., lemon) and seeds (e.g., cardamom). There are also artificial essences (synthesized substances) made in laboratories.
Essences are the building bricks we use, together with other ingredients, to flavour tea blends. Knowing how to use different scents is fundamental to achieving harmony in a blend. In consequence, it is necessary not only to know the smell of different essences, whether natural or synthetic, but also to be able to mix them together to create a new essence, a new aroma profile to give birth to an original tea blend.
With the appropriate use of essences, it is possible to generate sensations, arouse feelings and evoke memories by drinking a simple cup of tea. That is the greatest challenge for us tea blenders, and our passion.
Watch the video of Victoria Bisogno with blenders in Grasse, France