The popularity of artisanal coffees and teas has filtered into the perfume world, where consumers are snapping up scents with notes of lapsang souchong, Earl Grey and cappuccino.
“The coffee customer is one that wants a pronounced scent … something bold, but approachable, and the tea customer is one that seeks a lighter, fresher, laid-back approach to a scent,” says Franco Wright, co-founder of L.A.'s Scent Bar, a niche perfumery.
Tea hit the perfume spotlight most notably with L’Artisan’s smoky Tea for Two in 2000. When the company discontinued it, fans raised such a ruckus that it’s now back, competing with dozens of tea scents from budget-conscious Demeter to high-end Hermès, such as Osmanthe Yunnan.
Coffee woke up later, with Bond No. 9’s rich creamy dark brew New Haarlem in 2003, a nod to Manhattan’s coffee-drinking Dutch immigrants.
Says Wright: “The boom in gourmet coffee, fueled by micro roasters and the hip barista movement, created a subculture. As an ingredient, coffee crosses over into a familiar territory of consumption — cosmetic and fragrance. It brings a toasty, nutty, vibrant element … and complements florals, fruits and resins, making for a ‘sophisticated’ gourmand scent experience that isn’t cloying or overly sweet.”
Wright says a hot seller is Intense Cafe by Montale, which blends coffee with amber and vanilla. The store even offers a coffee and mint body wash.
As always, the trend started in the niche and indie perfume market, where perfumers hunt down intriguing new notes to work with, like South America’s yerba mate, whose leaves are steeped in tea. Ayala Moriel’s Gaucho, Lorenzo Villoresi’s Yerbamate and Annick Goutal’s Duel all feature this note. Indie online perfumers Ava Luxe and Dawn Spencer Hurwitz both offer perfumes called Cafe Noir and department store brands from Thierry Mugler to Jo Malone have also tried their hand with coffee and tea, respectively. Barney’s now produces a branded perfume called Barney’s Route du Thé.
At weekly perfume-making workshops hosted by L.A.'s Institute for Art and Olfaction, participants often ask for notes of cacao, coffee and black, green or camomile tea.
“Tea has so many aromatic components, it’s a real scentscape and people are drawn to it,” founder Saskia Wilson-Brown says.