A cup of roses

You probably know that baby wisdom. You should taste everything that attracts your attention. Especially if you think it’s beautiful. And when it comes to such a beautiful creation of nature as flowers, well… it’s difficult to resist temptation.

This childish instinct, a mixture or curiosity and inspiration, was tempting me while I was looking to the dried rose buds I bought for tincturing. Even dry they were still looking beautiful. So, I decided to make a tea from them. An Internet search delivered basic guidelines and I could start to experiment.

For a cup of a rose bud tea you need just two or three buds per cup (about 100 ml). You place them into a pre-warmed cup, pour over with boiled water (should be about 90 C) and draw for just two or three minutes (one or two minutes extra is not a problem at all). It’s better to cover a cup to keep the essential oils inside.
I decided not to take the rose buds away – they give a nice finishing touch to a very delicate fresh green colour of tea. They can give tea a bitter taste, but probably you finish your tea before the bitterness appears.

I was really surprised with a taste. It combines dry herbal note with rose and deep vibrant honey-like undertone (as you might know from the rose absolute). It’s not too rosy as I was afraid of and really delicate. To my taste I prefer it without sugar, but a little bit of honey might go pretty well with this tea.

Besides its delicate taste and amazing look this tea is very good to calm the nerves and even to relief headache. Rose has also been used as a remedy against hay fever and nasal catarrh.

Yesterday evening I tried a good synergy between rose and lavender. It was amazing to feel the effect of just a teaspoon of lavender blossoms and three rose buds. My head became calm, my eyes sleepy and I could easily fall asleep. Rose and lavender tea was a nice closing of the day. Now I understand a Dutch proverb “to sleep like a rose”…


The Rose is born...

This beautiful video is found on YouTube. Thanks to the user rulivede who has shared it there.

Everyone who has ever touched, seen or smelled a rose understands the divine nature of this flower. According to the Ancient Greek and Roman Myths the Rose was created by Chloris (Roman name Flora), the Goddess of spring, new growth and flowers, the wife of Western Wind Zephyrus. Once she was walking through her garden and suddenly came upon a lifeless corps of a beautiful nymph. Deeply touched by her beauty she decided to preserve it by turning the nymph into a flower. Chloris implored Aphrodite (Roman name Venus), the Goddess of Love and Beauty, for assistance. The Three Graces gave her allure, brilliance and elation. Dyonissus (Roman name Bacchus) gave her a drop of nectar to endue her with a wonderful fragrance. Zephyrus, the Western Wind blew the clouds away so that Apollo, the God of Sun could shine upon her. A beautiful rose came to blossom under the golden light of Apollo and was crowned with a diadem by Chloris to distinguish this most beautiful blossom, the Queen of Flowers.

Persians also recognized the divine origin of the Rose and believed it was a gift from Allah himself. From the times of Ancient Egypt Lotus was the King of the flowers. But he slept a lot neglecting his royal duties. All the flowers were complaining to Allah about this habit and asked to name another blossom for this position. The White Virgin Rose became the new Queen of Flowers. And to protect her Allah gave her the thorns.

Turkish legends have a different view on the origin of the Rose and believe that White Rose was born from the sweat drops of Mohammed during his night ascend of the sky.

The emergence of the Red rose in legends and myths are connected to the stories of pain, suffer and love.

Ancient Greek myths tell us that it was the blood of Aphrodite who turned the Roses red.

Persian legend says that the White Rose created by Allah was so beautiful that the nightingale felt in love to her from the first sight. Charmed by its beauty the nightingale embraced the flower so tightly that the thorns stabbed his heart and colored the rose petals with his blood. A beautiful Fairytale “The Nightingale and The Rose” is written by Oscar Wilde.

Well, if those stories of Red Rose made you a little sad, there is another version you might like. It says that Rose was presented to Eros (Roman name Cupid), the winged God of Love, by his mother Aphrodite. Being a playful child he spilled some wine on it and turned the Rose petals red.

And at the end I would reveal one more secret of this beautiful flower. Eros presented the Rose to Harpocrates, the Greek and Roman God of Secrecy and Silence. It was a bribe for not telling to Aphrodite, his mother, about the pranks of little troublemaker Eros. So the Rose became a symbol for confidentiality. And Romans believed that everything said under the Rose should remain a secret. Red roses often ornamented the houses also reminding the guests that everything said “sub vino” (under the influence of wine) is also said “sub rosa” (under the roses that means should be kept secret).


Orris root: the origin

In its encyclopaedia of raw materials Osmoz tells us that iris comes from Far East. But there is also a legend narrating that iris flowers were born from the rainbow shatters. That is why they are named “iris” that means “rainbow” in Greek. Could it be true? Well, one can easily figure this out by looking at the colorful petals of iris flower.

Next to the rainbow colored petals some of iris flowers are also delicately scented. But only a couple of about 250 species of Iris genus are highly valued in perfumery for their scented root (that is actually an underground rootlike stem properly called rhizome). This is so called Orris root – the name referred to the rhizome of either Iris pallida or Iris germanica. Some sources mention Iris florentina as well, but others insist that it’s a variety and not a specimen. Iris pallida is widely cultivated in Florence, Italy while Iris germanica is primarily grown in Marocco.

It takes three years till the rhizomes are ready to be harvested, but three years of waiting is not enough as fresh orris root is almost odourless. You can’t use it in perfumery yet. It takes another three years of aging in jute bags for the collected and peeled rhizomes until they become ripe and scented. So, it costs you six years of patience and intensive labor to get the precious root. And the cultivation of iris is really labor-intensive, because planting, weeding, harvesting and peeling – all those steps are done by hand. It’s not a surprise that good quality natural raw materials yielded from orris root are more expensive than gold.

The main constituent of orris root are irones, chemical compounds that are formed during the aging period from other compounds of Orris root. The content of irones is an index of quality exercising the influence on the price of Orris root. So called “1% irone index” determines the standard of quality. Unfortunately there is a lot of orris root on the market that doesn’t meet this standard. Anything what is labor-intensive and expensive is often a subject of cheating and adulteration. The proper aging procedures are often violated resulting in a poorer quality of Orris root. In its article “Orris: A star of inspiration” Pierre-Jean Hellivan mentions that it’s a common practice to offer Orris root with historically low levels of irone.

The major part of Orris root comes from Italy followed by Marocco, China and France. Italy, China and France are cultivating Iris pallida while Marocco grows Iris germanica. There are also new sources of this precious root from Bulgaria, Serbia and Polland.

It’s interesting to notice, that perfume industry is not the biggest consumer of Orris root. The major part of it goes to the flavoring industry where it is used in production of beverages rounding the natural berry flavours. Much lesser part of Orris root goes to perfumery. But to become a fragrance compound it need further processing. The simplest way is to make an Orris tincture. Next to ambergris, civet and castoreum tinctures it was a very frequent constituent of ancient perfumes formulae. Nowadays there are also other natural Orris raw materials available. Next time I hope to tell you about them.

Above: Iris pallida from http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/GardenBeardedIrises

Below: Iris germanica from http://users.ca.astound.net/kenww/my_garden/bearded.htm

Interesting reading:
“Orris: A star of Inspiration” by Pierre-Jean Hellivan (Charabot) – an article in Perfumer and Flavorist, July, 2009 (vol 34. nr. 7). You can buy the full article at http://www.perfumerflavorist.com/magazine/pastissues/2009/34214239.html

Encyclopedia of raw materials on the Osmoz website (http://www.osmoz.com/Encyclopedia/Raw-materials/Iris).