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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Botanical of the Day: Coffee Flower

Hurrah!  Coffee Flower Absolute is back!  I can almost hear you groaning.  Commence eye rolling!  Yes, I was a little obsessed with the beautiful, delicate floral aroma of Coffee Flower last year.  And yes, I professed my love freely and whenever possible.  Then as quickly as I discovered this amazing botanical for perfumery, this coffee flower absolute, it disappeared.  I could not locate the essence from any supplier ANYWHERE.  I searched and searched to no avail.  I publicly whined and bemoaned my fate.  But, drum roll please . . . it's back!  Thanks to a tip from a reader (I told you I've been very vocal about my love and loss of coffee flower) I checked back at Liberty Naturals website and low and behold the big red letters reading "OUT OF STOCK" that have been posted across the top of the web page for the last two years have been removed.  Eureka!
Of course I immediately placed an order.  My coffee flower absolute from Madagascar has arrived.  It smells very similar to the coffee flower I had ordered a few years back.  It's an amber colored oil, with a bit more viscosity than I expected.  It's expensive.  It's beautiful.  It's mine!
The aroma of coffee flower is often described as being jasmine like, or redolent of orange blossom. I must admit I don't really get the comparison.  Coffee flower smells unlike anything else.  If I had to draw a parallel, it is a bit similar to jasmine sambac.  It's sweet and round and complex.  I can get hints of overripe fruit, with a very faint whisper of espresso, almost a hint of burned coffee hidden behind the floral notes.  To me, coffee flower has a cool floral element.  Whereas jasmine grandiflorum and orange blossom absolute smell "warm" to me, coffee flower smells "cool."  Along these lines, I've found it blends very well with green watery botanicals such as violet leaf, cassia and mimosa.  Together coffee flower and mimosa create a lily of the valley like scent.  I can't get enough coffee flower!  I recently made a beautiful solid perfume called Moon Flower with coffee flower absolute blended with tuberose, frangipani, bitter orange and sandalwood.  

coffee flower

When researching the coffee flower I stumbled across the Illy Coffee website.  According to Illy,  
"The coffee plant, a shrub of the Rubiaceae family, is tropical by nature and requires a hot and humid climate to thrive. Three to four years after the coffee is planted, rains trigger the blossoming of brilliant white flowers with a sweet jasmine or orange-like fragrance.  Dense clusters of flowers grow at the base of dark green, oval leaves, enriching the entire plantation with their perfume.
The coffee flowers are short-lived and wither after a few days, bringing forth the fruit, or cherries, which change color from green to red as they ripen.  Arabica cherries take about seven months to reach the optimal stage of ripeness while Robusta cherries average 10 months.  The cherry is a drupe (a fruit containing one or more seeds surrounded by a fleshy layer of protective tissue) that usually contains two grooved, semi-oval cherrystones (seeds) lying with their flat faces together—the future green coffee beans.  Each bean is surrounded by a silver-colored membrane and enclosed in a tougher skin called the parchment.  The small, grooved seeds are the only part used for producing coffee: the future green coffee bean.
The blossoming cycle and maturation of coffee plants is not determined by the seasons; rather, the coffee plant blossoms after each rainfall and therefore a single plant can contain flower blossoms, unripe fruit and ripe fruit all at the same time."

According to lore, the scent of coffee flower is so powerful sailors could smell the flowers blooming 2 miles out at sea!  How I would love to visit a coffee plantation and smell the flowers in bloom!  Many descriptions of the powerful aroma of coffee flower include the terms "narcotic" and "intoxicating."  Author Frances De Pontes Peebles who left her life in the city to help manage her family's organic coffee farm in Northeast Brazil described this in a blog post titled Coffee Flower Intoxication.  She writes, "On Sunday the coffee trees flowered. Actually, buds have been around for a few weeks now but the flowers finally opened. It looks like snow has fallen on the farm. And the smell! The air smells like jasmine and it’s so strong that it’s (literally) intoxicating. After breathing this coffee-flower-air all night, I woke in a stupor. It was hard to move, hard to open my eyes, hard to even think about waking up. This was Land of the Lotus Eaters stuff. This was Serpent and the Rainbow zombie-making type stuff. The flowers are already losing their smell and wilting a bit. We’re hoping for rain in the next few weeks, to give the coffee trees enough energy to turn those fertilized flowers into beans."
Ahh, sounds like heaven to me!  A coffee flower hangover!  I can almost hear you groaning.  I know, I know--I'm a little obsessed.  Anyone out there currently fixated with an essence?  Feel free to share your obsession.  Maybe you can wean me off my coffee flower!

1 comment:

Gabriel's Aunt said...

I am waiting for mine too! I have a little bit left, but bit the bullet and got a larger bottle! I describe it as Fig-ish meets Orange Blossom meets coffee. Anyway, I share your obsession!! Thanks for the fun post Charna.