Experience tea like never before with perfumer, Ayala Moriel.
By Jenica Chuahiock
Ayala Moriel is used to having guests over, and she insists on serving the company with some of her tea and cooking. The air in her home is warm with the smell of vanilla and jasmine, pulling in guests like a second hostess. The porcelain cups and pot are set. Before brewing, however, she displays the choices of tea on the table. She opens the canisters one by one, shaking them a little to give a better visual of the contents. Black tea with roses and cocoa nibs, or perhaps a vanilla infused rooibos tea with calendula petals, or even a Chinese white tea with ginger slices and lemon? She let’s the guests pick, though not before they are fully educated of its organic contents, the fragrance it exudes, their supposed health benefits, and the story behind each blend. Only then will she proceed to serve the tea alongside a plate of homemade pastries. She takes her time, and that is the lesson she hopes to impart to her guests.
As an artisan perfumer, Moriel has made it her passion to constantly reconnect people with their senses through perfumes and tea. Whether it is the feeling of a slender perfume bottle in the palm, the perfect circle of heat radiating from a ceramic cup, the smell of vanilla upon human skin, or the sweet after taste of jasmine tea, Moriel insists that there is more to these trivialities we overlook.
“There’s a few aesthetic elements shared between perfume and tea,” says Moriel, “and I’m really passionate about them because, again, it’s about time, which is the most precious thing we have. And ironically, we have less of it the more advanced we are technologically.”
Experiencing tea in its entirety demands a process, which is often forgotten in a world of fast-food and to-go cups becomes. It begins with the visual element of the tea leaves; what it looks like in its dry state, and how it unravels when immersed in water. Once the tea is ready, take a moment to admire the liquid color on your cup; is it golden, a warm brown or even fiery red? Don’t forget to smell the tea as well, both before and after it is brewed to notice the change in aromas. Take a small sip, and feel the taste in your palette. Notice how to aroma compliments, or differs from the taste. Next time, why not try it with milk and sugar? If this tea experience seems more like a waiting ritual, then that is the point of experiencing tea.
For Moriel, the gift of tea is its insistence on taking a moment to wait and observe. “We all do it subconsciously, but the idea of enjoying tea and taking time to take tea is that.” explains Moriel, who meticulously observes everything she brews. The gift of waiting, to have a moment to break, is an opportunity we disregard everyday. However, it is not just our own leisure we take for granted. Time we spend with others, a chance to make actual connections, is as neglected. Tea ceremonies as a form of human interaction are hardly about tea alone. Traditional Asian cultures have used tea ceremonies as a way to unite friends and family, whether it is to admire art, discuss philosophy, or simply for the sake of company. It is a ritual that is wonderfully both earthly and symbolic.
With a vision of tea cultures and ceremonies, Moriel attempts to incorporate into her brand a sense of time, one that is both communal as it is sensual. She keeps detailed notes of tea in her leather-bound tea journal, from the water’s changing color, to the aroma rising from the steaming cup. Four years of practice and exploring has given her the mastery to create her own perfumed tea line. All of which, like her own perfumes, are made with all the best, natural ingredients available. “I want the best of both worlds. I wanted to have tea that is re-infusible, and I wanted it to work better with milk.” she says. “I wanted it to have a little bit more depth. That’s why it took a while to figure it out.”
Each tea blend was a personal journey for Moriel, who spends months to finalize her concoction. Nothing is synthetic, or artificially flavored. All teas undergo through traditional processes of layering and perfumery, making each selection a real work of art. It is a meticulous procedure, but all for the sake of making each cup a thing of beauty. “[Tea] is such a great way to get people to really embrace the moment, and be in the moment, to reconnect with our senses,” she says. “It’s also a way to just share. Because we’re sharing the tea right now, we’re both drinking the same thing. But you have your experience; I have mine, and it kind of ties people together. And I think anything that does that is beautiful…”
Want to know more? Check out Ayala Moriel’s philosophy on perfume.
Photos are a courtesy of Ayala Moriel Parfums.