Much of the money that I don't spend on perfume goes to other household staples, like tea and chocolate. I have "collections" of both that rival my perfume collection in terms of profligacy, but I don't feel guilty because I do manage to use them all up before they go bad. I wish I could say the same of the perfume.
Aftelier Rose Ginger Oolong Tea
This is a lovely flavored Tie Quan Yin oolong. It's lightly oxidized but with a warm finish, accented with rose (quite noticeable, mostly in the aftertaste) and ginger (subtle but adds a nice kick). If you're not used to floral scented teas (or foods), it might, at first, seem like drinking perfume, but you'll get used to it quickly, and if you've ever had jasmine tea it will not seem so unusual.
Rose Ginger is reminiscent of one of my favorite Mariage Frères teas, Lune Rouge, but made with a much higher quality tea, and it quickly became one of my favorite scented oolongs of all time.2 It smells fabulous, with just the slightest hint of smoke. Oolong teas seem expensive (this one is $25 for a 30 g tin or $4 for a 3 g sample) but since they hold up well to multiple infusions (actually, many oolongs improve on subsequent infusions), the cost per cup is far less than what you'd pay for, say, a latte from Starbucks — depending on how strong you like your tea, you'll probably use anywhere from 2 to 5 g per cup; if you make make 4 infusions each time, absolute worst case scenario is that you'll pay about $1 per cup. I use just about 2 1/2 g per cup, so my cost comes to about 50¢ a cup. Not so bad, right?
Anyway, this is a perfect afternoon tea, and you can save the 3rd and 4th infusions for later at night, when presumably much (but probably not all) of the caffeine content of the leaves has been removed by your earlier steepings.
Aftelier Frankincense Oolong Tea
Rose-scented tea was not new to me, but incense-scented tea was, and the first sip was a surprise — it isn't a weird flavor, exactly, but it might be more of an acquired taste. It definitely grew on me over time, though. It's a slightly darker and warmer tea than the Rose Ginger, and the incense is bright and slightly citrusy. If I had to compare it to a fragrance, I'd pick one of the airy, not-so-churchy incense scents, like Comme des Garçons Ouarzazate or Tauer Perfumes Incense Extrême. I don't think I will ever want to drink it every day (although I do wonder if it would be more of an everyday tea in winter? There are a number of teas I almost never reach for in warm weather), but it makes for a nice change, and it is definitely worth a try.
The Frankincense tea is reportedly high in GABA (you can read more about GABA teas at Life in Teacup), if that matters to you. The price is the same as that for the Rose Ginger ($25 for 30 g).
Extra bonus: the Frankincense "layered" with the Rose Ginger (I tried a 50-50 mix) is excellent. The blend seems to accentuate the ginger — especially on later infusions — and comes across as richer and spicier than either tea alone.
Aftelier also makes a Linden Blossom Oolong and a Jasmine Mint Oolong, please do comment if you've tried either.
Rococo Floral Chocolates
Rococo is a British brand that makes any number of flavored chocolate bars & other goodies. Their floral collection includes Rose, Violet, Orange Geranium (I already reviewed that one) and Jasmine chocolates, available in dark chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate wafers or fondant cream chocolates. I tried the Rose and Violet dark chocolate bars (somewhere in my house, a Jasmine bar is hiding out with all my missing perfume samples), and both are excellent: the chocolate (65%) is smooth and creamy and not too sweet; the floral flavors are not too strong, not too weak, although I found the rose considerably more intense than the violet. The packaging on these is adorable, and the one drawback is that they're not all that easy to find in the US.
If you've tried any wonderful teas or chocolates lately, do comment!
1. The Wikipedia entry on oolongs provides a reasonable introduction, and Oolong, The Tea Lover's Tea at the Washington Post is useful as well. There are many different ways to brew oolong. My method is easy but not traditional: I brew for 3 1/2 to 4 minutes using water at about 195°. I use a stainless steel basket that sits in an individual cup or mug, like so.
If you find the scented teas too "perfume-y", try shorter brewing times and perhaps lower the temperature of the water a bit. For a more traditional approach, try the Gong Fu method.
2. A quality high mountain oolong that has been only very lightly oxidized (sometimes called green oolongs) will often have a floral taste (usually described as orchid-like) even without being scented with flower petals, but I'll put in a quick word for one of my other favorites with added floral flavor: Ten Ren Osmanthus Supreme ($65 for 300 g). If you want to try an unflavored green oolong, Ten Ren's spring and winter limited editions are usually quite good. I also like Ito En's Dong Ding, and Upton Tea has a nice selection of oolong teas although my two favorites, Formosa Tung Ting Milky Oolong and Formosa Tung Ting Classic, are out of stock. At the moment they do carry an interesting oolong scented with magnolia (Magnolia Blossom Oolong) which I would rate as enjoyable if not quite excellent.