Homemade Green Tea Absolute

It’s so much fun creating your own perfumery materials to experiment with.  Here I’ve taken some photos of the progress of a green tea absolute.  Well, an absolute of sorts, it’s really a highly concentrated tincture. A true absolute would use a lighter hydrocarbon such as hexane to extract the aromatics at the first stage but here I’ve just used an alcoholic tincture.


Green Tea Absolute 1          Green Tea Absolute 2      Green Tea Absolute 3

The first photo shows the tea when I’d just added it to the alcohol (the menstruum) – there’s about 300ml of liquid there.

The next photo shows about 250ml of the tincture after it had been re-loaded with tea four times (leaving a few days between each load and discarding the spent tea leaves) Check out the colour!

Then the last photo shows about 20ml of the home-grown absolute where the majority of the alcohol has been evaporated out as quickly and gently as possible (I won’t tell you how as it’s kinda dangerous and I won’t be responsible 😉 It’s almost black.

The result? Interesting. It has a very grassy, dried hay smell which doesn’t last long. A coumarin and tobacco smell but not as sweet and with tea-like overtones. Definitely a top note material which would probably have limited use. I’m going to let it age for a while and see if it improves. A while back I did the same thing with a box of black tea and the result was certainly more useable with a much more pronounced and longer lasting tea and tobacco scent.

Beeswax Absolute

Animal derived materials have been used throughout history to provide an incredible depth, naturalism, erotic funkiness and fixation to perfumes. Most of these materials cause harm to the animals when ‘harvested’ and so are not ethical to use by today’s sensibilities. Synthetic equivalents do a good job, however when used in a fragrance they don’t impart the gut response, the stimulation of the primitive parts of the brain that the real thing can. A large part of the fascination of vintage perfumes is due to the real musks, civet and castoreum used in them.

Luckily, there are a few real animal derived materials that can safely be used in perfumery without harming the animal in any way. One of them is beeswax absolute, others are ambergris (from the sperm whale) and hyreceum (from the hyrax).

The smell of beeswax absolute is nothing short of intoxicating with notes of honey, wax, dried fruit, hay, tobacco, vanilla and an animalic muskiness. The wax that is used in its creation is taken from hives that have been occupied for at least 5 years and so it retains the scents of the bees themselves and is rich in honeyed pheromones.

Apis mellifera

Apis mellifera

The major countries producing beeswax absolute are Spain, France and Morocco and as you can imagine, the scent and quality of beeswax absolute is highly variable depending on the region, climate, production methods, season, species of bee etc. The actual flowers that the bees visit within each region you would think would be a cause of variability as well, however when the beeswax is collected, the wax from different hives is all melted together into large blocks, ready for transportation, thereby cancelling out any floral variation within that region.

When using this material in perfumery, it is a good idea to try out as many different varieties as possible, sourced from different suppliers and regions. Although the effect of a little beeswax absolute in a blend may not be dramatic, try running tests with absolutes sourced from both France and Morocco and you will end up with two noticeably different perfumes.

Similar to botanic absolutes, beeswax absolute is created by extracting both aromatic and waxy molecules from the honeycombed wax and propolis of Apis mellifera – the honey bee. The resulting concrete is then dissolved in ethanol and the more volatile molecules are then extracted from the concrete by evaporation, resulting in the completely ethanol soluble and mostly wax free absolute. The final yield is around 1% of a thick and gooey, dark, golden brown substance.

Beeswax Absolute On a Stick

Beeswax Absolute On a Stick

The chemical constituents of beeswax absolute are many and varied, but the most important aromatic components are (in order of relative volume):

phenylacetic acid
linalyl acetate
benzyl benzoate
benzyl alcohol
benzyl cinnamate
phenylethyl butanoate
ethyl phenylacetate
methyl phenylacetate
terpinyl acetate

Abstract Honeycomb

I have been experimenting with these materials in various proportions (with the addition of various others) and have come up with a luscious, rich base that I can use as an adjunct to the real absolute – the real stuff is very expensive, after all!

In fact honey bees are under serious threat from urbanization, overuse of pesticides and especially the deadly varroa mite which has been spread by poor beekeeping practices. So far, Australia is the only country completely free of this deadly parasite. As a result, this wonderful perfumery material can only become harder to obtain and more expensive in the future and its use will become limited to only the artisan fragrance houses for whom the cost of materials is not so much of a consideration.