In the world of perfumery, when we talk about coffee, we often think of the jars filled with beans that are supposed to neutralize odors and “clean” the nose between two olfactory tests. But in recent years, coffee has become a raw material appreciated by perfumers for its subtle and powerful aromas. The coffee note is thus invited in many compositions and reveals multiple facets according to the associations. Discover the secrets of a scent that will quickly get you hooked!
The history of coffee
A bit of botany
The coffee tree is a plant of the Rubiaceae family, native to Yemen and Ethiopia, in the province of Kaffa, from which it is said to derive its name. There are about 70 different species of coffee trees, but only two of them are actually exploited commercially: Robusta and Arabica. This plant with shiny green leaves produces white flowers that transform into fruits, which look like small cherries. These fruits turn from pale yellow to bright red when mature, 6 to 8 months after flowering. Composed of a pulp and a bean, this cherry will be harvested ripe. It will then undergo various processing stages to produce green coffee, which will be roasted before being consumed.
The legend says that coffee was discovered by a shepherd from Abyssinia (present-day Ethiopia). He is said to have noticed that his goats were more restless than usual after eating the fruits of this shrub. He then decided to taste it to test the energizing effect. The cultivation of the coffee tree began in Yemen in the time of Suleiman the Magnificent, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. As the conquests and countries annexed by the Sultan progressed, the beverage became more and more popular. It spread beyond the borders of Yemen and Ethiopia. The popularity of coffee quickly spread to Arabia, influenced in particular by the prohibition of alcohol by Islam. Then, the port of Mocha in Yemen becomes the center of this trade.
The arrival in Europe
From the 16th century onwards, Italian merchants specializing in the trade of spices from the East began to take an interest in these small seeds with amazing properties. Pope Clement VIII’s relatives advised him to ban this infidel’s drink. But after having tasted it, the Pope declared that it would have been a pity to leave the pleasure of this delicious drink to the infidels alone! Cafés, meeting places for intellectuals, flourish all over Europe, from London to Marseille. A few coffee trees were even offered to Louis XIV, which were then planted by the King’s gardeners in Reunion Island in particular. Today, this is the second most consumed drink in the world after water!
Coffee in perfumery
From bean to bottle
If the beverage quickly conquered the whole world, the arrival of this ingredient in perfumery was not so easy. The desire was there, but in reality, coffee was finally difficult to work with. To create a coffee note in a composition, perfumers can use coffee absolute. This raw material is obtained by extracting the roasted seeds contained in the fruit using volatile solvents. This absolute is a thick and very dark liquid that soon proved to be difficult to dissolve and really complicated to integrate into fragrance formulations. But perfumers and chemists redoubled their imagination and efforts to allow it to express itself.
They have thus improved the extraction with a new volatile solvent that avoids overheating the material while restoring the smell of freshly ground coffee that tickles our taste buds and nostrils. The result is colorless and much easier to work with. It is also possible to obtain a much rarer essential oil, thanks to distillation with supercritical CO2, a more modern and expensive process.
A bewitching and energizing scent
In all its forms, this ingredient charms the nose with its complex and evocative notes. Arabica or Robusta, the smell of coffee arouses emotion and nestles comfortably in our olfactory memory. Its smell is conditioned by its variety, its cultivation and the method of roasting, because it is during this stage that all the aromas are released.
While its facets are always sweet and spicy, the coffee can be adorned with gourmand nuances and chocolate scents. Its fragrance is round and syrupy, reminiscent of coffee liqueur with hints of tobacco. It also brings a roasted aspect to the fragrances, due to the roasting of the beans. The perfumer can then play on contrasts and give this coffee note multiple olfactory sensations between bitterness and sweetness.
50 shades of coffee
As you can see, this bean reveals a range of tones that reveal themselves differently depending on the association. Generally, its aromas are found in masculine compositions alongside tobacco and woody or leathery notes. But coffee also takes place in floral fragrances to add depth and warmth. It is also a perfect match for the aromatic and green nuances to which it gives a real olfactory boost. Finally, it can be found in oriental fragrances with vanilla, amber or tonka bean. It is then comforting and gourmand.
Lavender & coffee: alfred kafé’s secret
At Carrément Belle we are addicted to the powerful and subtle aromas of coffee. While it tickles our taste buds every morning, its warm and vibrant aroma is also a daily treat. That is why we wanted to integrate its notes into an invigorating fragrance. Coffee and lavender thus share the headline of alfred kafé, an eau de parfum thought like a lazy coffee, taken in the shade of a cedar tree in a field in Provence. This association highlights a light and fresh lavender blended with a strong and aromatic aroma. Originally intended for men, we have recently noticed that alfred kafé has also conquered the hearts of women in search of original fragrances.
In a cup or on the skin, coffee has seduced the whole world! And you, are you a fan of the smell of coffee in your perfumes?
Discover the fragrances mentioned in the article