When we think of summer, certain smells come directly to our nose. This is the case of monoi, this delicately scented oil, synonymous with tanned skin and vacations by the sea. The perfume of monoi is exotic, creamy and deliciously sweet. It comes from an ancestral tradition that uses the tiare flower, the star ingredient of Polynesia. From the flower to the oil, let’s follow in the footsteps of the beauty secret of the Tahitians.
The tiare flower, the perfumed gold of the Pacific
The tiare flower, or gardenia tahitensis as it is botanically known, is the emblem of several paradise destinations such as Polynesia, Tahiti and the Cook Islands. This flower that we like to hang from our ears (on the right for the singles and on the left if you are already taken!) comes from the tiare, a small tropical shrub. This one produces flowers with immaculate white petals and a sweet and bewitching perfume which reminds that of the jasmine. Often confused with the frangipani flower found in Asia, the tiare has been cultivated in Tahiti for centuries for its many moisturizing and soothing properties.
As fragrant as it is, the tiare flower is ephemeral. It lives only one day, opening in the morning and dying in the evening when the sun sets. Symbol of passion, the flower is also an integral part of many mystical rituals of love filters or aphrodisiac bouquets… Quite a program!
From tiare flower to monoi: perfume of tradition
An inspired and protected know-how
In Tahitian, the term “mono’i” means “sacred oil”. Monoi is a natural vegetable oil, and more precisely an oily macerate. Indeed, to make this precious perfumed material, the Mahois had the idea more than 2000 years ago to macerate Tahitian tiare flower buds in fresh coconut oil. To meet the increasing demand, this oil is now replaced by coprah oil. This is a material that is obtained by grinding coconut flesh dried in the sun for 7 days. The maceration process lasts several days, the time it takes for the oil base to take on the fragrant compounds of the buds. The creamy and sweet scent of the tiare flower is gently extracted… To blend with the sensuality of the oil from the coconut.
Faced with the explosion in demand and the emergence of numerous counterfeit products, Tahitian monoi was officially recognized by a designation of origin in 1992. To make this original version, the tiare buds are harvested at dawn, when they are the freshest and most fragrant possible. The flowers are then placed in oil and infused for 10 days.
An ancestral history
Although Tahitian monoi is a well-known product for vacationers, its history goes back several thousand years. Since ancient times, Tahitians have scented coconut oil with tiare flowers. They use this sacred oil to massage newborns in order to protect them from the sun, temperature variations and drying of the skin. It is also used in many sacred and religious rituals. For example, the deceased were embalmed with monoi to help their souls travel to the afterlife.
James Cook will talk about this precious oil in his travel accounts. He will describe how the inhabitants coat their bodies and hair with this mysterious substance. Another explorer, French this time, will fall under the spell of this subtle essence. Dumont d’Urville will be totally bewitched by the suave and creamy perfume of monoi. He will bring back in the holds of his ship some tiare plants, without succeeding in reproducing the delicate oil which had made him dream so much.
It was not until a few years ago that the oil began to be exported, thanks in particular to the Tiki perfumery, which marketed the real monoi of Tahiti since the 1940s. Today, the perfume of monoi is an essential for many women in search of escape!
A beauty secret with a thousand virtues
If the success of monoi is no longer to be proven, it is because in addition to diffusing an irresistible perfume, it also testifies to numerous virtues. This oil is not simply a sun product, contrary to what we might think! It is a real care that the vahines use all year long. On the beauty side, it allows of course to magnify the golden skins by the sun. But it also stimulates the cellular renewal of the skin by hydrating and nourishing it. It is also an ally of choice to have a dream hair, both soft and shiny, while being protected from external aggressions. According to Taurumi, the ancestral art of Polynesian massage, monoi also helps to renew the links between body, soul and heart.
Tiaré and monoï : their use in perfumery
Contrary to what some products would have us believe, there is no such thing as monoi flower! To bring the sunny and exotic perfume of monoi to a fragrance, noses turn to the tiare flower. To deliver the delicate scent of this ingredient, we proceed to the extraction with volatile solvents of the flower. This allows to obtain a concrete which will be then washed with alcohol to reach the state of absolute, whose smell is simply divine! It is also possible to reproduce its perfume directly in laboratory, thanks to the synthesis. Tiare brings to compositions a soft and floral scent with sweet and solar nuances. Perfumers can associate it with milky coconut tones to complete the illusion and make your nose travel to Polynesia!
Do you like the perfume of monoi and tiare flower?
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