Tea is not just one of our favourite beverages; it’s also one of our favourite fragrance genres. The category is a relatively new one and originated with Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert.
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Commissioned to make the Bvlgari stores smell nice, according to Chandler Burr’s fascinating book The Perfect Scent, its unexpected success (customers were snapping it up at $350 a bottle) led to it being launched as a more commercial endeavour in 1992.
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Forty years later, you’ll find numerous renditions on the tea fragrance theme. From black and white to green and red, all offer an aromatic interpretation of the nuances of the different leaves used to produce tea.
Where known, the name of the perfumer is included in brackets after the name of the fragrance.
Our Shortlist for The Best Tea Fragrances
Bvlgari Eau Parfumée Au Thé Vert Eau de Cologne (Jean-Claude Ellena)
The Italian Bvlgari luxury jewellery company made a fine debut, in 1992, with Eau Parfumée (now known as Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert), a celebration of Japanese green tea.
It starts out with the fresh citrus notes of bergamot, lemon and mandarin orange. They mingle with the spices and herbs of cardamom, nutmeg and clary sage to help create a green tea accord that’s aromatic and uplifting.
Hints of florals – jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, Bulgarian rose – add to the refreshing vibe.
This is a softie, so “beast moders”, please move on. Anyone else will appreciate the artistry of this trend-setter that paved the way for other scents such as Elizabeth Arden Green Tea and Kilian Bamboo Harmony.
Also look out for the brand’s other takes on the tea theme: Eau Parfumée au Thé Blanc (white Himalayan tea), Eau Parfumée au Thé Bleu (oolong tea), Eau Parfumée au Thé Noir (black tea) and Eau Parfumée au Thé Rouge (rooibos).
Creed Silver Mountain Water EDP (Olivier Creed)
Creed Aventus EDP may get all the hype, but this 1995 release from the Paris-based niche brand gets our vote for its versatility. Inspired by perfumer Olivier Creed’s love for skiing in the Swiss Alps, it’s quality stuff with a hefty price tag.
Inspiration often doesn’t translate into reality, but this fragrance captures it so well, from the bottle to the juice.
The opening is fresh, thanks to citrus notes of bergamot, neroli and mandarin.
Things really get interesting when the heart notes of green tea and blackcurrant add a green element to the fresh effect.
The drydown is all sandalwood and musk.
A crisp, clean and chic affair.
Elizabeth Arden Green Tea EDT (Francis Kurkdjian)
The opening is all zingy freshness, with citrus notes of lemon, orange zest and bergamot in perfect play.
The freshness continues through to the heart of green tea and mint. Notes of jasmine and fennel bring light floral and spiciness to this EDT, which settles on a musky base.
It’s such an uplifting scent. And the great price just adds to the cheap thrills factor.
The brand regularly releases variations on the Green Tea theme – fig, mimosa and sakura blossom have been some of our favourites so far.
L’Artisan Parfumeur Tea for Two EDT (Olivia Giacobetti)
We can’t recommend this release from the pioneering French niche brand enough. Twenty-two years after its release, its beauty commands absolute respect.
From the first spray, there’s the rich woody smokiness of black lapsang souchong (a traditional Chinese tea).
Cinnamon, anise and ginger soften the initial intensity with mellow spice, while a note of gingerbread adds a gourmand aspect.
There’s more deliciousness in the drydown, courtesy of notes of powdery honey and dark vanilla.
Warm and welcoming, it’s the equivalent of an olfactory embrace. Just what we need in these turbulent times.
Kilian Bamboo Harmony EDP (Calice Becker)
We tend to associate Kilian fragrances with hedonism, in the best sense of the word. So Kilian Bamboo Harmony is something of a surprising change in tone.
From the Paris-based niche brand’s The Fresh Collection, this 2012 release is every bit as peaceful as it sounds and lives up to its inspiration, “a sip of pure white tea in a bamboo forest”, in style.
The opening is all about citrus freshness, with bergamot and bigarade at the fore.
Perfumer Calice Becker infuses the composition with relaxing white tea leaves, while mimosa enhances the green mood. The moss note in the drydown maintains tranquillity.
A great bedtime choice when you need a calming mist.
Elizabeth Arden White Tea EDT (Rodrigo Flores-Roux, Caroline Sabas & Guillaume Flavigny)
This release from the American beauty brand was one of our best-loved fragrances from 2017.
Inspired by the simple pleasure of a cup of tea, the opening is a fresh ’n breezy blend of aquatic and mandarin notes, with musky sage in the background.
The gently milky white tea accord is given powdery (iris) and herbal (maté) touches.
Concluding with the warmth of musks and woods, this soft but persistent scent is a fantastic cheapie, in the style Elizabeth Arden does so well.
The additions to the range – Vanilla Orchid, Wild Rose, Ginger Lily and Mandarin Blossom – also warrant your attention.
Le Labo Thé 29 EDP (Frank Voelkl)
This 2015 release from the NYC-based niche house is one powerful brew. We’ve never smelled a cup of black tea quite like it.
That should come as no surprise, as perfumer Frank Voelkl also created the brand’s mega-seller Le Labo Santal 33.
It announces itself in distinctive fashion with a trio of rich notes: fig, bergamot and bay leaf. The effect is immediately intense and compelling.
It gets even darker when the earthy vetiver and tobacco-ish black tea leaves come into play.
The result? An uncompromisingly bold fragrance that more than justifies its niche-level price tag. Bravo!
Vilhelm Parfumerie Dear Polly EDP (Jérôme Epinette)
Launched in 2015, Dear Polly by the perfumer Jérôme Epinette was one of the NYC-based niche house’s debut releases and set the tone of quality for other standout releases such as Mango Skin, Basilico & Fellini and A Lilac A Day.
Candied apple meets crisp bergamot in the opening, followed by a big dose of black tea. While some might prefer their tea unsweetened and green, the sweet take on tea works so well, we’re back for more.
Like any worthwhile composition, Dear Polly keeps on giving in the drydown, with oakmoss, black amber and musk creating an irresistibly cosy and sensual warmth.
Nishane Wūlóng Chá EDP (Jorge Lee)
Cup of tea, dear? Yes please, if it’s as good as this one.
This 2015 release from the Turkish niche brand’s Miniature Art Collection is fantastically refreshing from start to finish.
It gets going with the citrus-green hues of bergamot, supported by lesser notes of delicately sweetened orange and mandarin. There’s also some aromatic lemon-y freshness courtesy of litsea cubeba, the shrub native to east Asia.
The oolong tea, softly fruity and green, is enhanced by honeyed fig and clean white musk in the drydown.
For a freshie, this one lasts quite a long time, but then it’s an extrait de parfum.
Berdoues Assam of India EDP (Jennifer Riley)
The travel-inspired Collection Grands Crus from the fourth-generation, family-owned, Grasse-based Berdoues brand must be one of the most likeable ranges around. This 2015 release epitomises that appeal.
It opens with the crisp and bright citrus hues of citron from Menton (France).
The black tea note evokes the famous variety that’s indigenous to Assam (India), with its full-bodied characteristics.
A note of creamy Mysore (India) sandalwood completes the cosmopolitan cuppa.
There’s nothing complicated about this composition, yet it delivers plenty of seemingly effortless elegant comfort. Who could ask for more?
Hermès Eau de Citron Noir Eau de Cologne (Christine Nagel)
Hermès’ first entry in this round-up comes from the French luxury brand’s superb Cologne Collection.
The opening of this 2018 release is all about the sharp and invigorating citrus freshness of lemon and citron.
It transitions with the appearance of an unusual accord, black lime – inspired by the Middle Eastern culinary tradition of sun-drying limes until they are dehydrated. Blended with black tea, it’s sour, smoky and musky.
The smoky vibe is maintained in the drydown featuring guaiac wood.
A classic and timeless choice.
Maison Crivelli Bois Datchaï EDP (Dorothée Piot)
We often associate tea with comfort and relaxation, and that’s just what we get from this 2018 release from the Paris-based niche brand that’s fast becoming one of our firm favourites.
The piquant fruitiness of blackcurrant meets the spicy warmth of cinnamon, without overpowering the smokiness of the tea with sweetness.
The woody forest inspiration of this scent comes through in the form of fresh cedar and earthy patchouli, while papyrus and guaiac wood notes provide a subtle leather undertow in this Thibaud Crivelli perfume.
Memo Winter Palace EDP (Alienor Massenet)
A grand name for a grand perfume. This 2019 release from the Paris-based brand’s Graines Vagabondes Collection is inspired by the ancient imperial palaces of China.
It starts in citrus-fresh mode with a large shot of orange essence. Bergamot, grapefruit and lemon add to the energising vibe.
Initially fresh and green, the maté tea develops with the spicy-woody tones of gurjun balsam and styrax.
There’s a slight sweetening in the drydown, thanks to vanilla, while a cistus labdanum-dominant amber accord amplifies the depth.
The house’s other top-quality tea scent, Memo Eau de Memo EDP, offers a leathery spin on the theme.
Hermès L’Ombre Des Merveilles EDP (Christine Nagel)
Even when it’s a flanker, a Hermès launch is something to look forward to. And this 2020 release is a particularly good addition to the range which was originally launched in 2004 with Hermès Eau des Merveilles.
It features just three listed notes: black tea, incense and tonka bean. Each is given space to express itself in this finely tuned composition, yet melds together to form a beautifully cohesive whole.
Rich, intense and green, the opening black tea note is definitely unsweetened and almost aniseed-y.
The incense note is enchantingly smoky, albeit on the cool side of things.
After that relative chill, it’s the turn of woody tonka in the drydown to bring gentle and soothing warmth.
And what of the name of this fragrance which implies different shades? Hermès L’Ombre des Merveilles lives up to its moniker with contrasts of warmness and coolness, intensity and subtlety. Despite the seeming simplicity of its structure, this mysterious oriental scent reveals more with each wearing.
Calvin Klein CK Everyone EDT (Alberto Morillas)
The CK One franchise has been delivering the goods with impressive consistency since its launch in 1994. The 2020 addition to the range, with its clever name, expresses the universal and unisex appeal of the scent.
The opening is bright, fresh and uplifting, thanks to sweet orange oil and zingy ginger.
The tea accord brings a green facet, while cedarwood gives it depth.
It’s super agreeable, and we also give the thumbs up to the elastic band on the bottle, a nod to the most exposed underwear waistband ever.
Richard Goller is a fragrance and grooming blogger. His blog is called Fragroom. A senior editor with 20 years' experience, his blog allows him to combine two of his passions: engaging content and the always-intriguing world of fragrances. When he isn't blogging, you'll find Richard indulging in his newly found passion for balcony gardening.