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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Perfume Review: CB I Hate Perfume Russian Caravan Tea

I miss home. I miss my mum, my dad and my grandma. I miss our kitchen, the heart of the house. I miss my mum’s cooking. I miss having tea with my family. The English are typically thought of as a tea-loving nation, and they truly are (something bad happened? - have a cuppa!), but the Russians worship at the altar of tea just as devoutly. In our family tea is drunk as many as three, sometimes four times a day; we take our tea black and strong, with a spoonful of sugar and a thin slice of lemon. Unsurprisingly, my ideal tea perfume is also “well-brewed”, just one step away from being truly pungent, it is a little sweet and has a citrus undertone. Unfortunately that perfect tea scent has yet to be found. The fragrances I have tried are either too spicy or too sweet or too heavy on citrus. Comme des Garcons Series 1 Leaves Tea is almost but not quite the scent I am looking for; it is a little too smoky and dark to be my Holy Grail Tea Scent. Russian Caravan Tea by Christopher Brosius is another almost perfect tea fragrance.

I must confess that growing up in Russia I have never heard about Russian Caravan Tea. And yet, according to, “historically, the Russian Caravan tea was the most important drink” in Russia (”after vodka”, that is). Apparently, in old times, chests of this tea would travel “on camelback from China to Moscow”, thus the name, “Caravan Tea”. According to the same source, the smoky smell of that tea was due to the fact that, during the journey, the tea would absorb the scent of the campfire. Distant, mythical past aside, Russian Caravan Tea that I see being sold in the US, is a dark, full-bodied tea with a somewhat smoky flavor. On some online stores, Russian Caravan Tea is a blend of Oolong and Ceylon teas, in others Lapsang Souchong is mixed with Assam black tea to achieve a smokier effect.

Christopher Brosius’s Russian Caravan Tea is a less smoky kind; I do not detect any Lapsang Souchong here, and that is one of the reasons I like it. It might be called “Caravan”, but it smells almost identical to the tea I used to drink at home, which, I can assure you, was not scented by the smoke of the campfire but was your regular black “Indian” tea found in your regular Russian grocery store. But I digress…CB Russian Caravan Tea is described by its creator as “smoked black Indian tea, bergamot and the hint of shelves full of old books”. The first sniff is amazingly true black tea scent, strong, robust and aromatic. Then a citrus note becomes apparent, and I love the fact that it is a very discreet note, just a mere hint to brighten the black brew. The scent has just the right amount of sweetness, which means that it is practically not sweet at all. I would have loved Russian Caravan Tea more were it not for a note there that keeps bothering me, some “foreign” accord that I cannot properly identify but that has no place in my ideal tea scent. It might be (cedar)wood of those “shelves full of old books”…whatever it is, I wish it were not there. Still, right now this scent is as close to my dream tea scent as I am likely to get.

Russian Caravan Tea is available at, $35.00-$45.00.

The painting is Russian Tea by Irving R. Wiles. The photo of Russian Caravan Tea bottle is from


Blogger Victoria said...

I take my tea the same as you. :O)
But I like a sweet tea scent, like Elizabeth W's Sweet Tea.

2:43 AM EDT  
Blogger Sexy Sadie said...

A tea shall be dark, and no sugar for me.

7:48 AM EDT  
Blogger marchlion said...

This is on my list of CB scents I need to try, along with MoK, Mr. Hulot and some others, but I have to work my way through some of the scents My Special Friend has sent xox

My favorite is Tea for Two, although it's heavy on the lapsang.

8:02 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I had high hopes for Sweet Tea, but there was something there -again!- that was not quite right. I am so fussy. :-)

9:47 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Dark and a tiny spoonful of sugar for me, please :-)

9:47 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Tea for Two might actually go on the list of Evil Geniuses. It was an instant scrubber for me. Which is strange, because you know I like my scents dark and smoky and, ok, a little bit weird. But that one was...*shudder*

9:49 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Hmmm...I remember my grandmother doing that, but it wasn't a "traditional" kind of thing at all. It was her memories of War and the lack of food associated with it that made her unwilling to throw away anything.
Apart from that, I've never heard of such a tradition. But I've never heard about Russian Caravan Tea either even though I am Russian, so what do I know? :-)

9:53 AM EDT  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

Love the CB Russian Caravan Tea, although to me it is not the fragrance you'd expect from the name at all.

I use the room spray quite a bit too -- very very cheerful for a home fragrance.

11:34 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

We have never ever used a samovar in our family...well, maybe once or twice in 20 years...I don't even remeber seeing samovars in people's houses all that much :-)

11:41 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

So did you too expected a smokier scent based on that name? I am glad that it is not smoky though.

11:42 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review darling! I'm with Vistoria in that I like my tea fragrance sweet and Elizabeth W's Sweet Tea hit's the spot! :)

1:25 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I wish that one worked for me too :-(

1:35 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I think my mum, who cannot stand having around things she doesn't use, has thrown away our samovar when I was little. :-) When a couple of years ago my then future husband came to visit (he is American) they wanted to throw a big dinner party for him in "traditional" style with all the "exotic" (to him) "Russian" things, but couldn't locate a single samovar to use for that occasion :-)

The smaller chainik, yes, I remember it now! It is for doing "zavarka", i.e. a very strongly brewed tea to which then the hot water would be added to make it drinkable (just like you described). We never kept it overnight though (again, my mum would be horrified at the very thought, Tea Must Be Fresh, she'd say :-)), just made it whenever we wanted tea, especially if there were lots of people drinking it.

So you lived and worked in Russia? How interesting! In what part(s) of it?

1:46 PM EDT  
Blogger marchlion said...

Wow -- a scrubber for you!?!?!? That is soooo interesting, I never would have guessed in a million years, would have thought it would have been just your thing. Hmmmm. Maybe something in there that goes off on your skin? Or do you think it smells nasty all on its own?

1:47 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

That...thing was so vile on me, it couldn't possibly be just my unfortunate skin chemistry. :-) I blame the scent. :-)

2:32 PM EDT  
Blogger marchlion said...

(Jaw hanging to the ground)

It's one of ... my favorite scents.

Top 5, easily.

(still trying to close jaw, look at all those fillings ;-0 )

4:58 PM EDT  
Blogger katiedid said...

I wonder if the same accord that bugged you is the one that led me to feel this frag dried down flat on me. It was interesting on the open, but alas it was as if the whole thing went stale after a wee bit. Perhaps it was the book accord, since it hasn't the brightness and dark piquancy of tea that the scent began with?

6:33 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I am so glad to hear I am not the only one who came from a Samovar-less family :-) I might get one actually, a realy small one, "just to have it" :-)

7:35 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

That's it exactly. Everything goes so well in the beginning, the bright, rich tea note and all...and then something just goes "off". Must be the old books :-)

7:36 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I am sorry...:-( More for you! :-)

(aha, I got my revenge for my poor misunderstood Marina de Bourbon)

7:38 PM EDT  
Blogger Dusan said...

Marina, funny how I've also had the misconception that every Russian house has a samovar. I was taught that, along with many other things Russian, in my Russian Language and Literature classes. The strong concentrate of tea mentioned by mimi froufrou, to which you add hot water, is exactly what I imagined was Russian tea-drinking tradition. And how nice it is to hear a word that sounds the same as in your language: in Serbian we also say chajnik (spelled чајник, naturally) :-))
Haven't tried RCT, but do love tea. Bulgari Black first springs to mind.

9:31 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you so much for the great link, I added it to the favorites!

9:46 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love this one! Did you use the perfume oil or the water perfume? I am curious, because when I test the oils I seem to get very minimal sillage. If you used the oil, were you satisfied with the sillage?

9:48 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Bvlgari Black is a great scent!
As for Samovars, I am sure they were a huge part of everyday life in the past, but now people are lazy and spoiled by the tea-bags and electric kettles :-)

9:50 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I had a water-based sample, and not only did it have quite a bit of sillage, but I was also surprised at how long it lasted!

9:51 PM EDT  
Blogger katiedid said...

M - oh dear, I finally retried the Sweet Tea Victoria so kindly sent me a sample of... and alas! Once again I am overwhelmed by the aroma of !EEEEEK! bug spray. Yes, I can smell tea if I lean in and inhale thoughtfully and deeply, but it is really just bug spray on me. Gah! I'm going to twist someone's arm and make them try it for me to smell, so I can understand what other people get out it :(

11:08 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Obviously we are on the same wave here, because it was unpleasant on me too. :-(

11:10 PM EDT  
Blogger katiedid said...

Ach, at least it was not just me then. What a drag - I've heard others rave about it, too, and am so disappointed that I obviously did not get from it what they did. It's citronella-esque! What is going awry on my skin, for crying out loud?! Did I ever send you the Wickle tea scent? Oh shoot, I'm finally getting a chance tonight for massive decanting (why I wait until I have many to do instead of only one package is beyond me, sigh) so I'll just pass that one along in case I didn't. If you already have it, would you be so kind as to just send it to someone else who likes tea scents?

11:53 PM EDT  
Blogger Sexy Sadie said...

Tchay ili koffi; that is the question.

8:09 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you so much, I haven't tried that one, the only Wickle I tried was the lovel Chestnut & Vetiver.

9:06 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

For me, in the morning, definitely coffee! The rest of the day- tea.

9:06 AM EDT  

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