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In search of the legendary orange blossom

Fleur d'oranger

Orange blossom is both delicate and bold, and generally enjoyed by all. Used in cooking, perfumery, and even in cosmetics, its sophisticated aromas are as popular as its properties. Come with us as we find out more about this tantalizingly sweet flower.

Bitter orange

Did you know? Just as there are two types of orange – the sweet variety we enjoy raw, in juices, and in salads, and bitter varieties we use to make marmalade – there are also two types of trees that produce them. The first are found on the classic orange tree we all know well, while the second grow on another, larger specimen with bright, evergreen leaves known as the bitter orange tree. The famous orange blossoms also come from this plant, offering pretty little white flowers comprised of thick, elegantly curved petals that give off a strong scent. No one knows the origins of this tree. Some say it came from China, while others claim it was first found in India. Regardless of its beginnings, bitter orange trees appreciate warm, sunny climes and blossom in springtime in Europe. In ancient times, orange blossom symbolized purity, and young brides would wear garlands of the flowers in their hair.

Neroli oil and orange blossom water

While the bitter orange tree is popular for its fruit, especially for its dried zests, its flowers are the main focus of this article as they produce both an essential oil and a lightly scented water.

Fresh orange blossom is steam-distilled to create this water. The vapor seeps into the petals before condensing into an astonishing liquid formed of two substances: the essence (a thicker layer found on the surface) and the flower water (found at the bottom of the container). The first contains a high concentration of aromatic molecules and is commonly referred to as Neroli oil. This name was supposedly inspired by Marie-Anne de la Trémoïlle, Princess of Nerola (a town near Rome) who popularized this essential oil during the 17th century. According to legend, she used it as a fragrance on her skin and to perfume her bathwater. Neroli is also very rare and precious, as it takes one ton of orange blossom to make a single liter of essential oil!

Uses and properties

Orange blossom contains many active ingredients whose beneficial properties have been recognized for many years. In general, it seems to have a relaxing and antispasmodic effect and is used to reduce tension, relax muscles, and facilitate digestion and sleep. Its delicious taste has also made it a popular ingredient in recipes. For example, orange blossom is used to flavor crepes, madeleine cakes, Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern pastries, and fruit salads.

And of course there is tea! Especially Anastasia, one of our favorite Kusmi Tea blends. This iconic recipe combines black tea, bergamot, lemon, and orange blossom for irresistible moments of relaxation to be shared with friends, family, or colleagues.