Say you’re at the fragrance counter scent testing a gazillion perfumes to find your signature scent. Your nose is getting overwhelmed with florals, spices, and musks and experiencing fatigue. You need a quick olfactory palette cleanser, a little nasal reboot, before you go back on the hunt.
Q: Which would you dip your nose into?
1. A cup of jet fuel
2. A plate of raw salmon
3. A vial of coffee beans
A: There’s no wrong answer here.
Beauty and fragrance counters have pretty much unanimously opted for 3. coffee beans, but when I spoke to Dr. Alan Hirsch (you remember him, right?) from the Smell and Taste Research Center in Chicago, he revealed that they would all work.
“Jet fuel or seafood would do the trick and work just as well, but they just aren’t going to put those on beauty counters,” Dr. Hirsch explained. In other words, there’s no magical component in coffee beans that they alone can be deemed an olfactory reset, but they do serve a purpose.
Your sense of smell, Dr. Hirsch explains, is very good at adapting to environments and creating a new normal. For instance, if you walk into a room that smells like fresh-baked cookies that cookie smell will make itself KNOWN. Like showing up to a friend’s party and there's Beyoncé, just hanging out. Smell has A PRESENCE.
Enticing, dominant scent personalities want your undivided smell attention right when you walk into that room. Stay in the room for a bit, though, and you and cookies become good buddies, casually chatting--sometimes you even forget it’s there with you. And if you leave and return to the room, all over again, like a new relationship, you are still going to love that cookie-smellin’ space. But you needed that one trip outside to be reminded about just how much you love the smell of cookies. You’re nose was introduced to a new scent perspective when you left, which changed your scent norm. The same happens with sampling fragrances and smelling coffee beans.
Perfumes are combinations of many fragrance layers--top notes, base notes, and after notes. Coffee, on the other hand, is a singular component. Put another way: A fragrance is a scent symphony playing Mozart; coffee is your fifth grade recorder playing "Hot Cross Buns." They are both necessary.
The singular scent profile of the coffee bean provides a counterpart to the numerous notes in a fragrance. Sniffing those beans allows you to get back to a baseline--it helps you you to return to the fragrance den and get on with your signature scent hunt.
The more ya know, huh?
Do you make use of the coffee beans when you're out sampling fragrances? What are some of your favorite smells?