What Makes Blossom Water Different From Other Flavored Waters?
The idea of infusing water with flower botanicals first struck me while I was planting perennials at our home in the beautiful Berkshires. For as long as I can remember, I have always been planting something – vegetables, herbs, flowers, shrubs – usually all four, crammed into each short New England season.
I’m not sure what fostered this strong connection to the soil. Maybe it’s my Italian heritage, as I recall visiting both my grandfathers when very young, and watching them lovingly devote the bulk of their summer time and energy to this same end. My wife, Trish, sometimes jokes that the only reason we bought the Lenox house, an 1815 Federal, was so that I could play in the cottage gardens.
An Inspired Thought Blooms
One Saturday afternoon, I returned from a local nursery with a carload full of plants. When I say a carload, I mean it. There was almost no space for me to sit, much less see out the windows for driving. The nursery had just received a shipment of mock orange specimens that were in glorious bloom. Mock orange, which dates back to colonial days, was one of Thomas Jefferson’s favorites and planted throughout the gardens of Monticello. I thought it would be perfect for our own gardens as well, especially in light of our home’s architecture and setting.
As I reached down to place the root ball of the first shrub in its newly dug hole, my head amid all of its blossomed branches, I was momentarily stopped in my tracks by sunlight shining through those soft white petals and by their captivating citrus fragrance. As always in the face of nature’s charms, my mood automatically brightened. Suddenly I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if there were a healthy and refreshing drink that could evoke this same feeling — a way, literally, to drink in the essence of the experience?” Trish still remembers that day when I stormed into the house, leaving a trail of dirt behind me, to tell her of my new idea.
Its Concept is Validated
So we began researching the use of flower botanicals in beverages and gradually uncovered a treasure trove of information. We saw that the first mentions of rose water, using distillation of rose petals, date back to 9th century Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Indian sources. In these cultures, rose water is even thought to bring healing properties. It is strongly ensconced in their cuisines, all of which highly prize aromatics. For instance, rose water is combined with milk and sugar to make a sweet concoction called bandung, and mixed into lemonade to balance the tartness with rose’s subtle taste and fragrance. This same part of the world has also long enjoyed orange blossom water, often served cold over ice or hot as a digestif called café blanc. Lebanese “white coffee” is nothing more than sweet-scented orange blossom water stirred into a cup of boiling water, sometimes with the addition of sugar or honey. Trish and I further learned that, in the East, jasmine tea has been around for at least a thousand years. First produced in China, jasmine flowers and green tea leaves are “mated” for several hours. The magic happens when the moist flowers pass their oils and scent to the dry leaves by osmosis, resulting in a thirst-quenching tea softly suffused with jasmine. We discovered that across Africa, Asia and Latin America, hibiscus has been consumed as a beverage for hundreds of years. In Northern Africa, for instance, weddings and other special events are toasted with a glass of karkade, hibiscus calyces steeped in water and sweetened with honey. Throughout Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, where hibiscus is often called Jamaica, agua de flor de Jamaica is relished as a refreshingly crisp drink to help beat the heat. Among Northern and Central European countries, we came across several descriptions of seltzers, liqueurs and wines made with flowers such as lilac, lavender and elderflower. The list goes on.
Blossom Water is Born
Trish and I then started infusing different flower botanicals in water. We soon discovered that the best results paired a fruit base with the floral signature. We spent a great deal of time working to discover which fruits and flowers worked well together. Not surprisingly, we found that tart, more acidic fruits tended to work especially well with the soft and delicate floral profiles. Our goal was to achieve bold yet nuanced flavors, much like you would find in a good bottle of wine. We wanted the fruit to be more pronounced upfront upon tasting, with the blossom notes rounding out and lingering on the finish. I certainly could imagine enjoying such a beverage on my porch during a hot summer’s afternoon in the Berkshires. At long last our dream became reality, beginning with the metro-Boston area launch of Blossom Water.