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“Orange Blossom is obtained from Citrus Aurantium var Amara. The Bitter Orange Tree is actually grown for flower production in Tunisia, Morocco & Egypt. Other countries ensure minor production. Originally, it was cultivated in the South of France (and Spain & Italy) but due to rough winters the production perished mid XXth.”
Ange is a graduate from ISIPCA in Paris, but his training also extends to time spent in Grasse (where else?!). He has had the chance to travel to several counties including Sri Lanka, Madagascar and Tunisia to expand his expertise. Like us, Ange is passionate about Orange Blossom. A teacher at ESP, he teaches keen students about ‘natural ingredient sourcing’, alongside consulting for individuals and brands.
It was a delight to share knowledge with Ange around an ingredient both sides hold dear. Orange Blossom lovers, we hope you enjoy…
Generally collected by local women who work in harvesting fields, and are paid based on the weight collected, Orange Blossom tends to be picked and then laid on a tarpaulin. In a day an individual might collection between 3-4kg. Once gathered the locals take the flowers to market where producers buy the ingredients. The price fluctuates daily based on demand and supply, set around the price for 4 kg bundles: "El Wasna" is the metric.
Along with the market tradition, each family is at house scale a distiller itself! Either having their own trees or buying from the market or neighbours, everyone is producing floral water under their roof.
Neroli producers watch the shifting value with precision, and, with the help of collectors, they try to obtain the flowers when the price is convenient. The harvest lasts around 20 days, and the producer’s ability to create a quality oil extract at a good price depends on their capacity to obtain the raw materials, requiring partners and organised logistics.
Distillers have to take care of many details in order to obtain a quality ingredient for their oil… For example, the presence of leaves, unmatured buds, buds from other citrus trees, or foreign bodies, can harm the purity and the quality of the oil, which is visible through dots shining along. The finest yield comes when the flower is on the verge of blooming. For best results, distilling should happen the day after it’s harvesting. This is because the parts in the process that follow the harvest, including oxidation & fermentation, the time before distilling and the conditions of storage determine the quality of the flower at the point it is distilled and consequently, it’s oil.
Traditionally, for the extraction, the flowers are poured into water then distilled (it’s not a direct steam process). To obtain 1kg of Neroli Essential Oil, you need 1000kg of Orange Blossom (+/- 100kg). The oil collects on top of the floral water, which is kept and later sold (or solvent extracted), the oil is then filtered and stored so the scent can mature.
To conclude, a fact we love about the Bitter Orange Tree is that each and every part can be utilized for extraction. You get Neroli Oil from the Orange Blossom, but also Orange Blossom Absolute when you use solvent extraction. You get Petitgrain from the leaves, Bitter Orange EO from the peels of left fruits, and even Absolute des Eaux when extracting the floral water of the Neroli. A no waste ingredient indeed – we love nothing more.