If you’ve ever been disappointed in a fragrance that’s been advertized as smelling like tea and then goes on to smell nothing like it, then put Carta Moena 12|69 on your to-test list pronto. Utilizing a little-used essential oil called moena alcanfor, which is distilled from the leaves, bark, and branches of the moena tree native to Amazonian Peru, this fragrance smells truly and honestly of tea. Specifically, it knits together the aroma of a really earthy Pu-Erh tea with the tannic, catch-in-your-throat quality of cold, slightly over-brewed black tea.
Moena 12|69 opens up with the scent of crushed greenery, but it’s the type of greenery that tends towards the dry, resinous side of the green spectrum, rather than to the fresh or juicy. It smells like a bunch of waxy leaves mashed down with dry tea leaves in a cup, before adding hot water to it. There’s an enjoyable pungency to this aroma, with hints of camphor and furniture wax adding an undertone of polished woods.
This scent feels and smells completely natural. It has that way, like many naturals-based perfumes, of communicating the essence of plants so directly that it’s difficult to remain unmoved. In fact, wearing Carta Moena 12|69 always makes me feel like I am right there in the middle of an Amazonian forest, drinking a cup of campfire-brewed tea with mates under a thick canopy of branches, the gloom punctured by slow-moving light filtering through the leaves.
Let’s talk about texture, because this is important. It might even be a deal-breaker for some people. Carta Moena 12|69 is dry, dry, dry – all earthy tea, woods, leather, tobacco. No cream or sugar anywhere in sight. It wears like the resinous crackle at the back of your throat when you drink a cup of really strong tea all at once. If you wince at the way the aftertaste sucks the moisture from your mouth, then this scent is not for you.
This smoky, husky dryness reminds me somewhat of Mona di Orio’s wonderful Bohea Bohème, the only other perfume I can think of that captures the cool, waxen-earthy side of tea to any degree of accuracy. However, Bohea Bohème has a doughy, benzoin-driven sweetness (or even creaminess) in its tail that’s completely absent here. In Carta Moena 12|69, there’s no get-out clause, no soft landing – just a gradual fading out of the strong, dry tea, leather, and tobacco notes. The drydown smells like the sizzle of damp tea leaves thrown onto a dying fire.
Gorgeous stuff, especially if you love the tough, slightly resinous scent of real tea, unsullied by any sweet or milky notes. I should mention that this is an ecologically sustainable fragrance. Only 300 bottles of Moena 12|69 were made so as not to put pressure on the supply of moena alcanfor essential oil, and the money spent on procuring the oil went straight to the indigenous farmers who grow, harvest, and distill the oil, as well as to a local eco NGO for a reforestation project in the area. It’s the rare perfume, therefore, that both does good and smells good. Buy with good conscience!