Ever find yourself in a candle shop (or bath and body shop, perfume counter at the mall -- or equivalent) and you are smelling one fragrance and then another... and another?
Before you know it all of the fragrances start to smell the same and it is hard to discern one from the other. Well isn't that a frustrating feeling? Even worse --when you make the purchase and walk out with a product you thought you liked, but actually confused it with another.
A-ha there is a solution. Coffee beans.
Yes those small containers of coffee beans suspiciously sitting on counters at the mall or in stores were most likely left there on purpose. However, in case you didn't happen to notice some spare coffee beans laying around we are going to explain why they are often spotted at these types of locations.
Full disclosure: This scientific theory remains controversial as some researchers have provided evidence based on their own studies that there was no perceived benefit to smelling coffee beans compared to other scents or products including lemons and/or one's own natural scent. However, in our experience we have found coffee beans to work just fine. So we continue...
Coffee is an "olfactory palate cleanser." Put simply... Think of coffee beans as the "sorbet" for candle enthusiasts.
UC Berkeley neuroscientist Noam Sobel has spent a good deal of his career examining the impact of smell on our brain mechanisms, especially decision making. We took the liberty of inserting (candle scent) to make the following passage more applicable to our fragrant candles.
"Smelling coffee aroma between perfume (candle scent) samples, as compared to smelling unscented air, actually works. The perceived odor intensity of the perfume (candle scent) from sample to sample stayed the same after smelling coffee aroma while it decreased when smelling air between samples. The pleasantness of the perfume (candle scent); however was similar after smelling coffee or air."
Even as experienced candlemakers, we have fallen victim to the same frustrations from time to time. On one particular occasion we were making several batches of scented soy candles on the kitchen table and forgot to properly label the "landing zone." A few hours later we had some difficulty determining the scent. Yes each candle smelled great -- but the perceived odor intensity appeared to waiver. Put simply, the scents seemed to blend together and it was difficult to properly identify which scent was which. We started to debate back and forth. Ultimately we took a break and revisited the candles a few hours later and were able to proceed just fine.
We thought... how could this be?
We know our scents inside and out, but when in doubt turn to Google. What we learned through some quick internet searching is that we were experiencing "nasal fatigue." We started to get "nosey" (pun intended) and dug a little deeper and explored more on this very topic.
Terminology defined. In the case described above, we were experiencing "nasal fatigue" -- which tends to happen when nasal receptors become less and less sensitive to certain notes, making it hard to tell one scent (fragrance) from another. Nasal fatigue is also commonly referred to as olfactory fatigue, odor fatigue, and/or olfactory adaptation.
This is not something to stress over. Think about when you walk into a coffee shop or restaurant, when you first walk in the smell can be overpowering. The smell then seems to get less strong. This is olfactory habituation or olfactory adaptation at work. Side note: Anosmia is the permanent loss of the sense of smell and should not be confused with olfactory fatigue.
By using coffee in between testing different candle scents, you are in effect cleansing your nasal receptors, similar to how foodies eat sorbet in between courses to cleanse their palate. So go clear the air and give this tip a try!
Time for a coffee break!
Your friends at atlantic avenew
P.S. If you are still curious on this topic or how you can use coffee for other purposes, check out the articles below.
- Unusual Uses for Coffee. Article from Instructables.com. Spoiler: We found that using coffee as "paint" was pretty cool.
- We Base the Most Important Decisions of Our Lives on Smell. Discussion between Noam Sobel and Ayett Shani.