Crossing the half way mark through 2019 means the onset of summer. Summer, to us, is often the best time of the year to visit destinations where nature is abound. We decided to take a road trip through Hokkaido this year – it’s a beautiful place to weave through charming roads – chasing after fields of flowering summer blooms and luscious carpets of lavender purple, which are especially distinct of Hokkaido summers.
Interestingly, the name “Lavender” stemmed from the Latin word “lavare”, which means “to wash”. While most of us know the calming uses of lavender in perfumes and aromatherapy today, it has been used extensively for other purposes dating back to ancient times. Mummification by the Egyptians, baths and cooking by the Romans, spiritual practices to ward of evil spirits…
We were thrilled when we chanced upon a farm in Hokkaido, which showcased their lavender oil production process. While there are over 30 species of Lavender, only three main species are used to produce essential oils. The months of harvest are typically between July through August. It is essential to plan a harvest based on balanced weather conditions – not too hot, not too cold, nor too windy – otherwise the oils risk evaporating, compromising on the quality of the fragrance and therapeutic properties. Freshly-cut lavender is then left to dry for a few days before sending them off to the distillery.
The lavender is first tightly packed in a steel mesh basket in preparation for the steam distillation process. The boiler heats up the still and as pressurized steam rises, the steam carries off the essence of the lavender flowers. This steam-essence mixture is then passed through a condenser where it cools off into a liquid mixture. The liquid mixture flows into a special glass flask, where two layers form – the lavender oil layer which floats on top and the water layer which is a byproduct of deistillation. The lavender oil is carefully drawn out and used for your fragrances, cosmetics, and more!