Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Myth Busting: Coffee Beans as a Method for Fighting Nose Fatigue?

We all know the drill, as perpetuated on the perfume counter: After a series of enthusiastic spritzing of every conceivable fragrance on the shelf our nose registers .....nothing. (This can also be an effect of too much of a specific class of aromachemicals in fine fragrance, for which you can refer to the linked article). So what have the shops come up with to counteract that nasal tiredness? They devised a technique of fighting boredom of the nasal passages with an aroma so strong and different that the jolting sensation would recalibrate our ability to smell: coffee beans. Freshly roasted, dark and aromatically pungent. Does the trick work? Usually not so well, in our experience. But now scientific research backs this claim up.

Do without the perfume-counter coffee beans, say Beloit College researchers

Beloit, Wis. – In an effort to offer shoppers a nasal palate cleanser (and presumably, to sell more fragrances), department store perfume counters have long been topped with small jars of coffee beans. As it turns out, they shouldn’t be. New research published by a Beloit College* professor and two of her students suggests that the beans are no more useful than sniffing the air when it comes to clearing the nose.

In a recently published report titled “An Exploratory Investigation of Coffee and Lemon Scents and Odor Identification,” psychology professor Alexis Grosofsky and two Beloit students, Margaret L. Haupert (class of 2011) and Schyler W. Versteeg (’12), put this common practice to the test using four widely available fragrances (BabeConfessPrettiest and Tempt Me). After several months of work they found that, “Coffee beans and lemon seem to have no special refreshing properties.”  

“Fragrance sellers,” they suggest, “may wish to reconsider the practice of providing coffee beans to their customers.”

The research is outlined in the latest edition of Perceptual and Motor Skills, a peer-reviewed bimonthly research journal. Read the full article online.

*Beloit College, founded in 1846, is Wisconsin’s oldest college. Hailed as one of a handful of “Colleges That Change Lives” by former New York Times education editor Loren Pope, Beloit draws students from 48 U.S. states and 40 countries to its residential campus along the Rock River in downtown Beloit, Wis. Learn more at www.beloit.edu


  1. :) I thought so myself (from personal experience).
    I didn't notice coffee beans helping (after all, they have an aroma of their own) but actually breathing in my sweater (or any clothes I have on that is not perfumed) helps clear my nose the best.

  2. I agree with Ines, I do the same. Also I find taking a break doesn't hurt.

    Now the stores can have one less item on the counter.

  3. Ines,

    Isn't it great how hard-core perfumistas instinctively know these things? :-)

  4. TFC,

    good perspective; too much crowding on the counter never helped anyone. Plus it will be fun having ignorant sales assistants having their standard (ignorant) lines revoked. *evil grin*

  5. Maria14:20

    I attended Mandy Aftel's workshop once, and she advised to smell wool in such situations. Also, somewhere in Celine Ellena's blog there was a passing mention of smelling your own skin when you need to "calm down" your sense of smell.

  6. Too funny, isn't it ?
    Fresh air works wonders ;-)
    Where did common sense go ????

    Have a delightful respite, dearest
    E !

  7. M,

    indeed, unless wool has been sprayed with perfume itself. :P
    I back up Celine's claim 100% from experience: clean skin has a scent that is very attuned to the owner's smell perception and therefore would work wonders to cleanse the palate, so to speak.
    Thanks for adding that piece of info!

  8. Ida,

    but bien sur, mon amie! It's as easy as taking a stroll outside! But they're afraid of losing the customer, should he/she do that, I suppose. Idiots.

    Thanks for the kind wishes, darling. Hope you're very well yourself. I needed my daily swim like crazy! It's glorious to lie down in the sun without a care in the world (momentarily, I'll give you, LOL)

  9. Crap.
    When I'm pushed a bowl of coffee under my nose by the over-eager shop assistants, I enjoy telling them that I remember the fragrances. They don't believe me but that's their problem:D

    In other news, I found Mugler's Pure Coffee in some Australian online store so it's on its way to me. That's coffee I'll love to smell.

  10. L,

    hello darling! How are things?

    It's kinda nice to save a (favourably impressionable) fragrance for last while testing, so that indeed one retains the olfactory memory. And of course with your keen interest in perfumes you very well recall what you smelled at any given point. I think SAs are brain-washed to actually believe the drill they're giving and have a very hard time questioning it. Some of them are not really interested in perfumes themselves (I'm talking about mainstream counters as working the niche sector it's a prerequisite that one has an interest in the subject to begin with). So it shows that they're rather bored. Their loss!! ;-)

    I think Mugler does some terrific stuff and surely Pure Coffee was among his most pleasurable. Enjoy the purchase! The Mirroir series isn't bad either: at least two winners out of them, easily.

  11. Things are messy and busy, complicated by yours truly being as blonde as possible in the last few days.
    I seem to have bad luck with Mugler's Coffee. I smelled it in a store, was weirded out, then I decided I wanted it, it was sold out all over the Universe, scored a bottle on fleabay which was lost in the mail... I just hope that when it's sent registered, it'll arrive in reasonable timespan.

    I hate those short-term limited editions. I never saw Ode a la Vanille in the stores, now it's gone (wellll, snatched another lone bottle on amazon, internets rock), now the Dandy and Voyou was never spotted out in the wild but I'll order them from Guerlain after the paycheck but it's silly, all.

    I was doing some in-depth cleaning and discovered a heap of forgotten things, some of which rock. Do you know that the old version of Molyneux' Vivre is a violet chypre? Who'd guess that such a thing exists.

  12. Anonymous01:56

    Neither coffee beans OR wool (or fabric from your sleeves) work. Just breathe out from your nostrils, and you will be fine!

  13. L,

    Vivre is a lovely fragrance, enjoy!!

    LEs are a bitch, agree.

  14. Anon,

    tell that to someone in a department store perfume counter around noon! The air is filled with the miasma of assorted sprayed current rotation fragrances. :-/


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