Thursday, February 23, 2012

Coming soon to the shop! {Camphor from Yakushiima}

Remember our visit to the amazing coffee shop, Issou Coffee? Well... there is a little story that continued after the first visit.

When we were at the coffee shop last time,  a nicely designed small package caught my eyes as I was walking out of the shop door. I asked what it was to the owner... and he mentioned that it was something they recently developed... something about Kusuno-Ki (a camphor tree in Japanese). I picked up a sample bottle and smelled it for a short moment..., then put it down to leave the store. The coffee shop was getting little crowded as new customers were pouring in and I wanted to make sure that we did not get on their way.

As we drove home, I kept talking about how nice the bottle smelled... (and I was already so infatuated with the coffee shop) so I looked up on the internet to learn more and I found that the father of Issou Coffee's owner is running one of the last three camphor powder factories in Japan. Camphor powder is known as a great natural insect repellent and has been a huge industry on Yakushima island until synthetic insect repellent has dominated the market. Camphor powder which smells little bit like an earthy mint can be used in the closet as a moss repellent or placed in rooms as a room fragrant. Camphor essential oil which is the by-product of camphor powder can be used as an aromatherapy to uplift the mood while keeping the bugs away (and there are more benefits!)

I exchanged a few emails with Mikako-san, the owner of Issou Coffee along with her husband, and we have decided that Yaushima camphor powder and essential oil would be great additions to our baum-kuchen shop since they are very functional, carefully crafted to promote healthier way of living and come in a nicely designed packaging:) 

Fast forward one week... we were really excited to visit Issou to get a mini personal factory tour! My first impression of walking into the factory was, "wow... it smells amazing!" They told us that all the factory tools/machines had been built by hand and I could sense that products were cared very closely. The camphor tree is chopped in chips and steamed. From the large steaming machine (5th photo), vapor is collected and separated into oil, powder and water through a several cooling chamber and filtering system (6th-8th photo). Camphor oil is filtered several times for purification (9th photo) and they use leftover camphor wood chips as a heat source in order to minimize any waste that comes out of the process.

We came home with a small box full of camphor powder and essential oil... since then my little pleasure has been to check on the box and breathe in the fragrance to refresh my thoughts.

I will be shipping these camphor products along with other goodies from Yakushima (including a few rocks and sea shells) to our Los Angeles office when we leave the island! I hope you enjoy the new line up for the shop!



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