Monoi and the Tiare Flower

Tiare Flower
The Tiare Flower is both an emblem of TAHITI and a pillar of Polynesian traditions. Its Latin name is “Gardenia Tahitensis”. This magnificent little flower with its snow-white petals arranged in the form of a star is more popularly known as the Tiare Tahiti or Tahitian Gardenia. From the family of Rubiaceae, the Tiare grows on small shrubs that produce a limited number of flowers each day year round. Completely free of toxicity, it is a durable flower that is the most popular of all fragrant Polynesian plants.

Like a precious jewel resting in a dazzling setting of dark green shiny foliage, the simple white beauty of the Tiare flower is one to admire. You can find this flower bush throughout Tahiti. Her unique delicate perfume is as unforgettable as it is sweet. The Tiare is a commonly used in making the Tahitian Hei or head lei as well as for the regular garland type lei for around one’s neck. The sweet aroma of Tiare is a common fragrance in the air as one walks around anywhere in Tahiti. People grow it everywhere!

The Tiare flower is the favorite daily adornment of the Tahitians, both men (tane) and women (vahine), who wear it the same way fashionably placed behind one’s ear. Depending on the island, the choice of which ear has a subtle message. On some islands of Polynesia, left means “looking” and right means “taken”. On others, left matching the wedding band means “married” and right means “single”. While the visitor is not required to know the difference, it is fun to know the traditions of the island that you are on, especially if you are “looking”. While many Polynesian traditions and customs are very similar, the fact that a Tiare behind an ear has a meaning is universally Polynesian, yet the choice of which ear is not always the same!

The Tiare has a special association with the preparation of “Monoi de Tahiti” and Monoi Tiare Tahiti. The flower is used as the natural fragrance found in this particular fragrance of Monoi. What is the difference in the meanings of Monoi Tiare Tahiti and “Monoi de Tahiti”? Well, Monoi Tiare Tahiti is the original product that has been made by Parfumerie Tiki since 1942. It predates ” Monoi de Tahiti” by exactly half a century or fifty years. “Monoi de Tahiti” is the Appellation d’Origine Controlee designation from a French Law for the Protection of the Place of Origin. The designation was declared by the Government of France on April 1,1992 and by the Government of French Polynesia on the same date. “Monoi de Tahiti” was declared to be an indigenous product of Tahiti, and since it has been subject to severe fraudulent copying, the product was declared to be deserving of protection. The decree further states that “Monoi de Tahiti” could only be made in certain defined ways. The products would then receive an official designation of origin to prove its authenticity. The decree can be seen at this link:écret-92-340-du-1-avril-1992.pdf

Now comes the interesting part. The formula for Monoi made by generations of Tahitians at home has simply been: use the best made coconut oil available and mix the oil with macerated Tiare flower pedals so that the wonderful fragrance of the Tiare flower will impart itself into the oil. That’s it. It’s that simple. This is how the true Monoi Tiare is made. Well, maybe not quite that simple. Not all coconut oils are created equally. The coconut oil itself must be highly refined in order to produce the best quality product. This is the Monoi Tiare Tahiti proprietary secret. But this is a story for a separate page.

The Tiare flowers are hand picked when the flower is still a bud, is about to open, and is not yet in total bloom. The petals are pulled apart and they are immediately soaked into the oil for a minimum of 10 days. During this natural process known in the Monoi manufacturer’s circle as “enfleurage”, a French term used to designate a specific extraction step; those extraordinary little petals from nature will slowly release their unique properties and fragrance into the coconut oil. The magical transformation is achieved. And Voila’,…….Monoi Tiare Tahiti is created!

Throughout the centuries, the unique properties and benefits of the Tiare flowers have endured and have been clearly demonstrated. The scented oil has been in constant use by the local populations. And the Appellation of Origin certifies the solid reputation of Monoi de Tahiti.

Beginning in the 1970’s, Monoi Tiare Tahiti was constantly copied by inferior foreign fraudulent knockoffs of the true product. From that point on, Parfumerie Tiki placed a dried Tiare flower in every exported bottle of Monoi to show that this was the true Monoi.

Look for the original, Monoi Tiare Tahiti, with the flower in the bottle, from Parfumerie Tiki.