I had so much fun crafting up these creamy, sweet-smelling, sparkly bars of tea latte inspired soap. The batter is silky smooth and has great play time, so the whole mixing-pouring-swirling experience is calm and easy and fun (no pudding panic here, ha!). A dusty brown base is accented with milky white swirls reminiscent of the swirls on top of a latte, with the brown hue coming from the essential oil blend. The tops of the bars are sculpted up and decorated with sprinkles of tea leaves and a bit of something sparkly for a little something special. I think these bars of Cream of Earl Grey Soap are pretty darn lovely!
Want to watch this project instead of read it?
The base of the soap features quite a lot of liquid oils—more than I often use. This is because I wanted the batter to remain relatively thin while I worked with it so I could create some intricate swirls. I’m also soaping a bit warmer than I often do for the same reason. I’ve had some people ask why I’m using so much olive oil lately, and it’s simply because I have so much of it. Oh my heavens. My inventory-ing revealed that I’ve “run out” and re-purchased olive oil… a couple times… without actually running out in the first place because I apparently can lose 8L of olive oil in my basement. What a skill, eh? Anywho, rice bran oil or canola oil would both be good alternatives; you could even create a blend if you so desire!
Our essential oil blend is sweet, tea-like palmarosa, bright bergamot, and warm, sugary benzoin resinoid. It smells all kinds of sweet and warm and tea-like, and makes me think of chunky knits and handmade pottery and foamy milk on the top of lattes. The blend carries over well to the finished bars and lasts well throughout aging—I made these bars in November and they still smell great!
I used normal bergamot essential oil (as opposed to the variety with the photosensitizing compounds removed) as soap is a wash-off product, but feel free to use whichever you have. I don’t recommend using a different citrus essential oil as bergamot is such an integral part of the Earl Grey blend. You could use a vanilla fragrance oil (make sure you know how it behaves in soap, though!) in place of the benzoin; I wouldn’t recommend vanilla essential oil as it’s quite pricey and I find it doesn’t last well in soap. I haven’t found anything that stands in well for palmarosa—the “tea” fragrance oils I’ve smelled are usually part of a blend like “green tea and pear”, so they aren’t well suited for creating your own tea blend around them.
Because this soap batter is on the softer side I’d recommend leaving the soap in the mould for three days and aging it for at least four weeks. I made mine before going away for a long weekend, so mine ended up sitting for 4.5 days before slicing! It was still perfectly workable, so don’t worry if you forget about it for a couple days.
The final bars are oh-so-pretty, smell divine, and are a wonderful addition to our Earl Grey theme. Let’s get soaping!
Want to watch this project instead of read it?
Cream of Earl Grey Soap
Calculate to 5% superfat
Per 500g oils:
- 2 tbsp white kaolin clay (USA / Canada)
- 7g | 0.25oz bergamot essential oil
- 14g | 0.49oz palmarosa essential oil
- 9g | 0.32oz benzoin resinoid
- Titanium dioxide, pre-dispersed in olive oil, as needed
- Whole black tea leaves, for the topping, as desired
- A warm mica or glitter, for the topping, as desired
Kick things off by calculating out your recipe for the amount of soap you’re making to get the finite amounts of the fats, lye, and water. Unsure about how to use SoapCalc? I made a video to walk you through it! Please ensure you’re familiar with standard soap making procedure before diving in (click that link if you aren’t!).
Prepare your mould—you’ll want a loaf mould for this soap. Melt your oils together in your soaping pot, and have a container with a pouring spout handy (I use these awesome funnel pitchers). Let your oils cool to slightly warmer than room temperature. Mix up your lye water and let that cool to about room temperature (you can use ice for part of your water to speed up the cooling process).
While everything is cooling, weigh out your essential oils, and measure out the clay. Blend the clay into the oils using your immersion blender; I find it’s helpful to stir a bit of oil into the clay first to create a thick paste and then blend that paste into the rest of the oils—having it in a smaller dish to start gives you more of an opportunity to bust up clumps.
Once the melted fats and lye water are just slightly warmer than room temperature, follow standard soap making procedure to bring them to trace. When you have a relatively thin trace, blend in the essential oils.
Now it’s time to divide up our batter! Pour about 10% of it into the small pitcher and leave the remaining batter in the pot. Add some titanium dioxide to the 10% and blend to combine—you just want enough to make it look milky.
Pour the 90% of the batter (the stuff without the titanium dioxide) into the mould, and then drizzle the titanium dioxide batter overtop. Using a gear tie that’s been twisted into a loop, create some twisty swirls in the top of the batter (watch the video to see what I did). Leave it to set up for about ten minutes before sculpting the top up into a bit of a mohawk. Sprinkle a few tea leaves down the centre and dust the loaf with glitter or mica.
Leave to saponify for 48–72 hours. Remove from the mould and slice (slice it from the side so you don’t drag tea leaves through the soap), and then leave to age for at least four weeks before using or gifting. Enjoy!