A Good Rose
In the valley of Taif roses are collected from the fields early in the morning before sunrise as the sun’s heat reduces the fragrance of the rose. This is in fact the beginning of the distillation process and the distillers are very particular about the quality of their oils and they place strict conditions on the rose collectors. If the roses are collected after the sunrise many of the distillers will not accept them.
The roses that are brought into the distillery are weighed and the idea behind the weighing is to ensure the right number of roses goes into each pot. The first basket that is weighed is done so by counting the number of roses in one basket, then an average of three is taken then that weight becomes associated with the number. For example 5kg for 8000 roses. The majority of the pots are copper pots some dating back a couple of centuries. The small pots can take up to 10 thousand roses and the larger pots can take up to 20 thousand roses.
The reason the counting is important is to ensure they have the right number of roses, because in Taif a rose oil is either good or bad. They don’t really have in between. Therefore getting the number of roses in the pot is very important to them.
The Best Oil
According to local practice the best quality rose oil comes from 40 thousand roses that are not boiled more than 2 times. For every 40 thousand rose batch (20 thousand roses x 2), only a toola (11.7 grams) of rose oil is extracted. This is the highest quality of rose oil. Bad quality rose oil comes from smaller batches of roses that are boiled multiple times to make up the tola of oil.
Rose oil and rose water are produced using copper boilers, that are lined coated by tin on the outside to protect them. These boilers are kept below 90 degrees C and run for 5 -7 hours. In the past natural fuel sources were used such as wood and dried shrubs, nowadays they are heated by gas. The copper boilers are filled with rose then about 50 litres of fresh mountain water or the previous year’s rose water is added.
The mixture is allowed to simmer gently and the steam travels up slowly into the mushroom-shaped helmet that fits tightly on the boiler. The mushroom lid is slightly angled towards the side which has the tube.
This tube directs the steam through a cooling tank filled with water. The distillate condenses and runs down into a large glass tear shaped bottle, where it begins to separate into rose water and oil. In this first run, only half a tola is produced from 20 thousand roses. This is the highest quality rose from Taif.