Rose water is such a good product – smells wonderful, tastes great and great for the skin too. But, nowadays, you can’t walk into a store and just pick any product labelled as Rose water, and here’s why…
A little history:
Rose water is not a new concept. It was developed by the Arabs using the steam distillation process going back to the 12th century or even earlier. It has a slightly acidic pH and the product typically lasts a year without spoilage. The Arab traders exported Rose water all around the world including France, Rome and China. So, if the product has existed and transported across the world for so many centuries, why do we need propelyne glycol and potassium sorbate (a more recent innovation) to be added to it?
How is it even made?
Rose water is actually a hydrosol made from the steam distillation of rose petals. Thus traditional manufacturers are located near rose fields, harvest the roses and steam distill them immediately. This business model involves a lot of labor and deals with a perishable product (rose petals). If a manufacturer does not want to go that route, all they do is set up a machine anywhere in the world that mixes rose extracts, oils or even worse rose essence with water, add some preservatives and bam!! market it as rose water.
When you mix rose essence with water and send it to stores all over the world, you have to add preservatives so that there is no mold and bacteria growth during its shelf life. I am not against using preservatives, but if your original product was a rose hydrosol, you don’t need preservatives in the first place.
Is marketing budget> Raw material budget?
So, let us consider the money trail. Since there is no Government guidelines on what should be sold as “Rose Water”, some companies take advantage of it. Let us consider an example from a popular branded company.
Usually, you see names like Dabur and given that these large companies have good quality control programs, you feel comfortable choosing their product. Yes, large corporations do have engineers who will measure and collect data to ensure metrics like –
1) the product will not get spoiled for a very long time
2) it will smell nice for a very long time
3) it will transport without much damage to bottles etc.
However, the very basic raw materials are inferior. These companies make the decision to spend a lot more more on the marketing and quality control of the manufacturing process rather than dealing with high quality roses, labor for picking them etc.
OK, so what about smaller brands?
Ok, so not just branded products, there are smaller companies that do the exact same thing. This one does not even have rose extracts, just aromatic chemicals and some essential oils. Oh, by the way, we are supposed to be happy about the fact that it is “free from alcohol”…I mean, come on!!!
So, is there a good product? Yes:
A few Indian stores here carry this product. It is a very low-key product, not too expensive, not an attractive packaging. But, it is a great product. I use it in cooking and as a skin mist without any reactions.
BTW, for those of you who are suspicious (no problem, I am always suspicious too…), there is another flavor – screw pine essence, in this company’s line of products that uses preservatives. So, it is not like this small company is trying to pull a fast one over you by not declaring preservatives.
The point of all this lecture :
Rule #1 – Always check the ingredients
Rule #2 – Don’t go by brand name and packaging. If crappy products drive high-quality product selling companies out of business, then we all have to go to niche websites and pay an arm and a leg to get genuine organic, certified rose water.
Rule #3 – Preservatives for food products are typically lazy shortcuts. There are so many technological advances from the past like steam distillation and fermentation and in the present like tetra packs, freezing, canning that preserve products without adding a single chemical preservative. Any time you see a company using preservatives, rethink your decision twice before endorsing it with your wallet.
Here’s an affiliate link to good quality rose water, that I have heard chefs use, available on Amazon:
1)Hydrosols – Suzanne Catty