Blue Stone Botanicals’ products are inspired by the plant-based healing traditions of the island peoples of Bali and Java who, living amidst abundant, volcanic agricultural lands, lush tropical rainforests and along ancient sea routes, have long used aromatic plants to heal and fortify body and mind.
Blue Stone Botanicals’ delectable range of aromatherapy products are packaged for contemporary use, but their recipes are rooted in traditional practices. They use no artificial additives, and all preparations are cruelty free and vegetarian.
Denanda Satria is the founder and owner of Blue Stone Botanicals.
Denanda, you studied accounting in the UK. Why did you decide to open a business in aromatherapy?
One day I was sitting in a train from Jogja to Jakarta, in the front row, where an automatic air-freshener was being sprayed directly into into my face. It smelled bad and was full of chemicals. This went on for 8 hours! I started to feel dizzy. I had been thinking about what kind of business to open, and by the time I got to Jakarta I had decided to make natural products to replace fake perfumes.
Why did you think it was important to offer a natural alternative?
I only knew of one company making pure essential oils; most were mixed with chemicals. So I could see there was a need.
Some commonly used chemicals can cause cancer. I wanted to create something natural and real, direct from the plants, that would be good for the people who use them and also good for the farmers who produce the ingredients.
How did you get started?
Indonesia is the perfect place to do this because it produces many high-quality essential oils. I tried different oils from different local distilleries and started to build expertise from there.
For a consumer who knows little about oils, is it easy to tell what’s high quality and what isn’t?
Even the spa therapists here in Bali don’t always know what all-natural means. They think they’re using pure essential oils, but they aren’t. They have lotus essential oil, and green tea essential oil, but you can’t make oils out of those plants!
There are a few indicators of quality: firstly, the price. You have to distil tons and tons of plant material to get a few drops of essential oil, and this can’t be done cheaply. Secondly, the smell. If you go into our shop and smell those oils, afterwards when you smell chemical fragrances you’ll be able to tell the difference. Thirdly, by the look of them. Real essential oils all have different colours, and some are thicker and stickier than others.
Which oils does Indonesia specialize in?
Most common are cinnamon and patchouli from Sumatra, and lemongrass, cananga and clove from Java. Indonesian oils is are very good but they tend to be a certain type of oil, which is woody or spicy in character, like clove, ginger or cinnamon. That’s one spectrum of the scent families.
Where do you find your recipes?
When we create a new product, we really like to base it on traditional knowledge. I chat with local people, asking them what they would use. They say, “my mother used to use this”, or “when we were kids we used to use this”. The knowledge is still there but it’s not recorded. You can’t open a book and find a recipe for Balinese hair tonic, but the practices are still there.
We draw on traditions from Java as well – I recently visited some old jammu shops, to see what ingredients they use. The difficulty is people think I want to steal their knowledge and their recipes and make money from it, but that’s not really the point. The point is to popularize them, and that way, keep them alive. The traditions are dying. Not everyone wants to squeeze a coconut to get the oil!
Do you produce everything in Ubud?
Yes, in our “botanical studio”. I have nine staff only, including those in the shops. We’re still a tiny company.