In the heart of Hong Kong, where the name itself means “fragrant harbor,” the essence of the city’s identity lies in incense. Among the many varieties, one stands out with a unique secret ingredient.
Wah Yuen, a shop tucked away in the bustling streets, is one of the last places in Hong Kong where artisans meticulously handcraft incense from agarwood. Agarwood incense carries the fragrance of nutty wood and sweet vanilla, but its aroma comes at a steep price.
A mere pound of high-quality agarwood can command a staggering $60,000. The challenge lies in sourcing top-notch agarwood, a rare treasure derived from aquilaria trees.
Strangely, when these trees are healthy, they emit no fragrance; it’s only when they suffer damage that they produce the precious oil that gives rise to this unique scent. While modern factories have taken over much of incense production, Wah Yuen remains a stronghold of tradition, fervently preserving the art of hand-rolling agarwood. It’s a legacy, silently whispering the essence of Hong Kong’s fragrant heritage.
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Top image: Agarwood incense. Source: Jbphotographylt / Adobe Stock.