Vanilla is a flavor with no haters. From ice cream to pastries or adding it to your favorite cup of hot cocoa, it exists in all of our lives. However, you once have thought about where does vanilla flavoring come from? In this article, we will be talking about its origin and the journey it took to get to our plates.
The Birthplace of Vanilla
Vanilla is not an artificial flavor as many of us thought. It comes from a plant known as Vanilla Orchid. It is originally from Mexico and people have been using it for thousands of years. This vining plant gives a delicate-smelling flower and it is the main source of vanilla extract as we all know and love.
The story starts with ancient Aztecs who were among the first to find and use Vanilla. They name it Black Flower and use it to make drinks known as “chocolatl” which we call Hot Chocolate. Besides that, they use to think of this flavor as god sent and consider it a very precious and sacred spice.
Because of this Vanilla remains hidden for centuries within Aztec gardens with no relation to the outside world. They also control the plantation, cultivation, and its distribution. However, in the 16th century, the Spanish invaded Mexico and took control of everything the Aztecs own including Vanilla.
Nevertheless, they did not understand the potential it holds and gave no attention to it. You can also say they were greedy and were only keen on collecting gold, silver, and other valuable materials. It wasn’t until the 18th century that Europeans found out about this amazing flavor and it was brought to Europe by a Spanish explorer.
There was one thing that English did not understand regarding Vanilla, which was the cultivation process. Because Aztecs kept the method secret for ages no one truly knows how it was done. Europeans misunderstood the climate needed for orchids to grow and as a result, they struggle to find the correct way through trial and error.
Vanilla Mystery and Madagascar
Up until the 19th century, English men did not see success in reproducing Vanilla orchid on a large scale. This makes the flavor a treasure and only the rich were able to import it from Mexico. People began noticing its heavenly flavor and the demand sky rocket as time passes by.
After a couple of decades, the journey of Vanilla took an unknown turn, leading to its cultivation in the landscape of Madagascar. A young boy found a new technique through which they were able to hand-pollinate vanilla orchids. This breakthrough was the biggest turnaround in Vanilla’s journey and now common people would also be able to enjoy this amazing flavor.
Types of Vanilla
There are many types of Vanilla and all of them have different characteristics. The most common of them all is pure vanilla extract. It is generally made by combining vanilla beans and alcohol.
First, they harvest the beans, and once it has reach the point of cultivation they dip them in hot water to stop their growth. After that, it is left to dry in the sun to get better flavor and smell. Lastly, they mix it with water and alcohol and left it to age for several months. After aging it is filter and it reaches our doorsteps.
The second most popular Vanilla type is a tie between Vanilla paste and powder version. The paste is a thick syrup mixture of extract and bean seed. This type gives out the most well-rounded flavor to anything it mixes with. The process of its creation is very similar to pure vanilla only they make it in paste format after filtering. Similarly, the power version is the same as syrup but it is produce by grinding vanilla beans into fine powder.
Lastly, the artificial vanilla flavor is produce in labs and factories. The smell and flavor are the same as a pure extract but it does not have any depth to it. There are different methods to chemically make the flavor such as using lignin (a part of wood), guaiacol (a compound found in wood smoke), or eugenol (found in cloves).
Reason to Create Artificial Vanilla Flavor
The main reason why it is made artificially is to make it affordable to common people. And mass production without harming nature. If you go out and compare both pure and fake versions, you will not be able to notice much difference.
The only time you will see any changes is when you try to blend it with other complex flavors. Besides that, you should always buy flavors from trustworthy brands and manufacturers as they are basically chemicals and could harm your body in the long term.
Vanilla is one of the most prestigious flavors in human history. It has a hard upbringing and a journey worth remembering. Nowadays you can see almost any food item with a combination of vanilla flavors. If you want to learn more about where does vanilla flavoring come from then read the article above.