Where Does Vanilla Flavoring Come From?

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Vanilla is a food flavoring essential for baked goods, ice cream, and sugary drinks. It is also used in perfumes, repellents, and cosmetics.

Despite the low consumption, the annual consumption of spice exceeds 12 thousand tons.

Where Does Vanilla Flavoring Come From?

People obtained vanillin from Vanilla beans. This process is very long and costly. Therefore, scientists have created artificial vanillin in the laboratory.

The path to a pleasant vanillin smell is long because fresh vanilla pods are tasteless. After prolonged processing, vanillin acquires a delicate, refreshing aroma, spicy, bitter taste, and characteristic brown color.

You can obtain vanillin flavor not only from the pods of an orchid flower but also from the glands of a beaver.

Vanilla Beans

Where Does Vanilla Flavoring Come From?
Vanilla Flowers And Beans (Photo)

The homeland of vanillin is Central and South America. When the Europeans tasted this spice, they cultivated it in other colonies with a suitable climate. The liana grew, where people planted it, bloomed regularly, but no fruits appeared on it.

Vanillin comes from pods that grow on lianas linked to orchids. Obtaining vanillin is a time-consuming and difficult process that entails several steps:

The farmers collect the pods that have reached a certain maturity level and cook the fruits in a heated oven.

For 10-14 days, the fruits are alternately boiled and steamed. During the day, they lie in the scorching sun. And at night, the farmer wraps them in woolen cloth and places them in a vacuum container.

The harvest lasts during a two- to three-month period. After the first three phases, they ripen the pods till the aroma is dazzling and profound.

After a successful harvesting process, a white “bloom” forms on the beans. It’s referred to as vanillin.

Madagascar is presently the world’s leading vanillin producer. You may find plantations in Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, and Seychelles.


Where Does Vanilla Flavoring Come From?
A Beaver (Photo)

As a result of our search, we learned that flavors come from a substance called Castoreum.

It turns out that this compound’s flavor comes from a unique beaver excretion. An organ between the pelvis and the base of the beaver’s tail secreted this mucous substance. It is often mixed with anal gland products and urine.

Castoreum, or beaver stream, is a waxy substance secreted by beavers through the castor glands located at the base of the animal’s tail.

Castoreum has a pleasant scent due to the beaver’s unique diet and is hence used in vanillin flavoring. Castoreum was never a primary ingredient in vanillin flavoring. People utilized it to enhance certain agreeable scents.

Beavers smell is a stunning rich scent found in gouache, flesh, leather, and smoke shades. The chemical composition of Castoreum consists of more than 60 compounds, including phenols (gouache), cresols, volatile ammoniacal bases, benzoic and carboxylic acids. The fragrance is even often used in the perfume industry.

According to the US FDA, Castoreum is a safe additive used to generate extract or essence for making cakes, cookies, shakes, and ice creams.

This substance is also an important ingredient for making perfumes, lotions, candles, and snacks over the past 80 years.

The fact is that “milking” a beaver for the sake of a flavoring substance is a rather expensive and time-consuming process. Therefore, most flavors today are made from natural pods or synthetic compounds.


Synthetic vanillin comes from entirely in a laboratory. The wood pulp with the best chemical structure is a primary synthetic vanilla substrate.

In the past, farmers have utilized Lignin, a by-product of the paper industry. Most synthetic vanillin contains petrochemical precursors such as ethyl vanillin, glyoxylic acid, and guaiacol.

Although synthetic vanillin has the same chemical makeup as the primary component in beans, the two do not have the same flavor. Natural vanillas has a subtler, more complex, and intriguing flavor, including hundreds of chemicals.

Types Of Vanillin Flavor


This substance differs in quality and cost. The price of a production flavor will be comparable to a real compound and sometimes a little higher.

The extract transforms into another form, such as liquid or crystalline. Natural flavor is concentrated and requires less to use.

Identical to natural:

The consciousness formula of the flavor is similar to that of natural compounds. However, in this case, people produced the flavor artificially. They used it in food products such as chocolate, baked goods, and dairy products.


A substance created by production has a different chemical composition, aromatic as natural compounds. Sometimes an artificial flavor is useful in the production of confectionery. But more often, you can use it to create cosmetics, air fresheners, etc.

To choose a quality and suitable flavoring for the situation, you need to read the composition of the label carefully.

Where Does Vanilla Grow On The World Map?

Vanilla grows between 10 and 20 degrees north and south of the equator. Madagascar, Mexico, and Tahiti produce the majority of the beans available today.

Because of the differences in species, temperatures, soils, and curing procedures, each country’s vanilla has its particular taste profile and attributes.

Madagascar vanilla, for example, has a creamy, sweet flavor. Mexican vanillas include a trace of spiciness and sweet overtones, whereas Tahitian vanilla has fruity and floral characteristics.

Mexico – The Birthplace of Vanilla

The homeland of vanillas is Mexico. For the first time, the Indians of the ancient Totonac tribe added it to food and drinks.

Afterward, this wonderful aroma captivated the Spaniards. A man named Hernando Cortez took vanillas to Spain.

Until the mid-19th century, Mexico was the only producer of vanillas. The fact is that this plant is endemic.

Only bees of the genus Melipona and one species of hummingbirds that live exclusively in Mexico can pollinate it. Therefore, vanillas can grow in any suitable climate, but you cannot obtain the harvest naturally.

The farmers then lay beans out in the sun every day to collect heat before storing them in enormous wooden boxes overnight to sweat. They keep the beans on racks and in conditioning boxes once sufficiently curing them to let the flavor develop and mellow.

The full curing process can take three to six months, making it time-consuming. Mexican vanillas has a deep-spicy flavor, akin to clove or nutmeg, and is a rich mix of sweet and woody elements.

Madagascar – The Discovery of Hand Pollination for Vanilla

A vanilla vine came from Mexico to the island of Réunion in 1793. Vanilla production and growth faced many challenges for about 50 years following its introduction.

Although the vines produced gorgeous blooms, they rarely produced the pods. Without the Melipona bee, local insects only fertilized the blossoms on rare occasions.

Charles Morren, a Belgian botanist, didn’t discover the relationship between bee and plant pollination until 1836. In 1841 Edmond Albius of Réunion invented an excellent hand-fertilization method for blooms. Madagascan eventually achieved hand pollination on a commercial scale.

Farmers may pick the nicest blossoms and spread them out appropriately on the vine, resulting in healthier, higher-quality pods. Hand pollination by the country’s trained and patient farmers, along with the country’s hot, humid climate and rich soil, has allowed Madagascar to become the world’s top producer in both quantity and quality.

The curing procedure in Madagascar is identical to that in Mexico, yet with one minor change. The growers begin the curing process by briefly soaking the green beans in hot water.

After that, they store the beans in sweat boxes before spreading beans in the sun and storing them at night.

Together with the growth circumstances, this particular curing technique contributes to Madagascar vanilla’s distinct, rich, and very nuanced taste character.

Madagascar (Bourbon) vanillas are very high quality. Experts describe its taste and aroma as creamy, sweet, and soft.

Tahiti – Similar Climate, Different Species

Tahiti’s tropical environment makes it an ideal place for vanilla cultivation. During several decades in this area, Vanilla aromatic and Vanilla fragrance trees were expertly mixed, resulting in the plump Tahitian beans we know today: Vanilla tahitensis.

Vanilla cultivated in Tahiti is not cured like the plant grown in Madagascar or Mexico. The farmers pile mature beans for five to ten days in a cool spot until they are brown.

Then they clean the beans in pure water, a Tahiti-only procedure. They let the beans expose to the moderate morning light for three to four hours each day for a month.

To enhance transpiration, they wrap the beans in cloth and put them in boxes until morning. The water evaporates gradually, causing the beans to shrink.

The farmer will smooth and flatten the bean pods between thumb and index finger at this step. After a month, they dry the beans in a darkened and ventilated location for 40 days, reducing their moisture content.

The taste of Tahitian Vanilla is wonderful, with flowery tones and ripe fruit undertones. Cherry chocolate, licorice, and caramel flavors abound.

Uganda – Two Harvests

Due to the country’s unique weather, Ugandan farmers may harvest the beans twice a year, between December and June or July.

Although Uganda has vanilla-pollinating bees, they are too rare and far apart to be useful. Thus Ugandan beans are hand-pollinated.

When the ends of the beans start to yellow and split, it’s time to pluck them. Then, similar to Madagascar, they go through a blanching, sweating, and storage procedure.

The scent of Ugandan vanilla is earthy with milk-chocolate undertones. Because these African beans generate a large level of vanillin, the taste is particularly strong, making them ideal for rich pastries and chocolates.

Indonesia – A High Product Region

Indonesian farmers collect all of the beans from a vine at once, saving time and effort. Indonesian beans have a sharper, woodier character than the beans from other locations due to changes in the cultivation and curing processes.

This curing process aids in the stability of the beans, which is necessary for usage in high-heat applications. Indonesian beans are frequently mixed with beans from other countries.

Indonesia is the world’s second-largest bean producer. The flavor and scent of the beans are woody, sour, and slightly phenolic.

Nielsen-Massey Sources Vanilla from Several Countries

Nielsen-Massey provides the world’s top vanilla growing Mexico, Madagascar, Tahiti, Papua New Guinea, Uganda, India, and Indonesia. Nielsen-Massey Vanillas has long prided itself on searching the globe for the greatest quality vanilla to use in its products.

The company is a leader in enhancing the industry’s overall health, focusing on improving economic prospects for the farmers and their families.


What Color Is Vanilla?

Vanillin has a yellowish-beige, creamy shade. It is the color that the flowers have. Its color has all the virtues for which we love white so much, and at the same time, brings notes of comfort and warmth to the interior.

Can I Sprinkle Vanilla On A Pie?

In the confectionery industry, you can add this spice to the baking dough, cakes, pastries, cocktails, ice cream, chocolate, desserts, and other confectionery products.

What Does Vanilla Taste Like?

Vanillin is the thinnest and most expensive spice, which is the processed pods of the evergreen lianas of the Orchidaceae family. This compound has a delicately sweet, unique aroma, but at the same time, it doesn’t taste very pleasant.

What Smells Like Vanilla?

Real vanillin doesn’t have a suffocating sweet scent. It has a spicy, amber-woody, thick, slightly liqueur aroma.

Final Thoughts:

You already know the answer to the question: where does vanilla flavoring come from? The secret of the beaver seems scary.

But rest assured that the flavor extracted from Castoreum is very expensive because the beaver population is declining.

The natural flavor from the extract of Vanilla beans is also very expensive due to the elaborate processing. Therefore, the smell of confectionery and ice cream is often a lab-made flavoring.