Wondering where vanilla flavoring comes from? Read on to find out

Updated on Dec 07, 2021 01:56 PM IST  |  217.6K
Wondering where vanilla flavoring comes from? Read on to find out
Wondering where vanilla flavoring comes from? Read on to find out

When you think of vanilla you probably think of delicious ice cream, freshly made sponge cake and even perhaps a milkshake flavored with the delicious extract. Probably one of the most favored flavors, vanilla grows in the form of dark brown pods called the vanilla bean that is later harvested. While this process seems relatively straightforward, there’s more to the history of this aromatic extract. 


Recently people had concerns about consuming the extract mainly because they believed that the extraction process allegedly involved a beaver's secretions. If you wish to get to the bottom of these claims, then read on. We spell out how this extract was once made and the new-age way that it is now created to grace your favorite baked goodies.


The origin of the extract

Vanilla beans tend to be a long and thin variety that are green in color till they mature. Once they change color and turn brown, they are split and stripped of the minuscle black-hued beads that are the essence of the flavouring. These beans are then soaked in a mixture of water and alcohol before otehr elements are added to give it the right fragrance. Among these elements is castoreum that is produced with the aid of beavers.

vanilla extract and flavors

Beaver secretions used in the making of vanilla

Castoreum is a pleasant smelling yellow-hued liquid originating from the beaver’s castor sacs. While it was not critical to the production of the extract, it added value in terms of flavor. Nonetheless, due to the use of Castoreum, people worried whether it made vanilla non-vegetarian. While it was once used widely in the making of this extract worldwide, today, Castoreum is rarely used. Vanillin then replaced it and made the process completely organic.

vanilla extraction and beavers

Positive changes in how the extract is made today

While vanillin made the process organic, the price of the extract began to skyrocket. It was second only to saffron, because the procedure of harvesting the bean was very labour-intensive. After all, the orchids that produce the bean only bloom for a brief period and need to be hand-pollinated. Due to the expensive nature of harvesting vanilla, a synthetic variant of vanillin was devised. 


Today, it is widely used in all the products that include vanilla flavouring around the world. However, a small percentage of people in the food industry still use natural vanilla extract and keep the product organic.

Also Read: 4 Magical benefits of green tea for your face


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