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Read about the Making of Vanilla.

Nielsen-Massey Vanillas

Since everyone loves vanilla, we should all know where it comes from and how it is made, right? Well, in case you are like most people (you're not quite sure), here is a little history on the origin and evolution of what has become today's vanilla.

Vanilla, the (really) early years
It is the ancient Totonaco Indians of Mexico who were the first keepers of the secrets of vanilla. When they were defeated by the Aztecs, they were demanded to relinquish their exotic fruit of the Tlilxochitl vine, vanilla pods.

When, in turn, the Aztecs were defeated by the conquering Spaniard, Hernando Cortez, he returned to Spain with the precious plunder - vanilla beans - which were combined with cacao to make an unusual and pleasing drink. For eighty years, this special beverage was only enjoyed by the nobility and the very rich. Then, in 1602, Hugh Morgan, apothecary to Queen Elizabeth I, suggested that vanilla could be used as a flavoring all by itself, and the versatility of the exotic bean was finally uncovered.

Today's vanilla we all know and love
Today, vanilla beans are grown in four main areas of the world. Each region produces vanilla beans with distinctive characteristics and attributes. Madagascar, an island off the east coast of Africa, is the largest producer of vanilla beans in the world and the ensuing vanilla is known as Madagascar Bourbon vanilla. The term Bourbon applies to beans grown on the Bourbon Islands - Madagascar, Comoro, Seychelle and Reunion. There is no connection with the liquor produced in Kentucky in the United States. Madagascar Bourbon vanilla is considered to be the highest quality pure vanilla available, described as having a creamy, sweet, smooth, mellow flavor.

Indonesia is the second largest producer of vanilla, with a vanilla that is woody, astringent and phenolic. Madagascar and Indonesia produce 90 percent of the world's vanilla bean crop. Mexico, where the vanilla orchid originated, now produces only a small percentage of the harvest. Mexican vanilla is described as creamy, sweet, smooth and spicy. The last of the four major vanilla-producing regions is Tahiti. Tahitian vanilla, grown from a different genus of vanilla orchid, is flowery and fruity, anisic and smooth.

Vanilla, with its wide range of flavor profiles, can be applied to a vast array of products. It is one of the most widely used flavors in the world, particularly in ice cream. It finds its way into sauces in Mexico and cookies in Sweden. Vanilla flavors fruits in Polynesia and perfumes colognes in Paris. Anywhere there is a need for a mellow accent that compliments sweet and savory, plain and fancy, vanilla is there.

Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, Inc.
1550 Shields Drive
Waukegan, IL 60085-8307

Telephone: 847/578-1550
800/525-PURE (7873)
Fax: 847/578-1570
Nielsen-Massey Vanillas International, LLC.
Uranusweg 10
8938 AJ Leeuwarden, Netherlands
Telephone:31 58 28 82 880
Fax: 31 58 28 00 288