Vanilla Beans: A Brief History

"Mayan Sculpture Of Face" - Vanilla Beans HistoryVanilla has been one of the most popular spices in the western world for hundreds of years. It is included in almost all of the baked dessert recipes that are served in America. Vanilla beans can be traced as far back as the Mexican Totonaco Indians. The Aztec Indians acquired the precious plant after they conquered the Totonaco tribe. Both of these tribes believed that vanilla was “food of the Gods”.

Before Cortes conquered the Aztec Indians, he saw their emperor, Montezuma drinking Choclatl, which was cocoa mixed with vanilla beans. This drink was believed to hold magical powers. In 1518, Cortes brought the vanilla plant to Spain along with cocoa, and it became a drink for the rich and powerful.

In 1602, Hugh Morgan, who was an apothecary to Queen Elizabeth I, discovered that vanilla could be used as a flavoring in extract form. With that finding, a plethora of opportunities opened up for the use of the vanilla bean.

Spain was the sole producer of vanilla for hundreds of years, because they had the only species of bee that pollinated the vanilla plant. In 1819, Edmond Albius, a twelve year old slave from Reunion, France, discovered how to self pollinate the plant, which made the production of vanilla widespread in the area. France then shipped the vanilla plants to Madagascar and the Comoros Islands, where they continue to flourish. Madagascar currently produces approximately eighty percent of the world's vanilla.

Madagascar produces both extract grade B vanilla beans, as well as gourmet grade A vanilla beans. The flavor is rich and creamy, making it in high demand. Over the centuries, the Madagascar variety have been held to high standards, and the same holds true for today. Using World Class Vanilla beans or extract in your recipes will make your cooking stand out from the crowd.

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One thought on “Vanilla Beans: A Brief History”

  • Pretty good summary here. We were in Mexico recently and couldn't i fnd any good extract. I've heard that a lot of the Mexican extract is artificial and has coumarin in it, which is banned in the. uS

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