EVERYTHING YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT VANILLA

These articles are dedicated to everyone who loves vanilla and its seductive flavor and aroma. Considering how popular vanilla is and how it’s in so many products, it’s surprising how little most of us know about it.

The Queen hopes you’ll enjoy the articles included here. If you are interested in food history or where your favorite foods come from, consider purchasing, Vanilla: The Cultural History of the World’s Favorite Flavor and Fragrance, available in our store. The Queen has the key to the history of vanilla from Mesoamerica to the moment and she’s honored to share the story with the world!

What’s the best vanilla extract?

So many choices. So many prices. Are they all the same? What is the best vanilla? Which one should you buy?  Have you ever stared at the vanilla extracts on the store shelves and wondered which  is the best vanilla extract to buy? In some respects, choosing a vanilla extract is like selecting a fine wine. How do you know which one to buy? Read on for an insider’s view of vanilla extract, how to choose what’s best for you and why high-quality vanilla makes a world of difference in flavor. The best quality vanilla extracts come with a price

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Why Does Vanilla Extract Smell Like Alcohol?

We have been contacted by customers asking  about the strong smell of alcohol in our pure vanilla extracts. So we thought we’d address this question. There are good reasons and a simple fix for this. The Reasons 1.  The FDA requires alcohol in vanilla The FDA Standard of Identity for pure vanilla extracts requires that there must be a minimum of 35% alcohol in pure vanilla extract. The alcohol may be made with grain alcohol or sugarcane alcohol. In the case of our vanilla extracts, we use sugarcane alcohol because it is both GMO-free and gluten-free.

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Will the 2019 Crop Bring Lower Vanilla Prices?

  This article deals with a crisis that hit the vanilla industry in 2015 and drove up prices. But even without a crisis, vanilla is expensive. To find out why, read here. To learn about the current crisis and why vanilla is almost unaffordable for some, read on. In May of 2019, a new market report was released by a European company that has been in the vanilla business for more than 100 years and is known for their honest and reliable industry assessments. The report confirmed that the price for vanilla beans has softened, but has a way to

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What’s the Difference Between Pure Vanilla Extract, Vanilla Flavors, Natural and Imitation Vanillas

Understanding vanilla product labels can certainly get complicated as new products flood the market and old products get rebranded. There are actually five different types of liquid vanilla in the marketplace right now and we’re not talking five different species here. We’re talking labels and what’s inside the bottles. As I get asked about the difference between pure, flavor, natural, and imitation vanilla frequently, I decided to write an article specifically addressing what’s in the bottle and why it’s labeled the way it is. For those looking for a cheap substitute to the real thing because it’s so expensive right

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How Do I Store Vanilla Beans, Extracts, Powder, and Paste?

Enough customers have asked us this question that I realized that although I’ve mentioned this information in passing in blogs, we needed a blog that addresses this important question. My hope is that this will assist all of you who aren’t quite sure about the best way to preserve your products.

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Why is vanilla so expensive?

Have you noticed that the cost of cookies, cakes and ice creams have been creeping up? Most desserts use vanilla, and vanilla prices have skyrocketed since 2014. Could that be it? Absolutely! And why is vanilla so expensive now? The answer may surprise you. Read on. Like everything else, the cost of vanilla is affected by supply and demand, and today the vanilla supply is down – WAY DOWN. The reasons will surprise you! Tropical farmers who grow coffee, cacao, vanilla, sugar and a few other crops, constantly face fluctuating prices for their crops due to supply and demand. And

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Is Fair Trade vanilla really fair?

Did you know there is a dark side to fair trade vanilla? According to the World Fair Trade Organization, the definition of Fair Trade is as follows: “Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seek greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South. Fair Trade Organizations, backed by  consumers, are engaged actively  in supporting producers,  awareness  raising  and  in  campaigning  for  changes  in  the  rules  and  practice  of conventional international trade.” What’s

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What’s the difference between imitation and pure vanilla?

Let’s look at the so-called vanilla from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean for the answer A common misconception exists about vanilla from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. People rave to me about the fabulous deal they got on a giant bottle of vanilla extract in Mexico, Haiti, Guadeloupe, etc. It has such a unique flavor and it’s stronger than any vanilla they’ve ever used. And wow, was it inexpensive! Well, sorry folks, it isn’t pure vanilla extract. In fact, the cheap, dark (or clear) product in the big bottle is not vanilla at all.  It is imitation vanilla

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Sex, Love and the Vanilla Bean

  Ah, the delicious allure of romance, the intensity of a new infatuation, the rapture of falling in love. Pretty powerful stuff, the pleasures and passions of romance and love. Spring, summer, fall and winter, we’re in love with the idea of love. The perfume industry thrives on our desire to lure and captivate the object of our affection and vanilla performs an important role in the drama. While the romantic sunset at the seashore and that special song may make us swoon, taste and smell are big players in the game of love. So, how does vanilla steal the

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Does Mexico Still Produce Vanilla?

Beautiful, exotic Mexico. Warm weather, gorgeous beaches, a rich and varied culture, delicious food, and…the birthplace of vanilla. Some of you may be thinking, “Well, duh! I buy my fabulous vanilla there every time I visit.” In which case you should take a moment to read about your fabulous vanilla here. Otherwise, here is a brief overview of the history of the Mexican vanilla industry and why Mexican vanilla beans are difficult to come by today.

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Facts and FAQs About Vanilla

A brief encyclopedia of facts you might like to know about vanilla   What is Vanilla? Vanilla is a member of the orchid family, the largest and oldest family of flowering plants in the world. Vanilla is the only edible fruit of the entire orchid family, which includes roughly 25,000 orchid varieties and over 10,000 hybrids. It grows best in the moist, tropical regions of the world 15-1/2 degrees to the north and south of the Equator.

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Cheap vanilla? Hold onto your wallet!

For an update on the 2016 vanilla shortage, please see “Why is Vanilla so Expensive?“ Have you noticed that vanilla prices have been creeping up for the last two years? Well, now the price of vanilla has gone through the roof! Frustrating? You bet, especially as we enter the autumn baking season and the holidays. So why are the prices climbing and where can you find cheap vanilla? It turns out the answer is complicated.  Think shortage – One cyclone can wipe out a third of the year’s vanilla crop overnight! Nearly everything we purchase is priced according to supply and

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What is vanilla paste?

We’ll tell you, plus share with you our favorite vanilla paste recipes! In 1967 I saw my first vanilla bean. I was already 24 years old. This shouldn’t sound remarkable but it actually is because even finding a vanilla bean in San Francisco in 1967  took some effort. I had a friend who had lived in Italy and traveled a great deal in Europe. He and I were in a coffee and spice store and he bought me a vanilla bean. I was enchanted by the aroma but completely puzzled about how to use it. He told me to put it

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Frequently Asked Questions About Vanilla

Here are some of the questions  that I’m most frequently asked about vanilla. These are the short answers.  If you have questions about specific products, be sure to read the descriptions posted with each  product. If you are interested in more in-depth information about vanilla, check out the Queen’s book, Vanilla: The Cultural History of the Worlds Favorite Flavor and Fragrance. Any serious cook or baker as well as anyone interested in the history of food, will find this book fascinating. You can get it here. Q. What is vanilla? A. Vanilla is the only edible fruit of the orchid

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Vanilla in Savory Foods — Really??

Really.  In 1985, when I wrote The Vanilla Cookbook, my editors asked me what vanilla could be used in besides ice cream, dessert and beverages. Quite honestly, the idea had never crossed my mind. However, they threw down the gauntlet next to my half-written  manuscript.  Experiment or give back the advance — what would you do?

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What’s the advantage of buying vanilla extract and vanilla beans in bulk?

For a flavor that  everyone loves (some people love it more than chocolate!), why is vanilla extract  sold in little bottles or one or two bean tubes?  Seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?  Then again, vanilla beans are so expensive, why would I want to buy them in bulk? Good questions that we don’t usually consider when we’re buying spices and flavors. Nearly all are sold in small quantities except online and in specialty stores. We’re essentially programmed to think small even though it’s all about big flavor. While it does make sense to purchase dried herbs in small amounts unless we’re

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Here We Go Again: Another Vanilla Crisis Looms!

Another vanilla crisis? Didn’t we just have one? Yep, we sure did and the price of a little bottle of vanilla was ridiculously high! So how can this be happening again? Sadly, very easily.  Worse, it shouldn’t have to happen! In the commodity world the operative words are  supply and demand. When it comes to anything grown in the tropics, most especially luxury crops like coffee, chocolate, vanilla and sugar, supply and demand are

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Worldwide Farmers Exchange

In the summer of 2007 I  met Chris Barden of Worldwide Farmers Exchange (WFE), a program operating out of Berkeley California.  We were attending an event at Santa Clara University.  Over lunch together, I learned that Chris was interested in finding women farmers to participate in their exchange program.  I was interested in WFE as many of the farmers I have met via my site want very much to gain new skills sets to assist them in their countries of origin.  I’m sharing information about the Worldwide Farmers Exchange as one possible option for those of you interested in learning

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Vanilla Oleoresin and Absolute

Want a natural vanilla fragrance? Unfortunately, there isn’t a cheap solution.  Extracts contain too much water and ground vanilla powder acts more like an exfoliant than a fragrance.  The two options are vanilla oleoresin and vanilla absolute. Vanilla oleoresin is a semi-solid concentrate made by removing the solvent from vanilla extract. A solution of isopropanol is frequently used instead of ethanol for the preparation. Some flavor and aroma is lost during removal of the solvent, but the essential oils remain. Vanilla oleoresin is used in non-food products. Unfortunately, it isn’t

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Ground Vanilla Beans, Vanilla Powder and Vanilla Paste

In addition to the more traditional vanilla beans and extracts, there are newer alternatives for cooking, baking and flavoring beverages.  Ground vanilla beans (also called ground vanilla powder), vanilla powder and vanilla paste are flavorful, useful options.  Read on to learn more.   Vanilla Powder There are several types of vanilla powders commercially available. Some are made from sucrose that has been ribbon-sprayed with vanilla extract, and some are a dextrose-vanilla extract mix. They work well in  beverages if you want a slightly sweet product that dissolves easily. You can also mix them into powdered or granulated sugar for a

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I was given a small bottle of Rain’s Choice in a gift basket and I have been hooked ever since. The flavor makes all of my baking so much better! I will never use grocery store vanilla again!

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For an update on the 2016 vanilla shortage, please see “Why is Vanilla so Expensive?”