I'm amazed at how superior your vanilla is!
- Des, The Grommet
I opened the bottle of your vanilla extract last weekend to bake some cookies and the difference in taste is extraordinary." – Judy

What’s the best vanilla extract?

So many choices. So many prices.
Are they all the same? What is the best vanilla?

What's the best vanilla extract?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

The simple answer for what is the best vanilla extract often boils down to price. Good vanilla is not cheap. And because it is so pricey (it’s the world’s most labor-intensive crop), customers are often put off by sticker-shock. 

Most supermarket vanilla extracts are mediocre

Supermarkets try their best to buy name brand extracts that are affordable but they may not necessarily be the best extracts. With some exceptions, most supermarket vanilla extracts — both brand name and store brands — while they are pure vanilla, are often mediocre quality in comparison to the really fine quality extracts that are available elsewhere. This is especially true in the big-box stores where bulk vanilla is fairly inexpensive. 

The takeaway here is if you really want the best vanilla, you will have to get over sticker shock. And your best bet for finding it is to shop at a specialty food store or online from a reputable source. Yes, you will pay a little more, but you will be getting more! You really will notice a difference in the flavor in your foods and baked goods! 

And don’t forget; you don’t use vanilla by the cup. So your investment in quality goes a long way and lasts a long time.

Addendum: At this time we are not facing a shortage of vanilla beans. However, prices have not dropped as much as predicted and are still quite high.  Beware of cheap imitations as they won’t bring quality results. 

Picking out a good vanilla extract starts with knowing how to read the label

Choosing the best vanilla extract  just by reading the label is a little tricky.  While there are rules governing vanilla extract production and labeling, not every company follows the rules. Here are some guidelines to help you in your quest for the best.
Imitation vs. Natural Vanilla Extract: How to read the label.

1. First, make sure it’s actually extract! Many aren’t!

For a good extract, make sure it is actually extract. Vanilla flavor and vanilla extract are not the same thing. Vanilla flavor is made without alcohol. Propylene glycol or glycerine are used.

If it’s labeled pure vanilla extract, it’s extract. If it’s labeled “flavor,” it can’t contain alcohol. Vanilla extract is stronger and than vanilla flavor. Flavor is a good substitute if you don’t want alcohol. Imitation vanilla must be labeled imitation in the US. In Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America, the labels mean nothing.

2. Make certain it’s pure vanilla – and don’t be fooled by a Mexican label! 

“The best quality extracts and powders you can find!” – The Grommet

 

Do not purchase vanilla extract with a Mexican label, even from a specialty food store or online! Mexican vanilla that is produced by a reputable American company is pure vanilla extract made from Mexican beans.

Unfortunately, some specialty food stores carry Mexican vanilla made in Mexico. While it is possible that it is pure vanilla, the chances are more than 99% that it is not pure. Mexico once produced beautiful vanilla beans but the vanilla industry is now almost gone. 100 percent of so-called extracts made there, as well as in the Caribbean and in Latin America, are imitation. They may smell good because they don’t contain alcohol (or contain only 2% alcohol) but they are made from chemicals and are not pure vanilla.  More information on  Mexican vanilla here.

Here are more tips on finding quality vanilla extracts that may or may not be on the label

  • Made from premium grade vanilla beans
    The best vanilla extracts are made from premium grade vanilla beans that have a high natural vanillin content. This means big flavor.
  • Made with just a little sugar
    Extracts that contain no sugar or only a small percent of sugar and no corn syrup or caramel color are cleaner tasting. While vanilla is mildly sweet and doesn’t need sugar to boost its flavor, if sugar cane alcohol is used for extraction, it has a harsh nose. A small percentage of sugar will soften the harsh nose and give the extract a more delicate aroma. If the extract is made with corn or grain alcohol, it isn’t necessary to add sugar.
  • Properly aged
    Because of the high prices for vanilla that have hung on despite plenty of available beans, most of the big importers are only bringing in enough vanilla beans to meet their clients’ immediate needs. And most clients are buying only what they need immediately, because the prices could collapse at any time. What this means is that extracts have not had time to age.
  • Vanilla Extracts have No Expiration Date
    Because of the high alcohol content, vanilla will age for about two years and will then remain stable. It’s rather like a call brand Scotch or Bourbon. The smartest thing to do if possible, is to buy your next bottle of vanilla extract before your current bottle is empty. Allow the new bottle to age in a cool dark cupboard. To help the aging process in vanilla extracts that contain no sweeteners, you can add up to 1 tablespoon of sugar per pint of extract. This will soften the harsh nose of the alcohol and help with the aging process. This ratio comes out to about 3% sugar so 1 teaspoon of extract will have minimal sugar.

Are some brands of vanilla extracts better than others?

There are several high quality vanilla extracts in the marketplace, and of those we can’t say one brand is superior to all others because it’s really a matter of taste, not unlike picking out a good wine. We work hard to make our own Rain’s Choice vanilla extracts the very best that money can buy, but everyone is unique. The trick is to find the one that you like best!

The best vanilla extract – and the foods you use them in – will be anything but plain! It is worth the investment!

Experiment by trying a few of the quality brands. Smell the extracts as if you are smelling a fine wine by moving it back and forth in front of your nose. Then taste it. If it’s mildly sweet, that’s fine; if it’s very sweet, it contains corn syrup or has a high sugar content. If it contains no sugar, the alcohol may appear stronger than the vanilla. This will change when it’s aged or a small amount of sugar is added. Bake with it or add it to a custard, flan or ice cream. How does it taste in your favorite desserts? What about in beverages? Experiment until you find what tastes best to your palate and in the foods you are making.

In summary…

The best vanilla extracts use higher-cost premium quality beans with a high vanillin content and minimal additives. They should lift and brighten the foods you cook or bake., and add sparkle to beverages. 

And more importantly, while the best quality extracts may cost a little more, the improved flavor will be well worth it!

What about Rain’s Choice vanilla extracts? 

How do we differ? Are our vanilla extracts better?

vanilla-extracts

Here at the Vanilla Company, our mission is to provide our customers with premium-quality vanilla extracts and  excellent customer service. Our vanilla extracts contain vanilla beans with a high vanillin content. This gives our extracts an excellent depth of  flavor that is so strikingly noticeable that it is not uncommon for us to get reviews like the one below.

I opened the bottle of your vanilla extract last weekend to bake some cookies and the difference in taste is extraordinary! – Judy Draper

We use sugar cane alcohol, vanilla bean extractives and distilled water.  Period! All of our vanilla products are gluten- and gmo-free.

Are you ready for a taste sensation? Then we invite you to try Rain’s Choice vanilla extracts.

Patricia Rain
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Patricia Rain

is an author, educator, culinary historian, and owner of The Vanilla Company (www.vanillaqueen.com), a socially conscious, product-driven information and education site dedicated to the promotion of pure, natural vanilla, and the support of vanilla farmers worldwide. She also does culinary presentations for food professionals, cooking schools, trade shows, food fairs, and private groups, and is a regular radio and TV guest.

Comments (49)

  • Mike Salimbene

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    Hi Patricia! My wife Pat & I got hooked on Azteca Vanilla while vacationing in Mexico, it tasted better than the supermarket extracts at the time. How does Azteca rate in your book? Your vanilla sounds amazing and I love your concept and holistic approach to the product. Thanks for anything you can share on this! Peace.

    Reply

  • Vanilla Queen

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    Unfortunately, Azteca vanilla is imitation. We have no idea what is actually in the bottle. And while it may smell good and even possibly be tasty, it isn’t pure vanilla extract. Please read:http://www.vanilla.com/vanilla-from-mexico-central-american-and-the-caribbean/ for more information.

    Our vanilla is pure, clean vanilla extract. It contains alcohol by law and will smell differently from the imitation. It’s necessary to smell it in the same way you would smell perfume to get the true aroma of the vanilla.

    The imitation vanilla available in the supermarket may or may not taste like Azteca. However, if you are committed to supporting farmers, using pure vanilla is the only way to help.

    Reply

  • Patricia Rain

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    Kent, if you go onto the homepage of my site and scroll down, you’ll find a link that leads you to lots of articles about vanilla. Be sure to read the one about Mexican Vanilla. Usually the better quality vanillas are at specialty food stores. I sell excellent vanilla extracts that are made with 20% more vanilla beans that required by law. The vanilla is extremely good with rich deep notes. Everyone who understands quality extracts loves our products.

    Reply

  • Rose Perri

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    Hi,
    A friend brought me some white vanilla extract from the Domican Republic, Punta Cana Runners Adventures gift shop. As it is not labeld pure extract or imitation (and no ingredients label) I have to assume it is imitation as I have never seen white vanilla extract and can’t even imagine it exists because to make pure vanilla extract you have to seep the vanilla bean which lends and amber color to a true Vanilla extract. Am I right on target or is this something need more educating on? Please, any feedback is most welcome!

    Thank you!
    Rose

    Reply

  • Martha

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    Hi,
    Can you recommend one of your vanilla extracts for me? I didn’t expect so many choices.

    Thank You!!

    Reply

    • Patricia Rain

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      Hi Martha,
      It’s difficult to recommend a particular vanilla to someone because a lot depends on personal preference. What can make your decision easier is to have you go to our site again and click on the Learn button. Click on the Learn About Vanilla icon, then scroll down through the many blogs. You will find information in the FAQ’s and Fast Facts blogs, but further in are descriptions of each of the signature flavors of vanilla. Hopefully you’re up for this as it’s actually pretty interesting to learn more about our favorite flavor and fragrance because most of us don’t know more than that they really love it. Warm regards, VQ

      Reply

  • Diane

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    When reading the ingredients, do I want alcohol to be 35% or a higher amount? Is a higher percentage better?

    Reply

    • Patricia Rain

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      Diane, 35% alcohol is the Standard of Identity for vanilla extracts in the US. No need for more alcohol. Many of the extracts on the market have sugar or corn syrup in them. It’s used to cut the harsh nose of the alcohol. Unfortunately, the majority of companies don’t add that to their ingredients lists nor do they mention if they use caramel color (another sugar). Our extracts contain no alcohol but do contain 20% more vanilla bean extractives than required by the Standard of Identity. That is a plus for the consumer as it assures a deeper, richer flavor to the extract.

      Reply

      • Lucy

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        Hi…I’m a little confused. The reply to Diane above says that your “extracts contain no alcohol”. But other things on this page indicate that you do have alcohol in your extracts. E.G.: The reply to Kim directly below says “We use no additional ingredients than the distilled water, alcohol and vanilla bean extractives in our products.” Could you clarify? Thank you…

        Reply

        • Patricia Rain

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          Vanilla Extracts contain 35% alcohol by law as per the Standard of Identity. Vanilla FLAVOR does not contain alcohol, which is what she was asking about. Vanilla flavor is made with propylene glycol.

          Reply

  • Kim

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    Hi Patricia – I was going to buy the organic vanilla, but what caught my eye is that on all the other vanilla’s it says water/alcohol 35% and it has no mention of percentage on the organic label. Why? I liked that your vanilla’s actually told me the %, except on the one i want to buy. Other brands don’t mention it and that causes me pause.

    Reply

    • Patricia Rain

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      Kim, we’re not selling certified organic vanilla extract on our site at the moment, so I’m a little confused about whether you are looking at Rain’s Choice Vanilla or another brand. All vanilla extracts sold in the US are supposed to list the ingredients. To be pure vanilla extract it must contain 35% alcohol and 13.38% vanilla bean extractives (minimum). We have 20% more vanilla bean extractives than required by law in our vanilla extracts. Sugar, Caramel coloring (more sugar) and any other additives are supposed to be on the label but most companies don’t include that information. We use no additional ingredients than the distilled water, alcohol and vanilla bean extractives in our products.

      Reply

      • Cindy

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        Hi Patricia,
        On your site under “shop” under Vanilla Beans you have: You can buy wholesale vanilla beans in bulk here or in smaller quantities from our retail partners. When you click on the retail partners, they have a choice to buy called: Rain’s Choice Vanilla Extract for $20.00 for 4oz. Is this from you? A little confused since you state you aren’t selling but through the retail link you provide they are. Makes me leary to buy from them please advise.

        Reply

  • Colleen Goss

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    What is the best way to store pure vainilla. It is from a company called Reyna bought in Cancun, label talks about its bean process. I believe it is real. Can it be frozen. What is the best way to store it and what should the shelf life be.

    Reply

    • Patricia Rain

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      Colleen, pure vanilla extract should never be frozen as that will damage the flavor. It should be stored in a cool, dark place, such as a cupboard away from a heat source. Unfortunately, Reyna brand is imitation vanilla. It doesn’t matter what the label says. Mexico’s vanilla bean crop is very small these days and almost all the vanilla beans are exported to the US or Europe where the beans are sold whole to users or manufacturers to make pure extract. The bigger issue is that you don’t know if there are dyes in the extract that could be toxic. I cannot advise you about Reyna other than I personally would not use it.

      Reply

  • Amy Johnson

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    Thank you for the insite, data and practical information on Vaniila and best brands to use. I was gifted some Watkins Vsnilla and baking vanilla. Would you have time to moment on this product please. Thank you Amy

    Reply

    • Patricia Rain

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      Hi Amy. Watkins is not known for fabulous vanilla extracts. First, it contains some pure vanilla extract and some imitation vanilla. It doesn’t give us an indication of percentages. Second glucose is the second ingredient on their labels. Although they don’t indicate how much sugar is in the extract, being the second ingredient indicates that it has a fair amount of sugar. At least they list it. Many companies use sugar or corn syrup in their extracts but don’t list it. Finally, by having a hefty amount of sugar, the manufacturer can use poor-quality beans in the extraction process as the sugar will make it taste better. Now, compared with imitation vanilla, it has some redeeming qualities as it does contain pure vanilla. As of this writing in 2017, there is a severe shortage of vanilla beans in the market and what is available is largely poor quality, so this is a difficult time to do comparisons. The extract that we sell has 20% more vanilla bean extractives in it than required by law. We also have no sugar in our extracts. The lack of sugar is off-putting for some people as it has a stronger smell of alcohol and doesn’t taste sweet. However, when used in baking, the flavor of the vanilla carries better. Having worked with vanilla since the 1980s, my experience is that people are most comfortable with the vanilla they are familiar with. If it’s imitation, that’s what they like best. If it’s high quality, that’s what they will choose. Personally, I prefer the best quality extracts because I believe that to produce excellent prepared food, whether it’s sweet or savory, baked, cooked or raw, it’s important to use the cleanest, freshest ingredients. While vanilla is very expensive right now, we only use a little, and it improves with aging so it won’t go bad if you keep it in a cool, dark place such as a cupboard away from the stove.

      Reply

  • Kathleen Tullius

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    So happy I found your website earlier this year (yes, before the cyclone) and purchased the most beautiful beans I have ever seen or smelled for that matter. Several times a week, I gently shake bottles of precious extract (yes, my beans are residing in both vodka and rum). What a difference from the hard, dried out little turds I was used to using. I am a serious cookie baker, and one of my secrets was to bury one of those dried up things in my sugar container. So I added one of your Madagascar beans and OMG, what a difference it made. So happy I found your website in time to “stock up” on beans in anticipation of having homemade vanilla extract to give as Christmas gifts this year! Thanks for all you do to raise awareness and help the farm families ⚘⚘⚘

    Reply

    • Patricia Rain

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      Thank you for your kind words and appreciation of our vanilla Kathleen! The crisis has made it especially challenging to find good beans. I agree with you, the beans in the stores dry up very quickly from the bright light and low humidity. It’s always a surprise when people see how beans should look!

      Reply

  • Gail

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    Came across your site by happenstance and extremely impressed. I recently purchased my first bottle of Nielsen-Massey Organic Vanilla Extract in Atlanta, Ga while visiting there. I am so appreciative of your site, as you have TRULY EDUCATED ME on vanilla extracts. I love the Nielsen-Massey product, but I plan on purchasing a bottle of your extract as well. I will definitely be on the look-out for your product when I return to Atlanta. I am approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes away from the Buford Highway Farmers Market in Atlanta and will return in a few weeks to diligently search for your product. Thank you immensely for your valued knowledge and expertise on this product. I never knew………

    Reply

    • Patricia Rain

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      Gail, thank you for your thoughtful comments about our site. That makes me very happy. Unfortunately, we are almost entirely an online business and don’t have any of our products in Georgia. The quality of our products is very high and purchases from us helps to make it possible for the work I do representing smallholder vanilla growers worldwide. I think you would be very pleased with our extracts. Although the beans used in our extracts are grown organically, they are not certified organic. Most farmers cannot afford certification unless they are part of a cooperative with outside support.

      Reply

  • Country Mamaw

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    Hi Patricia, I’ve been looking at two VERY reasonable priced Mexican Vanilla’s on eBay because pure vanilla extract is so expensive at our local supermarkets…. namely Danncy & La Vencedora pure vanilla extract. The sellers are Spanish so i like to think they KNOW their stuff? LOL Have you heard of this brand of vanilla? TY kindly & most appreciatively for a response especially for your hands on expertise using mexican vanilla’s. 🙂

    Reply

  • Msferangie

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    Watching the “best thing I ever ate” on tv today. Lady held up bottle of Xel-ha vanilla and said this was her liquid gold. Opinion?

    Reply

  • Grace

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    Is Usumacinta mexican pure vanilla imitation? i love the smell and taste it says pure vanilla but is it real?

    Reply

    • Patricia Rain

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      It may smell wonderful and the label may say it’s the real deal, but it’s imitation vanilla. Mexico is producing very little vanilla now and it also has a history of over 100 years of producing imitation vanilla extracts. The problem is we don’t know what the actual ingredients are, including whether there are dyes banned in the US.

      Reply

  • Terry

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    I’ve always heard the best vanilla is the one you make. Vodka and a lot of vanilla beans. I have one going now. Should be ready, in, oh, 12 months or so.. lol I’m using Smirnoff and 25 Madagascar grade A beans.

    Reply

    • Patricia Rain

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      Terry, if homemade extract is made as you’re describing, it can be very, very good. It depends on the quality of beans and the amount of time the beans soak. You are doing both correctly. In general a good quality, commercially made vanilla, is stronger than most homemade extracts. At this time, with the very high price for vanilla beans, a lot of commercial vanilla is not premium quality as the suppliers are using poorer quality beans in order to keep the prices down. The extracts we sell are made with 20% more vanilla bean extractives than required by law and are made from high quality beans, so our extracts are premium quality.

      Reply

      • Terry

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        Hi! These were really plump grade A beans Madagascar beans. When I put their sealed packaging in the garbage, all you smelled was vanilla! When my daughter comments on how good it smells, you know it does! Patience is the key now. Its out of sunlight, so it can do its wonderful thing! I’m excited to have homemade vanilla! I’ve heard using bourbon is fantastic too!

        Reply

        • Patricia Rain

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          So happy your like our beans Terry! Very different from what you can buy in the market. Enjoy your homemade vanilla!

          Reply

  • Gladys Jenne

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    I would like to know your opinion of the USUMACINTO (R) OLD FASHIONED CLEAR MEXICAN VANILLA that friends have brought back from Mexico for me. The label states “vanilla Beans inside”. But what I see in the bottom of the 33.8 FL OZ brown bottle I a approximately 1 1/4” stick about 1/4” thick/wide.
    It lists ingredients of Extracto natural vaina vainilla, alcohol, colorante natural (caramelo), sorbato potasio y azucar. Sin gluten. It states that it does not contain Courmarin.
    Made in Mexico. Puerto Vallarto

    Reply

    • Patricia Rain

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      Gladys, your friends have inadvertently gifted you with imitation vanilla. It really doesn’t matter what the label says as the label laws for vanilla have never been enforced in Mexico, and they’ve been making imitation extracts since 1893. A big surprise, I know, but vanilla has always been very expensive and a large percentage of Mexicans can’t afford pure vanilla. Because vanilla is a fruit of the Americas and Mexico has been a big draw for tourism for well over a hundred years, imitation vanilla has been a lucrative business. Here’s a link on my site with more information about “pure vanilla extracts from Mexico, the Caribbean and Central/South America. https://vanillaqueen.com/vanilla-from-mexico-central-american-and-the-caribbean/

      The bigger issue here is that the Mexican vanilla industry is dying very quickly. While I would love for that not to be true, the 2018 December harvest produced far less than a ton of vanilla beans. The beans sold for between $800 and $1000 a kilo. The beans were sold within two weeks to the US. This year the beans fell from the vines due to extreme heat. They will have an extremely small crop if any, this year. So, if this is the case, how can there be so much extract? I think this should explain pretty clearly that if the beans cost $800 a kilo and you make a gallon of extract from a kilo of beans, there is no way that $8.00 bottle of vanilla could be pure vanilla! Another issue about the vanilla that is sold in Mexico, is location. Usumacinto is made in Puerto Vallarto according to the label. Puerto Vallarta is a tourist town on the Pacific ocean. The vanilla growing region is on the Gulf side of the country. Puerta Vallarta is not having beans sent across the country to factories in a tourist town. It is making the “vanilla” out of chemicals in a lab. Pure vanilla extract is amber-brown. Old Fashioned Clear Mexican Vanilla is made in a laboratory. My suggestion is that you thank your friends for thinking of you and toss the bottle as the reality is that it’s imitation. Coumarin hasn’t been put in Mexican “extracts” since the 1980’s. Another article to read is: https://vanillaqueen.com/does-mexico-still-produce-vanilla/ As a cultural anthropologist, I spent time over a 15 year period doing research on the Mexican vanilla industry and it makes me sad that the industry is nearly gone.

      Reply

      • Gladys Jenne

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        Patricia, thank you soooo much for sharing your knowledge with me, helping me to understand what is going on there in Mexico in regard to the vanilla industry. It upsets me to know that their labels do not have to be honest and true, that I really canNOT know what is in that bottle!
        Now, I shall freshen my kitchen sink drains with it. OR, would it be unwise to use in a diffuser or wax for a nice scent of baking in my kitchen!
        Again, thank you for taking the time to answer in depth my concerns. Best wishes to you in your business.
        Gladys

        Reply

  • Betty

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    I just purchased all colors of “Tropical Diamond” Pure and natural Mexican vanilla. Are they any good Or just chemicals?

    Reply

    • Patricia Rain

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      Betty, it’s just chemicals. The traditional Mexican industry is just about dead. There are some vanilla beans grown in Oaxaca and a few other places but not in volume. Last year the beans cost $400 – $500 a pound at source. This year the vanilla beans fell from the vines due to extreme heat and there are VERY FEW vanilla beans. If it was real vanilla, and assuming you were to purchase 8 ounces, it would have to cost you $90 – $100 American. Best to spend your vacation money on a good meal or a lovely craft item instead.

      Reply

  • Sandi

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    Hello I purchased pure vanilla super extract elixir while in Mexico. We did not know what to buy. It states 5x vanilla bean extract 35%
    Would this be used in less amounts for recipes..for example 1 tsp of vanilla…would I use 1/2 or 1/4 tsp of mine? Much appreciate any help from you. The vanilla is made by Villa Vainilla

    Reply

    • Patricia Rain

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      Sandi, you have purchased a brand of imitation vanilla that I recognize. Villa Vainilla is made in Merida, the gateway to the Yucatan. However, vanilla is not grown in Merida. Villa Vanilla has made pure vanilla extract from beans from Papantla, Veracruz the center of the vanilla growing region in Mexico. The issue is there are very few vanilla beans from this year’s crop and they’re quite expensive and I don’t know if the company is even making pure extract at this point as, if they can even get them, the vanilla beans are between $400 and $500 a pound. If you look at the question and response either above or below yours (I’m in the back end of our site so I can’t tell), you will see my response about pure vanilla in Mexico. I still have a bottle of Villa Vainilla that was given to me by a sweet representative of their company who sent me a bottle. They have loosely used the Standard of Identity established in the US on their pure extract. It says: Water, Alcohol 35%, Sugar, vanilla bean extractives. What you purchased is imitation. The imitation industry began in Mexico in 1893 or 4 (it’s in my book; I can’t remember the exact date). Vanilla beans were very expensive and were sold to the US. Only the very wealthy Mexicans could afford pure vanilla, but given Mexico was known for their exceptional vanilla beans (vanilla is native to the Americas), and given tourists came to Mexico on holiday, they took advantage of their reputation and started selling imitation vanilla extract that appeared to be a great bargain compared with the prices in the States. It has been a highly successful scam (there are no label laws nor controls over what is put into the bottles) that is doing far better than Mexican vanilla beans, which are suffering from extreme heat and the industry is all but finished. If you choose to use the imitation vanilla you will need to experiment to determine how strong the imitation vanillin is because if, in fact, it is “5 x extract” the chemicals may overpower your recipe. Me? I’d stick with your pure vanilla at home.

      Reply

  • Andrea B.

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    I really appreciate this article and all of your replies to your readers! I found your site while I was looking around for some new vanilla, since the bottle of Villa Vainilla my aunt brought me after her last visit to Mexico smells SO weak compared to the Orlando vanilla she brought me last time. Of course, now I don’t know if it was legit either! Do you know if Orlando is a good brand? Since labels aren’t always trustworthy, and since some characteristics aren’t on the label anyway, per your article, what are some specialty shops or American companies you consider “reputable”?

    Reply

    • Patricia Rain

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      Andrea, Please understand that none of the vanilla sold inexpensively in Mexico is pure vanilla. Orlando is imitation. In fact, even the few small companies that do make pure vanilla are up against the wall now because the Mexican vanilla industry is barely surviving due to the changing climate and other problems. The beans cost a fortune and are sold in the US. Mexican “extracts” are imitation. Mexican beans are not but are nearly impossible to find.

      The Mexican imitation vanilla started around 1893 because even though vanilla beans were native to Mexico and grown there in abundance at that time, they were extremely expensive because it is such a labor-intensive crop. Most Mexicans could not afford to purchase the beans due to the high cost, and the majority of the crop was sold to the U.S. But because Mexico was known worldwide for its vanilla, the fake vanilla industry was a huge success with tourists and for those who could not afford pure vanilla. It has flourished for well over 100 years and people swear by it. Why? because it contains little-to- no alcohol, which is what can be off-putting about pure vanilla. In the US the Standard of Identity says that vanilla must contain 35% alcohol by law. Most big companies in the US put sugar, corn syrup and/or caramel color in their products to soften the harsh nose of the alcohol. We don’t as many customers what their products sugar-free. Unless vanilla from the US has time to age, it can smell harsh without the sugar. Additionally, as prices for vanilla beans worldwide are still very high, the big bean buyers are only purchasing in small volume in case the prices suddenly collapse, which is altogether possible. As a result, nearly all vanilla being sold currently is not aged. We recommend our customers to add a small amount of sugar to our extracts to help stimulate the aging process.

      So, there you are. Mexico is a great place for beautiful crafts, silver jewelry and other specialties. Buying the so-called vanilla extract is not. As per reputable companies, we are a reputable company and most big brand name vanilla companies in the US are reputable.

      Reply

      • Andrea B.

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        Thanks so much for the knowledgeable insights, Patricia. I’ve read everything you wrote on this page (including all your replies!), so I believe I have a much better understanding of the vanilla industry than I did before. 🙂

        Reply

        • Patricia Rain

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          You’re welcome Andrea. On our homepage there is a banner at the top that has a number of links to click on. We have a segment with FAQ’s as well as a Learn About section with a lot more about vanilla, differences in varieties and flavors, and we have a recipe section with hundreds of recipes. The goal has been to assist people in the industrialized world understand and appreciate tropical products we’ve had available for a long time but don’t know the story behind them. This indirectly helps the growers. I also provide a lot of assistance to growers worldwide as well as assist women leaders who are farmers or work with farmers. It has been a fascinating journey and one that has connected people throughout the world.

          Reply

  • Caitland

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    well .. I went on a hunt to find Mexican Vanilla and happened on your website. Wowzers!!
    lol by the end of my purchase … 8 oz glass bottle of your vanilla extract, i was out $122. something Canadian. PHEW!!! It doesn’t matter to me; I’m getting something I want.
    I heard from a friend that there are others that want to get some. I will direct them to this site, and when it comes to sharing, well, I’ll see. lol

    Reply

    • Patricia Rain

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      Thank you Caitland. Just be aware that it won’t taste like the Mexican extract that everyone buys in Mexico. The cheap Mexican extract has no real vanilla in it; it’s fake. It smells good because it has something like 2% alcohol — if that — in it as a preservative. Mexican vanilla in the US is made from Mexican vanilla beans but is made to the US Standard of Identity, which means 35% alcohol. By adding up to 1 tablespoon of table sugar per 16 ounces of vanilla, the harsh smell of the alcohol will become milder and the vanilla will age. Most vanilla extracts in the US are already sweetened, but many of our customers don’t want to have sugar, corn syrup or caramel color (also a sweetener that makes the vanilla look darker). Smell your extract the way you would smell a good perfume. Within a week, your extract will start to smell really wonderful.

      Reply

  • Mitchell N

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    I’ve been looking to buy some vanilla extract and got extremely frustrated, which brought me to this web page. The reason of my frustration is that I feel insulted by the labels (all of them, unfortunately, no exception) listing the ingredients like “Water, Organic Alcohol (35%), Organic Vanilla Bean Extractives”. BTW this example is an exception, most of them don’t show even the % for alcohol. So, how much water in there??? Do I pay mostly for water??? Am I not supposed to know what I pay for??? Why are buyers so gullible and accept this? Why there is NOT ONE manufacturer to tell the truth on the label and such have people by from them instead of the smart manufactures who dare to consider us idiots?

    Reply

    • Mitchell N

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      Correction
      *have people buy from them

      Reply

      • Patricia Rain

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        Mitchell, when the first extracts were made at the turn in the early 20th century, there was no accountability as to what went into the bottle, and a lot of companies were using little-to-no vanilla bean extractives or mixing in imitation vanillin. In the late 1940s, new methods for testing extracts became available so that companies that were cheating and adding synthetic vanillin, one of the the hundreds of components that make of vanilla’s flavor and fragrance, could be held accountable. At that point a Standard of Identity was created. It requires that the ingredients for extracting the flavor and fragrance from vanilla beans be 35% alcohol (70 proof), 13.38% ground vanilla beans and the balance, distilled water. The technique used for making pure extracts is a percolation process, not unlike the old coffee percolators so popular in the 1940s and 50s, except that the extracts are made in large metal drums. The water component is critical to dilute the alcohol and capture the flavor of the vanilla. Some companies add sugar or corn syrup and caramel color to help soften the often harsh nose of the alcohol. It is required by law that the alcohol, volume of vanilla beans and water be listed on the label of pure vanilla in the U.S. So, you and all other customers are not being cheated because vanilla extract contains so much water. Also, if you look at the bottles of rum, vodka, etc. in the market you will notice that they contain 40% alcohol or 80 proof.

        Reply

  • Steve Malmquist

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    I was impressed with the information you shared about vanilla and was pleased you had a quality product to offer. Now I know why I am buying this vanilla and can compare it to what I’ve been using (and not satisfied with). I have two Mexican bottles one clear and one dark. The dark one I swear has a coconut taste to it, the clear is pretty good. I’ll look forward to the taste test when I get a bottle of yours. Thank you for all of the information. (I was going to leave a rather vanilla comment but …. ;~)

    Reply

    • Patricia Rain

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      Steve, the two bottles of Mexican vanilla you purchased are both imitation vanilla made in a chemist’s lab. The clear one is made from synthetic vanillin and may or may not contain other chemicals. The dark one may have a coal tar base (yes, coal tar has vanillin in it) or red dyes or other chemicals have been added to get it a dark color. For more information, please read https://vanillaqueen.com/vanilla-from-mexico-central-american-and-the-caribbean/. Our Mexican extract was made here in the United States with Mexican vanilla beans following the Standard of identity. For more information on the Standard of Identity, read the response I gave to Mitchell’s questions on 09/04/2020. You will find that it’s quite different from the bottles from Mexico. Hopefully you will like it.

      Reply

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