The valuable and spicy aroma extracted from the pods of a tropical plant
Vanilla is a spice that is renowned for its highly sought-after scent and taste. The extracts of vanilla are widely used both in cosmetics to create perfumes, soaps, and body products, and in cooking to prepare vanilla-flavoured foods: the most famous are vanilla ice cream and vanilla chocolate. All of this success and popularity have led to the production of industrial flavours that are similar to vanilla or can reproduce its essence, such as vanillin, while natural vanilla is an expensive ingredient and more difficult to find on the market, but it is much more pure and authentic.
Vanilla: where it comes from and how it is obtained
The vanilla plant is actually an orchid that is native to Mexico. It is a tropical climbing plant that can also reach amazing heights (up to 10 metres) and it adapts quite well to humid tropical climates. Therefore, the main growing areas for orchids are Southeast Asia, Central and South America, and the south-central area of Africa (including Madagascar, one of the world’s largest producers of vanilla). Vanilla will flower during autumn and in the winter months up to January at the latest. Vanilla flowers are grouped into bouquets and they have a distinctive white colour, with a shape that looks like orchid petals. When the flowers are fertilised, they produce pod-like fruit. These pods are used to extract the vanilla aroma.
The different varieties of vanilla depend on the varieties of the plants the pods come from, and they are grown in specific areas of the globe. Bourbon vanilla comes from the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean and Madagascar; Tahiti vanilla is more sugary and native to Asia; whereas Mexican vanilla and Indonesian vanilla are two other varieties. In the past, the pre-Columbian peoples of Central America already used vanilla to add flavour to their meals. It is said that the Aztecs used to prepare their own ante litteram version of vanilla chocolate.
Vanilla fragrance and vanilla soaps
Vanilla fragrance is a special scent that has been loved far and wide for centuries because of its unique characteristics. Vanilla essence is extremely complex and it has several organic compounds that coexist in it. However, the aspect that imparts an unmistakable sweet, spicy scent that brings out feelings of nostalgia is vanillin. It is an aromatic molecule that is used to make synthetic vanillin, an alternative to natural flavouring. In olfactory terms, the fragrance of vanilla is enveloping and deep, warm and intense, yet never too heavy. In fact it is able to emanate strong femininity in the form of sweetness and delicacy.
Actually, the symbolism of vanilla evokes motherhood and intimacy, while at the same time it reveals a sensual side. Because some of the various elements of this aromatic plant are its aphrodisiac properties, which awaken the body’s life force and unleash the energy of the senses. Vanilla cosmetic products use vanilla extracts to convey a complex and articulated fragrance bouquet that is synonymous with excellence and sophistication. Vanilla liquid and solid soap, shower gels, and vanilla-scented body creams give the skin a pleasant, sweet and velvety scent that provides a sense of well-being and gives softness to the entire body.