vanilla macarons laid out on a towel

The Many Flavors of Vanilla

“Vanilla” is mistakenly equated with being “dull” – but vanilla is a refined and diverse ingredient with various uses and possibilities. Natural vanilla is exceptionally scarce and very expensive, and there is a wide range of natural and synthetic vanilla sources and uses. Let’s explore all the flavors of vanilla. We are proud to source the highest quality of different vanilla flavors here at Metarom USA. Request a free sample, or let us know if you want advice in crafting a custom flavor profile using vanilla.

vanilla macarons laid out on a towel

Why Natural Vanilla Is So Scarce and So Expensive

So, what’s the big deal with vanilla? It seems readily available since every restaurant and grocery store has vanilla ice cream as the baseline flavor. But at least 97% of the “vanilla” used in the world is synthetic, and so real, natural vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world (after saffron). Here are some of the requirements for the delicate vanilla orchid plant to thrive:

  • A moist, tropical climate with year-round temperatures around 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit
  • There is relatively little wind and reasonably high humidity in the growing area
  • Soil rich in organic matter on terrain that is gently sloping to allow adequate, but not excessive, drainage
  • A mixture of sun and shade
  • At elevation from sea level to about 2,5000 feet
  • Pollination only by the Mexican Melipona bee or a very time-consuming method for pollination by hand

As you can see from this list, it’s hard to find places where vanilla can thrive naturally. This problem makes authentic vanilla rare and thus expensive as an ingredient, though price varies widely for different vanilla flavors. Getting the flavors of vanilla is typically a lengthy and involved process: let’s see where the sources are.

Where Vanilla Comes From

Authentic flavors of vanilla are sourced from a variety of countries. Now that there is the possibility for hand pollination, vanilla can be grown outside of Mexico, where the pollinating bee for authentic vanilla originates. Countries currently involved in providing natural sources of vanilla include:

  • Mexico
  • Madagascar
  • Tahiti
  • Indonesia
  • Other islands, such as the Seychelles and Jamaica
  • India
  • China

As you can see, this is quite a wide-ranging list. With the variety in location comes, of course, different vanilla flavors. Each of these sources of natural vanilla provides slightly different flavors and potencies. For instance, the Vanilla tahitiensis, a Tahitian form of vanilla grown on the island of Niue, has a lower content of actual vanilla but does have a sweeter floral scent and a more delicate or fruitier taste. No matter where natural vanilla is sourced, it will be expensive, but specific harvesting methods will be more prized and rare than other options.

The Range of Synthetic Vanilla Options

Because natural vanilla is so rare, hard to get, and expensive, most options for flavors of vanilla are synthetic. “Vanillin” is the synthetic version of the flavor compound synthesized in a lab. Synthetic versions of vanilla extract, beans, specks, flecks, and more are fabricated en masse to provide the “regular” flavor we all know as vanilla. Artificial vanillin lacks the real depth of the flavor profile in natural vanilla, which has hundreds of flavor compounds in one.

However, just because a flavor is fabricated doesn’t mean it isn’t potent or effective. Synthetic flavors of vanilla are more straightforward and less expensive, which means you get the primary taste of vanilla without going through the cost and extensive preparation process of using the original. Also, because many authentic flavors get lost at high temperatures, synthetic vanilla is preferred for some baked goods.

Different Vanilla Flavors Available at Metarom USA

Here at Metarom USA, we carry a wide range of vanilla products that we manufacture ourselves. Even within our specific categories, specialization and personalization are available; for example, we offer our commercial vanilla extract in several strengths. Please reach out with special requests for your flavors of vanilla, and we can work with you on your unique flavor profile. For a general overview, here are the categories of different vanilla flavors we offer here:

Even when sourcing in bulk, our beans are guaranteed the finest quality, handpicked for pure vanilla flavor straight from the source. Our vanilla beans are often ground to create a thick mass used for chocolate manufacturing. You can request a sample for your flavor profile if you are interested in this possibility.

For the presence of vanilla to be evident to both the eye and the tongue, there’s nothing better than our authentic vanilla specks. Specks are often used to bring vanilla flavors to dairy applications, like protein shakes. In our process, we exhaust vanilla beans, then dry, sterilize, and grind them into a powder, forming these specks. These specks mimic the appearance of our next category at a fraction of their cost:

Bringing authentic flavor and appearance, our careful process secures uniform size for our beans with exhaustion, sieving, and more. Quality is guaranteed with our different vanilla flavors.

For bulk needs such as vanilla for whipped cream, frosting, ice creams, and more, we offer quality vanilla bean paste with a more intense version of the flavor than you can get in extracts:

A popular choice, our commercial vanilla extract is meticulously created to be quality in various strengths. We can be your supplier and consultant on using vanilla in your flavor profile.

two crossed vanilla bean pods

Enjoy the Many Flavors of Vanilla

If you’re looking to include any flavors of vanilla in your custom flavor profile, let us know, and we can help you find the right choice from our different vanilla flavors that will fit your needs. We can provide a free sample of a given option for vanilla, as well as our expert advice in crafting recipes with quality ingredients.