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Vanilla - what's real?
November 13, 2004
8:31 pm
Martin Christy
London, United Kingdom
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Ok, who can say what, about what is real vanilla. E.g. ‘natural vanilla flavour’ can contain some vanillin, as I understand EU law. In the US ‘natural flavor’ just means it came from a (any) natural source – e.g. ‘natural orange flavor’ could be made out of pig parts.

The safest rule has to be makers who say ‘Bourbon Vanilla’, or ‘vanilla pods’ on their ingredients – but for a lot more it’s much greyer and harder to work out.

Contributions welcome – I want to know!

Martin Christy
Editor
http://www.seventypercent.com

Martin Christy Editor www.seventypercent.com
November 14, 2004
11:07 am
Sebastian
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Not as familliar with EU law, but I believe there are 3 label components when it comes to flavor – artificial, natural, and nature identical. The first two are obvious, and the last means that it’s not an extract from a natural source, but is chemically identical to a natural extract.

In the US, you’ve got artificial and natural. Many flavor houses use a WONF (w/other natural flavors), but if you go that route, you can’t label it solely as vanilla, and must be along the lines of natural flavors, vanilla and natural flavors, etc.

November 14, 2004
5:01 pm
Hans-Peter Rot
USA
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To further confuse you all, “vanillin” can actually mean two things. Vanillin is actually a natural chemical produced by the vanilla plant/orchid that gives the pure/natural vanilla its flavor, but chemists have found ways to chemically manufacture an artificial vanilla flavor which they call “vanillin.” The latter is still an imitation, nonetheless, and doesn’t contain nearly the same amount of chemical compounds (130) in true vanilla. It’s a naturally (pardon the pun)inferior product, to say the least.

November 14, 2004
5:49 pm
Martin Christy
London, United Kingdom
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As I understood it, vanillin in the context of the orchid refers to the crystals that form on the outside of the pod, and these are mostly of a specific chemical that can be synthesised (from pine trees, paper and more recently bacteria). However the chemical alone is not enough to give a full vanilla flavour, the other chemicals creating the full effect.

Martin Christy
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http://www.seventypercent.com

Martin Christy Editor www.seventypercent.com
November 14, 2004
7:25 pm
Masur
Stockholm, Sweden
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Learn more about vanilla:
[url]http://www.innvista.com/health/foods/spices/vanilla.htm[/url]

“Porcelana: The Holy Grail of Pure Criollos” (Marieel E. Presilla)

"Porcelana: The Holy Grail of Pure Criollos" (Maricel E. Presilla)
November 15, 2004
8:27 am
Polarbear
Tromsø, Norway
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I don’t know anything about the rules – therefore I only buy chocolate which explitly states vanilla pod, Bourbon og vanilla extract. Anything with “flavour” is considered as “the dirty f-word”.

***
My name is Polarbear and I am a chocoholic…

*** My name is Polarbear and I am a chocoholic...
November 15, 2004
10:49 am
alex_h
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and i try to stick to chocolate that doesn’t contain vanilla :-)

November 15, 2004
11:37 am
Polarbear
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Alex, don’t you like the vanilla taste?

I used to think that I could taste the difference between vanillin and the real thing. Not so sure anymore, because I think I may have confused with the harsh forasteros taste that often follow such chocolates, and which often is (unsucessfully) camouflaged by an overdose vanilla taste.

I’m actually not sure whether I am able to really taste whether a chocolate has vanilla or not, unless it’s too much. Any tips?

***
My name is Polarbear and I am a chocoholic…

*** My name is Polarbear and I am a chocoholic...
November 15, 2004
12:20 pm
alex_h
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hmmm, no i just prefer a chocolate to be as pure as possible. that is one reason why i like some of domori’s stuff the best.
i am not sure either whether i can taste vanilla in a bar. one where it is obvious to me is domori’s esmeraldas cru.
i wonder if i could tell the difference between vanilla and vanillin. especially after what monte says above. i have noticed though that bars with artificial vanilla taste candy-like. where that comes from i do not know. have found this trait in some lindt for instance.

i am also very interested in finding out more about vanilla and vanillin. a while ago i posted some infos on the subject here. do a vanilla/vanillin search for more…

have just found some info in german. will post once translated.

November 15, 2004
1:02 pm
Polarbear
Tromsø, Norway
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Seems we have the same problem with thea vanilla/vanillin taste: Are we able to taste a true variation, or are we fooled by the typically cheaper beans in the chocs that contain vanillin. Or, in science-speak: Are we able to identify a causal connection between real/fake vanilla and taste, or is it a spurious case of co-variation between vanilla/vanillin and bean quality.

Isn’t science wonderful![:)]

***
My name is Polarbear and I am a chocoholic…

*** My name is Polarbear and I am a chocoholic...
November 15, 2004
3:54 pm
legodude
Norway
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I don`t think the vanilla is so important in chocolate. Some of the chocolates without are good. If the choise is between vanillin or without “vanilla flavor”, I`d rather go without. I think the chocolate producers should focus on the cocoa bean quality rather than the vanilla bean. Vanilla is after all very expensive and the good vanilla bean quality is hardly recogniseable in chocolate. As a pastry chef i use both Bourbon and Tahiti vanilla. In vanilla cream or vanilla ice you can get the best taste from the vanilla used. I tend to like the Bourbon vanilla over the Tahiti. We also use a liquid “vanilla essens” that is made from both artificial vanillin and exerpts from vanilla beans.

Isn`t cuisine wonderful![:)]

"I`ve got lots of friends in San José. Do you know the way to San José?"
November 15, 2004
4:25 pm
alex_h
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i agree with legodude. a good chocolate is good by the merit of its beans and what the chocolatier makes of them. why use vanilla? unless of course you really like to add the flavor for reasons of personal taste.
don’t misunderstand me, please, i am not anti-vanilla. and the industry around it is certainly justified. i still love what cecilia tessieri does with chuao. but for me the pinnacle is when domori takes a bean and adds nothing but some sugar. no butter, no nothin’ else.
but both are artists in my eyes.

maybe it is radical to say that those who use artificial flavors and sell their products as high-class chocolate for a nice amount of money are ripping us off. but they are the ones who are hiding behind flavors that they can’t get from the beans they use. no names…

November 17, 2004
12:01 am
Sebastian
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If you’re unable to discern the difference between vanillin and vanilla, it may be that they’re being used at levels so low that nobody could tell the difference. Sometimes the presence of vanilla on a label is percieved as making the product more high end, and some companies have taken to adding it nominal levels, only for the purpose of getting it on the label. As time goes by, they realize that it’s not adding any flavor value, but is costing them more. So they replace it with vanillin, which doesn’t have any effect on the flavor (since it was in there at too low a level to begin with), and their raw material costs are much less.

However, assuming it is in there at meaningful levels, some tips for telling them apart is that vanillin often has a burn associated with it, and while you are likely to get a fairly strong vanilla like hit up front, it’s not a well rounded, full flavor that both starts and ends nicely, and is somewhat transparent in that you’re not quite sure where it starts and where it ends. If it jumps out at you and distinctly stands out from the chocolate, there’s a good chance it’s vanillin.

November 17, 2004
8:51 am
alex_h
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thanks, sebastian. i think in the future i should look more closely before drawing quick conclusions. i see that my reasoning is a bit off.
but getting back to slitti (the ‘other’ thread on vanilla): there is – imo – some kind of artificial taste there. i assumed it was from vanillin.

November 18, 2004
6:14 am
Hans-Peter Rot
USA
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Well, I think that pure and natural vanilla has that excellent flavor, devoid of any bitter metallic flavor so characteristic of vanillin. If you taste a good quality vanilla in a chocolate, then its flavor should be fresh and sumptuous, not fake and metallic. Sometimes, too much vanilla might be added to chocolate (which I think might be case in Amedei’s Trinidad), but I guess that also a chocolate’s strength and flavor profile, a bean’s pedigree, etc. might all influence the detection of vanilla. Some chocolate already has a characeristic vanilla flavor, such as the Pralus Columbia and Domori Esmeraldas.

November 18, 2004
9:46 am
alex_h
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you say esmeraldas has a vanilla flavor? of course, there’s vanilla in it! i don’t get what you’re saying.

February 3, 2005
2:18 pm
alex_h
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just read your blog entry, martin. are you serious? even if the ingredients state ‘vanilla’ one should be sceptical? whoa! and i thought i was being radical with my ‘crusade’ against slitti.
btw, we have now got slitti in munich and as i recently came across some bars with a german friend he pointed out that the ingredients indicate, that they are not using the real thing. i find germans are quite informed when it comes to this matter. not to say that he is absolutely right, but it would confirm my suspicions.

February 3, 2005
2:30 pm
Martin Christy
London, United Kingdom
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If you buy vanilla extract and you don’t know the source, you are taking a risk, especially if it is cheap. I heard reports of mass produced vanilla extract coming out of China that was adulterated with vanillin. Just like the cacao beans, the maker should be aware of the source and be sure that the vanilla is real. It’s all about taking care with the ingredients you use, whatever they are.

This is why I prefer to see the word ‘pod’, or at least some description of the source.

Martin Christy
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http://www.seventypercent.com

Martin Christy Editor www.seventypercent.com
February 3, 2005
2:37 pm
Masur
Stockholm, Sweden
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Found this document describing different types of vanilla:
[url]http://www.aromenhaus.de/download/vanille_e.pdf[/url]

“Porcelana: The Holy Grail of Pure Criollos” (Marieel E. Presilla)

"Porcelana: The Holy Grail of Pure Criollos" (Maricel E. Presilla)
February 3, 2005
2:41 pm
alex_h
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that would pretty much rule out most chocolate makers though. but i agree, i am sceptical as well, one reason i stick to domori.
the only makers i can immediately think of, that use the words ‘pod’ or ‘bourbon vanilla’ are marcolini, valrhona (i think) and cluizel. those who don’t use vanilla at all number two in my list (off the top of my head): domori and bonnat.