What is the difference between "vanilla" and "Mexican vanilla"

Sobachatina
  • What is the difference between "vanilla" and "Mexican vanilla" Sobachatina

    Some ice cream around here is marketed as the flavor "Mexican vanilla".

    It seems sweeter and has obvious vanilla seeds (or something that looks similar). Is there a type of vanilla pod that is uniquely Mexican? Or does the flavor mean "vanilla in a Mexican style" and refer to some technique?

  • According to my favorite source of spices, Penzeys, there is a difference between Madagascar Vanilla

    Regarded as the world's best, Madagascar beans set the standard for prime vanilla flavor.

    and Mexican Vanilla

    Mexican beans, while similar to Madagascar, have a darker flavor that is perfect for vanilla liqueur and coffee drinks.

  • There are several distinct species of the vanilla orchid used for food flavouring, the most common being vanilla planifolia, vanilla tahitiensis and vanilla pompona (in that order).

    Vanilla planifolia is usually marketed as "Bourbon vanilla", most of which is grown in Indonesia and Madagascar. The same species is also grown in Mexico, but they have decided to call it "Mexican vanilla", which is purely a marketing designation. At least the Mexicans claim their vanilla to be of superior quality, but the vanilla extracts sold in Mexico are often stretched with tonka bean extract, which has a similar taste and aroma to vanilla, but contains coumarin, which is banned as a food additive by the US Food & Drug Administration. Other countries have less strict regulations, often only regulating a maximum coumarin content.

  • Vanilla "beans" or pods go through an extensive process to give the flavor you know. One of the main differences in vanilla produced in various regions is the tweaking of this process.

    First, vanilla is heated to kill the pod to prevent sugar from turning to starch, and to break down cell walls. After this is a repeated process of exposure to sun and wrapping in cloth--this stage develops vanillin, the main flavor component. Lastly, the pods are straightened and dried to further develop flavor. It is in this last stage that mexican vanilla differs most significantly--whereas vanilla from Madagascar may take about 5 weeks, Mexican vanilla will cure for several months.

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