VANILLA is often seen as the most basic of all ice cream flavours but many people do not know the source of this flavour staple.
A rumour that vanilla flavouring comes from beavers has lit up the internet but rest assured, your food does not come from beaver goo.
Where does vanilla flavouring come from?
So, where does vanilla flavouring come from?
If you google the question, you'll see a 2013 National Geographic article explaining the origins of castoreum, a natural vanilla flavouring.
Castoreum is brown, sticky goo secreted by beavers from glands between the pelvis and base of the tail.
Beaver use this goo to mark their territory – it just so happens to smell a lot like vanilla due to their diet of bark and leaves.
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Food chemists can "milk" the substance from anaesthetised beavers and use it as a flavouring or scent in luxury foods and perfumes.
While it might not be the most desirable source of flavouring, it is regarded as "generally safe for consumption" by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Beaver goo was used to flavour artisanal ice cream, baked goods, chewing gum and candy, decades ago.
However, castoreum is almost never used in food today except in special (and expensive) circumstances.
Instead vanilla flavouring comes from the bean pod which you have undoubtedly seen in stores and on Bake Off.
Most vanilla beans come from the vanilla orchid plant grown in Madagascar, Mexico and Tahiti.
So do not be alarmed, this is what is used in vanilla food flavourings.
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When did vanilla flavouring go viral on TikTok?
TikTok user @Sloowmoee sent the internet wild after he started a viral trend.
In a 15-second video posted to his 6.1million followers, the TikTok creator asked people to film their reactions before and after googling “where does vanilla flavouring come from?”
He then takes a sip of vanilla latte before googling the question, looking horrified and screeching: "No more vanilla!"
Sloowmoee's video has racked up millions of views.
In response to his post, other TikTok users uploaded videos of their reaction to finding out the apparent origin of the flavouring.
TikTok: Brief guide to the world’s most downloaded app
- TikTok lets users create and share short videos with music and camera effects
- The hit app is best known for short dance videos, lip-syncing clips, comedy sketches, and talent footage
- It is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, founded by the entrepreneur Zhang Yiming
- The $200billion conglomerate acquired the Musical.ly app in 2017 and merged it with TikTok, bringing millions of new users
- By February 2019, TikTok and Douyin had been downloaded more than a billion times
- It was the most-downloaded app on the App Store in 2018 and 2019
- Cyber experts have expressed concern over ByteDance's alleged links to the Chinese government
- The Department of Defense has urged its employees to avoid using the app over national security concerns
- TikTok says it does not and would not share user data with the Chinese government
Have I eaten beaver goo?
While castoreum can be used as an ingredient in food and drinks products, it's extremely rare due to the cost and time associated with the milking of it.
It's safe to assume that every ice cream or vanilla latte you've consumed contains ingredients that have been nowhere near the bum of a beaver.
That's because the overwhelming majority of food and drinks products use artificial flavourings to get that sweet vanilla taste.
Many also contain vanilla extract, which comes from the orchid pods.
The few products that do contain castoreum are generally produced by luxury brands – nothing you can get from your local supermarket.
Eau De Musc (“Water of Musk”), for instance, was a limited-edition beaver castoreum whiskey released in 2018 by US booze-maker Tamworth Distilling.
It was housed in a small, 200ml vintage-style perfume bottle and sold for an eye-watering $65 (£50) a pop.
Chanel Antaeus is a fragrance from – you guessed it – Chanel that contains castoreum. That'll set you back a measly $114 / £78 a bottle.
Is vanilla flavouring the same as vanilla essence?
Although both give you that familiar vanilla taste, vanilla extract is different to vanilla flavouring.
To make vanilla flavouring, a mixture of corn syrup, synthetic vanillin and lignin is made.
Generally speaking, imitation vanilla has a weaker taste so is best to use in baked goods.
The extract can be made by soaking vanilla beans in a mixture of water and ethyl alcohol – vodka or bourbon will do the trick at home.
You can use these to make homemade vanilla ice cream or add the flavour to other food.
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Split vanilla beans are placed in the alcohol and cold or hot extraction methods are used.
Another vanilla product you can buyis vanilla essence.
This is also used in food stuff and is typically made using water, ethanol, propylene glycol, emulsifiers, and chemically produced flavours and colours
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