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Inside Look: Chemistry and Biochemistry of Vanilla Flavor

Contact Author Arvind Ranadive, Premier Vanilla Inc.
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This is only an excerpt of the full article that appeared in P&F Magazine. The full content is not currently available online.

Although the presence of vanillin in the vanilla bean greatly enhances the quality of vanilla, its absence does not change the basic vanilla character or render the beans worthless. A number of other major, minor and trace constituents play very significant roles in imparting vanilla with its characteristic aroma and flavor.

Vanilla species, growing conditions, soil nutrition, harvest maturity of the beans and the curing method used determine the relative concentrations of various fl avor constituents of cured vanilla. The cured beans contain protein, sugars, lignocellulosic fi bers, cellulose, organic acids, vanillin and other monohydroxyphenols, fixed oil, wax, resin, gum, pigments, tannins, minerals, volatile aromatics and essential oil. The general composition of whole vanilla beans from different regions has been reported in the literature. The vanilla constituents responsible for aroma and flavor include volatiles such as aromatic carbonyls, aromatic alcohols, aromatic acids, aromatic esters, phenols and phenol ethers, aliphatic alcohols, carbonyls, acids, esters and lactones, aromatic hydrocarbons, terpenoids, aliphatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclics. The nonvolatile constituents important in vanilla fl avor are tannins, polyphenols, resins and free amino acids. All of these constituents together produce the delicate, rich and mellow aroma with sweet spicy, woody and balsamic notes. A listing of vanilla fl avor terminology is presented in T-1.


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