Despite the ubiquitous application of vanilla flavor in nonsavory foods, and despite the unprecedented number of studies by industry and academia, publications and information are scanty on the complete elucidation of the analytical and flavor chemistry of this unique spice, Most contemporary studies and advancement of its understanding are well-guarded proprietary information, The objective of the work described in this article is the aroma characterization of vanilla beans from different geographical locations with a view to developing a database of information to be used as an indication of geographical origin and bean quality.
Vanilla, the most important and universally popular flavoring material and spice, is the fully grown fruit of an epiphytic orchid, Vanilla planifolia Andrews (syn. Vanilla fragrance Ames) or Vanilla tahitensis Moore. Harvested before it is fully ripe, then fermented and cured, the fruits are usually referred to as vanilla beans. The fragrance and flavor of vanilla are due to numerous compounds produced during the curing operation. Among these compounds, vanillin is the most abundant.
With vanilla, as is typical of natural agricultural products, the country of origin, agricultural practices, climatic factors, soil types, degree of ripeness at harvesting and method of curing play important roles in the quafity and yield of flavor and aroma constituents.