History of Vanilla
Vanilla is an ingredient widely used in many industries, including food, cosmetics, and perfume. 80% of global vanilla production comes from Madagascar. However, vanilla and also cocoa are originally Mexican achievements.
Vanilla originates from Mexico and is also known as ixtlilxochitl or tlilxóchitl (black flower). Already the Aztecs used the aroma of the orchid to soften the bitter taste of chocolate. The Totonacs, inhabitants of the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico, were the first to cultivate vanilla. They held the monopoly of vanilla cultivation until the 19th century. All efforts of the Europeans to grow vanilla outside their country of origin failed.
In 1837 the Belgian botanist Charles Morren found out that the stingless Melipona bee is the only natural pollinator of the vanilla flower. This bee is found only in Mexico, which explains why the cultivation of vanilla outside Mexico failed. Only when the 12-year-old slave Edmond Albius (1829 – 1880) invented the manual pollination of orchid flowers on the island of Bourbon, nothing else stood in the way of the cultivation of vanilla in many tropical regions of the world.
Thanks to the Frenchman Louis XIV, the Sun King, who was fascinated by this exotic spice, vanilla conquered the traditional cuisines of Europe and the whole world.