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Dried and cured vanilla beans

The aromatic and simple vanilla is actually quite an exotic flavour. It comes with its own history, and is perhaps one of the best discoveries. Vanilla is grown from a unique species of orchid that is native to South America. It was used by the Mayans and Aztecs in a drink that they mixed with cacao, the precursor to chocolate. It arrived in Europe after South America was conquered.

Vanilla did not attract much patronage immediately. It began rather humbly. Queen Elizabeth I was the first person to taste vanilla flavouring and took to its mild but pleasant taste. Prior to this, it was not well received. Since it is pollinated only by the native Melipona bee, Europeans were unable to study it and grow it themselves.

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