Vanilla: A Flavor From Orchids


Like chili peppers, vanilla comes from South and Central America, as well as from the Caribbean. It is one of the thousands of orchid species.

Historians believe that the first people to cultivate it were the early dwellers on the east coast of Mexico called the Totonacs. The Totonacs were conquered by the Aztecs, who got their vanilla before being conquered by the Spanish in the 16th century.

The Aztecs flavored their chocolate with vanilla and so did the Spaniards once they grew accustomed to the taste. As a result, Europeans considered vanilla to be nothing more than a flavoring for chocolate for decades. Only in the 17th century did the use of vanilla without chocolate become popular. In England, Queen Elizabeth I enjoyed sweetmeats flavored with vanilla. By the 18th century, the French were making ice cream flavored with vanilla.

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Cream of Tartar: A Leavening Agent That Comes From Wine

Cream of Tartar

Also known as tartaric acid, cream of tartar has been around since 800 AD when it was discovered by a Persian alchemist. It is a by-product of wine-making and forms initially as a product called argol on the inside of casks. The argol can be refined into the product that we know as cream of tartar.

The modern process of making cream of tartar came from a Swedish chemist named CW Scheele in 1769. In 1832, French physicist Jean Baptiste Biot would find discover various physical properties of cream of tartar such as the fact that it can rotate polarized light. It would be further investigated by Louis Pasteur in 1847, who investigated the shapes of its crystals. He observed that it had asymmetrical crystals.

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Chai Spices: A Blend Of English And Indian Tastes

chai spices

Chai is the Indian word for tea. The chai that most westerners know is actually masala chai, which means spiced tea. The spices used in this tea are what is known as chai spices. Masala chai has been used for thousands of years. Depending on which of masala chai’s origin stories you believe, masala chai was created 9,000 years ago or 5,000 years ago. The location is also disputed as some say that it was first made in India, others say Thailand.

The earliest masala chai was made with the chai spices only and there were no tea leaves included. It was created as an ayurvedic remedy for a range of minor health issues.

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