To Start, Where Does Vanilla Come From?
Unfortunately, most people think of vanilla as a less-exciting alternative to chocolate. But cooks and bakers use vanilla to enhance all sorts of yummy dishes. And vanilla loose leaf tea…? Exquisite!
Perhaps surprisingly, this spice actually comes from an orchid. Well before Christopher Columbus “discovered” the Americas, Central American natives were cultivating Vanilla planifolia orchid vines. Conquistador Hernán Cortés reportedly brought vanilla (and chocolate) back to Europe in the 1520s, where vanilla was actually the bigger hit.
Today, most vanilla comes from the islands of Madagascar and Réunion, off the coast of Africa. However, Mexico and Tahiti also cultivate vanilla crops.
Why is Vanilla So Expensive?
Vanilla is the 2nd-most-expensive spice, after saffron. Both are costly because they’re labor-intensive.
Each vanilla flower lasts only one day, and for commercial crops, must be hand-pollinated during that narrow time window. After pollination, the flowers develop into long, thin green pods, which kinda look like green beans.
The magical part of the plant is those pods. First, workers pick the pods before they ripen. Next, they plunge them into hot water, and then dry them out for 2-6 months. Finally, they may also age the pods for up to 2 years afterward.
For loose leaf vanilla tea (and for flavoring in general), vanilla can take the form of an extract or essence, pods or beans, or powder. (Artificial vanilla flavoring also exists, but CommuniTea Center doesn’t use any artificial ingredients.)
Did You Know?
- Originally, the Aztecs perfected the above-mentioned drying process for vanilla pods. As a result of this development, they were able to use the vanilla to flavor their xocolatl, a hot-chocolate-like beverage made out of raw cacao and ground maize.
- Not only does vanilla taste sweet and yummy, but some people actually consider it to be an aphrodisiac.
- Since vanilla was originally so rare and expensive, only royalty had access to it!
Even if you’re not royal, you can definitely still enjoy the warm, sweet taste of vanilla in your tea!
We have lots of yummy options, where vanilla is the featured flavor, or a soft background note…
Please scroll down to read more about CommuniTea Center’s loose leaf vanilla tea blends!
(O) = contains 95% or more organic ingredients
Earl Grey Cream (O)– $2 sample/$10 2oz
What differentiates traditional Earl Grey from other black teas is the addition of oil of bergamot, a citrus fruit from Italy.
CommuniTea Center’s “Earl Grey Cream” goes one step further and incorporates the creaminess of vanilla as well. Try it plain, or with milk and sugar. It pairs wonderfully with scones, too. So yum!
Vanilla Bliss (O)– $2 sample/$12 2oz
Dictionary.com defines “bliss” as “supreme happiness; utter joy or contentment.” If you could capture that feeling in a loose leaf vanilla tea, the result would be “Vanilla Bliss.”
It’s an organic black tea with chopped pieces of real vanilla pods and rich vanilla extract. It’s smooth, sweet, and decadent. This tea is also amazing on its own or as the basis of a tea latte. Our current favorite: an iced “Vanilla Bliss” tea latte made with almond milk and a little honey. Mmm…
Loose Leaf Vanilla Tea: Oolong Tea Blends
Oriental Silk– $3 sample/$8 1oz
This is a sophisticated-yet-sensual blend. To start, its base is a pouchong (oolong) tea from Northern Taiwan, which means that it is barely oxidized–really close to a green tea. (In Chinese, this type of tea is called “bao zhong.”) It’s deliciously light and floral.
“Oriental Silk” has a delicate creamy, citrusy, sweet taste, thanks to the addition of lemon myrtle and vanilla. The result complements the pouchong tea perfectly!
Vanilla Hazelnut – $2 sample/$12 2oz
Don’t you wish this was a scratch n sniff photo?? If you could only smell this tea… Mmmm…
Oh right, “Vanilla Hazelnut” loose leaf vanilla tea! Yes, it has real vanilla and real hazelnut pieces mixed in with the Tie Guan Yin (English = “Iron Goddess of Mercy”) oolong tea. No artificial stuff allowed!
It tastes so decadent! Mmmm…
**Please note: This tea contains hazelnuts.**