January 12, 2022
By Taira Anderson
Vanilla is anything but plain. Warm, delicious, enveloping – it’s elegant and timeless. Our signature Vanilla fragrance embraces the magical, creamy aspect of vanilla and is linked to a rich history, and a vibrant present. Vanilla has been prized for its flavor and aroma for hundreds of years. First cultivated in South America, it was introduced to the rest of the world in the 1500’s according to Smithsonian Magazine, and has been a staple ingredient in food and fragrance across cultures ever since. One reason for its staying power might rest in the power it has over our sense of smell. The Perfume Society interestingly points out that when we smell vanilla, our vanilloid receptors are held open longer which allows us more time to detect and experience the scent. Vanilla is extracted from the seeds of the dried vanilla pod which are harvested from vines grown in Mexico, Indonesia, Tahiti and elsewhere. The vanilla that makes our Aera Vanilla fragrance irresistible comes from beautiful Madagascar.
Journey to Madagascar, a Lush Land…
The vanilla farms of North Antsirabe in Madagascar are alive with the call of the asity bird and brimming with verdant vanilla plants. Their flowers, pale yellow orchids, adorn the vines and must be pollinated by hand each day. If the pollination is successful, the vines slowly become heavy with long, green pods which are harvested with care after nine months have passed. Once harvested, the farmers sort the vanilla pods by length, flexibility, and smell until only the finest specimens remain. Our fragrance house, Firmenich, partners with the farming communities of North Antsirabe through their Naturals Together ™ program to ensure sustainable farming practices, and to guarantee the farmers fair wages for their careful, intensive work.
Sustainability for the Land, Stability for the People…
Sustainable farming practices have helped to preserve the land and habitat of North Antsirabe, Madagascar, while the reliable income and economic stability generated by the farming of vanilla has been transformative for the farming communities. It’s not just the economic landscape that has improved, but the overall health and wellbeing of the community has also been bolstered. 42 farming villages now have their own wells, providing crucial access to clean water. The first health clinic was financed by 130 women in the community, with Firmenich providing raw material and construction, making healthcare available and accessible. Daily life has been made better for all thanks to a shared commitment to treating the people and the land with compassion and respect, and thanks in part to that delicate yellow vanilla orchid, too.
Little Pod, Big Yum…
It’s pretty remarkable that so much beauty and so much good can come from a little vanilla pod, isn’t it?
So next time you’re sipping on a yummy vanilla latte, adding vanilla extract to your mouthwatering homemade chocolate chip cookies, or playing our delectable Aera Vanilla fragrance on your Aera Diffuser (or Aera Mini), perhaps you’ll smile and think of North Antsirabe, Madagascar and of the many hands that brought the delightfully delicious experience to you.
Taira Anderson is a fragrance storyteller for Aera with a master’s degree in writing and a passion for olfaction. She knows the power of fragrance and the power of language woven together can transport us to our fondest memories, most mesmerizing places, and even to imaginary worlds.