The Vanilla Option

Vanilla beans are the fruit of a rare orchid native to Mexico. Their aroma and flavor comes from a compound called vanillin. Most “vanilla” products are actually made with vanillin extracted from oak wood.

Each vanilla flower blooms just one morning out of every year. The orchid can only be naturally pollinated by a small Mexican bee, and if it isn’t pollinated that morning, the flower will wilt. No bean. Commercially, vanilla is now delicately hand-pollinated one flower at a time.

The labor involved in vanilla production makes it the second most expensive spice in the world (after saffron). Its flavor has been prized since Mesoamerican times, and as you well know, can be found in every ice cream shop on Earth.

So I ask—please, next time you think of using the adjective “vanilla”, consider the words “plain” or “mundane”. Because vanilla is far from being either of those.

Now look at what you’re building and ask yourself, is your “default” option anywhere near as good as vanilla? If not, don’t get carried away trying to design chocolate and strawberry.