History of Pure Flavors

Learn more about the rich history behind the flavors that make up our line of Pure Flavor Extracts.

Almond

For thousands of years, gourmands have prized almond extract for its sumptuous, full-bodied flavor. The almond can be classified as a fruit, which originated in the Middle East where its trees were planted along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. In fact, the Egyptian pharaohs flavored their breads with almond oils and Cleopatra is said to have been so enamored with the fruit that she regularly bathed in its milk.

The cultivation and use of almonds in baking later spread to Italy, where, since the 1500s, almonds have become a mainstay ingredient in cookies, jams, cakes and liquors, such as amaretto. Spanish conquistadors brought the almond seed to California, planting orchards where the heavily perfumed, flowering trees still flourish today. Almonds continue to be a widely popular ingredient used in cookies, cakes, pastries and more.

Chocolate

Like vanilla, chocolate originated in Mexico and Central America, where it was cultivated by the native population for hundreds of years before they were conquered by the Aztecs. The name chocolate is derived from the Aztec word xocolatl, meaning “bitter water.” During Aztec rule, chocolate was consumed as a drink, which also contained ground corn, honey and vanilla. When the Aztec leader Montezuma served it to Hernán Cortés, the Spanish conquistador was so astounded he demanded to know the ingredients.

Cortés eventually brought cocoa beans to Spain and Europe, where they were used solely for a hot chocolate drink for centuries by the upper classes. It wasn’t until 1847 that chocolate was consumed in solid form, when British chocolatier J.S. Fry and Sons developed the first-ever method for molding cocoa butter into chocolate bars, which soon became a worldwide favorite.

Coffee

While coffee’s energizing qualities were first discovered in Ethiopia, it was in Yemen that coffee beans were first roasted and brewed. Legend has it that a goat herder noticed his flock becoming invigorated after nibbling bright red coffee berries. He tried the fruit, felt a renewal of energy and brought the berries to a holy man. The holy man disapproved and threw them into the fire, from which an enticing aroma billowed. The roasted beans were raked from the embers, ground up and dissolved in hot water, yielding the world’s first cup of coffee. From the Middle East, coffee drinking spread to the Italian elite by Venetian merchants and then, eventually, to the rest of Europe.

Lemon

Lemons originated in Southeast Asia and spread to the Middle East, traveling from Persia to Iraq to Egypt. Although lemon trees were first brought to Europe by the Romans in the First Century A.D. widespread European cultivation of lemons didn’t occur until the 1400s. Lemons were soon introduced to the New World by Christopher Columbus.  Spanish conquistadors and settlers grew to quickly love the fruit, which cemented its status in the Americas. There’s no denying the delicious effect lemon has had on many of the global cuisines where it has been introduced.

Orange

A cross between a pomelo and a mandarin, the orange was originally cultivated by ancient Southeast Asians and is therefore known in several languages as the “Chinese Apple.” Unlike what you might expect, the name orange doesn’t refer to the color but, instead, comes from the Sanskrit word for fragrant. Orange trees eventually spread to North Africa in the First Century A.D. Later, the Moorish conquest of Spain spread oranges north into Europe. Orange seeds made the trip across the Atlantic with Columbus, quickly spreading throughout the warmer regions of North America, Central and South America as well as the Caribbean.

Orange Blossom

Ever since orange trees made their appearance in the Middle East, people have been distilling their flower petals to produce flavorful and fragrant orange blossom water for food preparation. At the end of the 17th century, Anne Marie Orsini, Duchess of Bracciano and Princess of Nerola, Italy, used the essence of the bitter orange tree blossoms to perfume her baths. Today, the fragrance continues to gain popularity.

Peppermint

Indigenous to Europe, peppermint was originally consumed for medicinal purposes, with archaeological evidence dating its use back almost ten thousand years. The ancient Greeks are thought to be the first to have cultivated the plant and even gave the herb its own legend in classic mythology.

Eventually peppermint became a commonly used ingredient in food and is now prevalent in Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian cuisine, as well as popular European and American desserts such as peppermint ice cream (which was loved by Napoleon Bonaparte’s first wife, Marie Louis), candy canes and mint chocolates.

Rose Water

Since ancient times, cooks have been flavoring food with rose water, valuing the ingredient for its fragrant quality and distinctive flavor. Rose water shows up in many ancient Middle Eastern recipes, and it has long been used as a substitute for wine in recipes.

Throughout its history, rose water has carried a reputation as a luxury ingredient, exemplified by the fact that Roman emperors once swam in pools of it. For centuries, European bakers used it to flavor madeleines and cakes. And, in the 17th century, rose water was rare enough and valuable enough that it could be used as legal tender.

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