In arid Israel, new food company produces potent vanilla spice
Published: Jul 28, 2022 06:52 PM
One of the specially crafted cakes sold during Smile Asia Week Photo: Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Group

Photo: Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Group

In his busy Tel Aviv restaurant, chef Yair Yosefi adds a magic ingredient to his signature cake: Israel's first commercially produced vanilla providing what devotees claim is perhaps the strongest ever flavor.

It is made by Vanilla Vida, a new food-industry player that says its computer-guided curing process, along with other high-tech cultivation methods, can craft each batch of vanilla to a specific taste. The company, founded in 2020, could prove to be a lucrative venture, producing the world's most precious spice after saffron.

Many mass-produced foods, from ice cream to milk shakes to soy milk, are usually flavored with artificial vanilla, but the real organic stuff is still very expensive and sought-after. Vanilla Vida has also developed greenhouses to recreate conditions the vanilla needs to flourish, but until the plants there achieve full size, the company imports fresh vanilla to its processing plant in Or Yehuda, a Tel Aviv suburb. 

Co-founder and CEO Oren Zilberman told AFP that his company subjects the raw product to a highly-monitored ageing process. 

This, he said, allows it to draw out desired flavors, accelerating the drying process and eliminating the various risks that come with open air drying in tropical environments like Indonesia or Madagascar, two major vanilla producers. 

"We know how, through drying processes with varying temperatures, humidity and other elements to get the raw material to go a certain way, to create slightly different aromas, the same way you roast coffee differently to create different aromas," he said.