Used since early human history

Some of the techniques for manufacturing pure flavourings used today are based on knowledge handed down from our ancestors. For instance, the first prehistoric cooks from the stone age realized only a short time after discovering fire that its smoke added a unique flavour note to their meals.

Our ancestors of long ago also already knew that they could make their meals tastier with berries and herbs. As a result of flourishing trade with exotic spices – which took the world’s trading hubs by storm following the discovery of far-away continents – a host of new, intense flavourings arrived in our culinary flavour universe.

Traditional methods with modern technology

In connection with the introduction of new spices and flavours, methods such as roasting coffee and cacao beans or fermenting tea leaves were also discovered. It was determined that these processes change the flavour profile of these raw materials thereby creating a new, intense flavour.

The basic understanding of the manufacture and use of flavourings is therefore based on centuries-old principles, which were developed further and perfected over time. Today, the techniques which define the production of high-quality flavourings are extraction, distillation, fermentation and chemical synthesis. They are carried out with the highest standards in quality and care in order to produce the best possible taste.

Extraction

Extraction is the most commonly used technique. The flavouring substances of a plant are removed during extraction using a solvent. For this, the corresponding plant parts (blossoms, leaves, but also the roots) are generally placed in a solvent and later removed after a sufficient amount of time.

In principle, this process is comparable to how a herbal liquor is made where herbs, which are soaked in brandy, release their flavour. After a certain period of time, the solid components are filtered back out while the flavourings are bound in the liquid and preserved.

In many cases, the plant parts can also be boiled to extract the substances even faster. This is comparable to preparing coffee or tea: Brewing them in hot water removes the flavouring substances from the coffee powder or tea leaves. In the end, the resulting beverage with its intense flavour is the extract.

 

Distillation

During the distillation process, one takes advantage of the different boiling points of different components of a liquid in order to separate them. As a result, individual, precisely defined flavouring substances can be found from an extract.

The mixture obtained through extraction within a closed system is slowly heated to a specific temperature. The steam is guided through a high tower slowly cooling and condensing as a result. The condensate is collected and only contains a single component from the original extract – the desired flavouring substance.

The technique is used, for example, in the manufacture of the fragrance citral, which gives lemons, oranges and limes their characteristic citrus scent. It is one of the most important aroma compounds in the world but extracting it from citrus fruits is extremely complicated and expensive. However, it is much easier to obtain citral from lemon grass by means of distillation.

 

 

Fermentation

The discovery of microbiology led to the scientific understanding of fermentation processes as they occur in beer brewing, baking bread or making sauerkraut for the first time and these processes being harnessed using technology. This gave rise to modern biotechnology, which uses bacteria and fungi in a targeted manner in order to obtain flavourings naturally through fermentation.

In fermentation, biological materials or foods are modified by enzymes added in the form of bacteria, yeasts or fungi. In the process, solutions, most of which contain sugar, are converted by micro-organisms. Depending on the respective raw material, the enzymes form different desired flavouring substances.

Fruits also contain enzymes. When a fruit continues to ripen after purchase, this is basically the same process in action. As a result, these enzymes can also be isolated in some cases from fruits and synthesized in a targeted manner from sugar using processes similar to beer brewing.

Extraction of natural flavouring substances

At Pure Flavour, we primarily attempt to use flavourings from natural sources. However, there is one major challenge one encounters when it comes to obtaining natural flavouring substances. In many cases, the raw materials are very valuable or only available in limited amounts.

This is the case with vanilla beans, the flower heads of a tropical orchid, which grow very slowly and also only occur in a small number of regions of the earth. This is why the total global vanilla production only meets approximately 20 per cent of demand.

Techniques such as distillation and fermentation can solve this problem. Together with extraction, these are the primary techniques used to obtain our flavourings at Pure Flavour.

Chemical synthesis is another way to meet the high demand for some flavourings. This method was first discovered and introduced in the 19th century, after significant advances had been made in the field of chemistry. Thus, today it is possible to synthesize artificial vanillin from the bark sap of spruce trees.