The VanillaPura Story

Jill & Paul (owners of VanillaPura) have worked and traveled in the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, Australia & Asia for more than 20 years. VanillPura, LLC is the first company that they created together.

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Paul and Jill with Hawaiian farmer in 2022

(Paul & Jill with one of their Hawaiian vanilla farmers.) 

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Vanilla bean plantation

(Paul & Jill visiting a vanilla bean plantation on one of their many trips to the region of the world called the "Bean Belt" where vanilla beans grow.)

In September of 2016, Jill and two of her long-time friends planned a holiday gift-making party. They selected homemade vanilla extract as the gift of choice. To make the extract, they purchased cute glass jars, vanilla beans, and vodka.

Buying the vodka was an experience unto itself. We live in Utah where liquor can only be sold in state-operated liquor stores, so we aren’t accustomed to seeing vodka on Costco shelves or in grocery stores. A trip to the liquor store in Utah by three friends that aren’t entirely familiar with vodka and its origins or its top-shelf versus bottom-shelf, three-times-distilled versus six-times-distilled characteristics was memorable.

Jill and her friends returned to our home, unpacked the vanilla beans, the vodka, and the jars, and began to make their holiday gifts. Paul was in our home office that evening with the door closed as the rising sound of laughter and the smell of vanilla began to fill the house.

The fun noises and energy emanating from the kitchen were different that evening from other evenings. (No, the ladies weren’t drinking the vodka!) There was something special in the moment. An intangible warmness, sweetness, and kind enthusiasm radiated from our kitchen behind the smell of vanilla. There was so much noise and energy that our two sons (ages nine and fourteen) emerged from their rooms and came into the kitchen to be part of the experience, and Paul did as well. We learned that evening that it is impossible to smell the sweet, natural scent of vanilla without smiling.

Making extract in our own kitchen was a medium by which a special moment was born. Something of the simplicity of the task and the care taken in making these gifts brought our kitchen to life. And in a nontraditional way, vanilla beans, vodka, and cute glass bottles created a modern-day Norman Rockwell kitchen-centered moment with family and friends laughing together and enjoying one another.

In the seven years since making our first extracts at home, we have learned invaluable lessons ourselves and even more lessons from our 200,000+ social media followers that make extracts with us. Great vanilla extract can take over a year to make. Vanilla beans, like coffee beans, have entirely different tastes based on their origin and their quality. The type of alcohol you select has a major impact on the finished extract, and not just any alcohol will do. And nothing is worse than waiting an entire year only to find that your extract isn’t made correctly. We outline many of these points in an NPR interview on KCRW - California. (Click the image below to listen.)

NPR California Radio Interview

Not long after the extract-making party that started their journey, Jill and Paul quickly learned that good quality vanilla beans were hard to find and very expensive. Not only that, there was a sea of misinformation online about how to make extracts at home. Not only were people purchasing lower quality ingredients, but they were also following bad advice and having a negative experience with the first extract they made. 

In response, Jill & Paul set out to create a safe, fun and happy place to buy the very best vanilla beans and vanilla extracts. They became a source for the highest-quality vanilla beans in the world, working closely with a global network of vanilla bean farmers. 

VanillaPura bean origins

They also created a free information hub with accurate extract making information. They provide tools and free education about how you can make your own pure, clean and healthy extracts at home. Too many online instructions oversimplify the process. "What's so difficult?" they ask. "Just put beans in booze and wait." Like anything worth while, great extracts require care and thought from determining what kind of booze, alcohol content and what type of vanilla bean species.

They started a Facebook group that has over 100,000 extract-makers so people with questions could ask anything, 24/7 and get correct instructions about how to make vanilla extract, chocolate extract, nut, mint, fruit and many other types of extract.

Here's a quick exert from one of their live Facebook parties, talking about our sweet Facebook group members:

Paul and Jill want to help others become educated about the world of vanilla beans and proper extraction techniques. Whether you buy your vanilla beans at VanillaPura or not, they want your extract to turn out perfectly the first time and every time.

Given the importance of vanilla bean quality, they instituted the VanillaPura 100%, no questions asked, money back guarantee on every single purchase. 

(Real vanilla beans in every bottle. Pure ingredients for fine cuisine.)

Finally, Paul & Jill want to source vanilla beans from every single bean producing region on our amazing and beautiful planet. Not just from 1-2 major regions around the world as most vanilla extract producers do, but from every single region, large or small. Beans from Tonga, Tahiti, Uganda, Hawaii, Indonesia, Mexico, East Timor, Comoros, Vanuatu, The Cook Islands and other smaller-producing regions are all part of the VanillaPura offering. They want to introduce you to those cultures and they want to contribute to each culture's growth.

Several years ago, Paul and Jill were introduced to the founder of the Pemba Foundation. This wonderful group of people is dedicated to improving the economy, living conditions and environment in an effort to help local farmers establish new vanilla bean plantations on the Island of Pemba off the coast of Tanzania. 

(This is Paul (right) meeting with John Angier (left), retired PBS documentary producer and founder of the Pemba Foundation. Paul presented John with VanillaPura's first donation during this visit several years ago to celebrate a successful first year. This was the first donation of many.)

VanillaPura is honored to be a regular donor of the Pemba foundation. Funds are used for the growth of local vanilla bean industries that have a significant, direct impact on the lives of entire communities that depend on vanilla exports for their livelihood. 

 (Picture above provided by the Pemba Foundation: "[This is] one of Pemba's best vanilla farmers, named Bakari Mataka Bakari, as he plants new vanilla vines, with a grant from our foundation.  You can see the forest environment, which he has cleared for now, but which will close in on the vines as they grow, providing the necessary shade.  Mr. Mataka is tying the young vine to a support, which he has also planted.  The support will take root and grow, and thus be termite-proof.)

 VanillaPura has become more than just a safe source of pure vanilla extract and the finest quality vanilla beans. It is a culinary, cultural melting pot where you can experience not only the exquisite tastes from regions around the world, but also a source of information and insight about the countries, climates and people who provide our world with vanilla beans. 

There is something truly magical about a simple vanilla bean. You can't smell it without smiling, and that little bean has brought together tens of thousands of VanillaPura extract makers and has created a global community of kindness and "vanilla bean sweetness" for every participant. 

"We are all learning more about our planet's vanilla bean industry every day. You are contributing to the industry's long-term growth every time you purchase vanilla from VanillaPura. We are creating a global community of people that love to spread vanilla bean sweetness in every part of the world. We are confident that you will love our community and our products. We look forward to getting to know you."

- Jill & Paul.  

Visit our free extract-making guide center to start your extract journey today!