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The difference between essences, extracts and bean pods

Ditch the essences. They are most likely artificial with vague and suspicious-sounding ingredients like monopropylene glycol and flavourings.

Get the real stuff like Kilimanjaro Vanilla and Mbeya Cacao extracts made by Natural Extracts Industries Ltd, a socially conscious business in Tanzania.

I am impressed at how their flavours elevate the quality of my treats and to help us make better purchase decisions, I went deeper into extracts and pods with the company’s co-founder Juan Guardardo.

1. What is the difference between conventional essences/extracts and natural ones like yours?

logoThe most common flavours are essences which is a disguised way of saying artificial. Other extracts are mixed with various types of natural and artificial ingredients, such as sugars, thickeners, emulsifiers and colouring.

We don’t use any of this. All of our Epicurious Hedghog extract ingredients, including those used during production, are fully natural. Our flavours also contain hundreds of more flavour compounds than artificial ones and provide a more complex depth of taste.

Because we extract directly from the raw material, our flavours will contain some nutrients, especially from fruits like mango and banana. We also use parts of the raw material not normally used in cooking, like cocoa husks and banana peels, which enhance the flavours.

2. Vanilla pods seem to be popular with chefs. How do they compare to the extract versions?

juan 1

Co-founder Juan Guadardo

Vanilla pods are difficult to use unless you want to spend a long time scraping the seeds from the pod. In addition, you won’t get the full benefit because some of the flavour is also in the pod skin, which is not used in cooking. Our extract makes it easy to use and gives the full taste of the pod.

The prices of our extracts result from using good quality pods and the concentration levels achieved. One teaspoon of extract gives approximately the same flavour as one full pod. There’s significant flavour value stored in each bottle!

3. How do you come up with creative flavours like Tanga Orange and the upcoming Machame Banana?

We explore a lot with the local raw materials we can get our hands on, and we listen to the chefs we sell to. We are exploring products with baobab and mbungo fruits, and hope to deliver more of these local tastes. Our chefs have given us interesting feedback on how and why they use certain flavours in liquid form, which gives us ideas for future creations.

4. Where can we buy Epicurious Hedgehog products?

The Epicurious Hedgehog line is available in Tanzania, the UK and other countries. Contact  Juan Guardardo at for details.

Image credits:  Natural Extracts Industries Ltd.


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