Vanilla is often used to refer to the normal, like vanilla ice-cream. Recently I bought some natural vanilla flavouring. Fresh vanilla can be quite expensive, so I have some essence. It has a little bit of history on the bottle: vanilla, it turns out, isn't really that common.
Vanilla, the most popular flavour in the world, originated in Mexico. Brought to Europe about 1520 by the explorer cortez, it was first only used in conjunction with cacao beans in a drink called Chocolati. Since 1602 it has been enjoyed as a flavour by itself.
Grown mainly in Madagascar and Indonesia the vanilla bean or pod is the only edible fruit bearing orchid. Each flower, open only one day a year, must be pollinated to produce a pod which requires a labour intensive 3-6 month curing process designed to develop full flavour. About five pounds of harvested pods produce only one pound of cured pods.