The French Mint: Les Anis de Flavigny
Sharing a candy with an aniseed in its heart is a demonstration of love.
More than 400 years ago (1591) in an Abbey in the Burgundy region of eastern France, a group of Benedictine Monks started making a hard candy from the anise seed, which comes from the plant called Pimpinella Asisum – a sprawling green herb plant with an aromatic scent, strong feathery stems, green leaves and tiny white flowers that produce anise fruits or what others called anise seeds. Known for their distinctive flavor, anise seeds proved to be the foundation for one of the world’s oldest hard candies: Anis.
Anise is often confused with star anise, fennel, and licorice because all four have a similar licorice-like flavor. However, anise has a mild, smoother flavor which makes the seed popular among food producers and chefs – even though anise seeds are more expensive to cultivate than its distant cousins.
The centuries old recipe called for harvested anise seeds to be placed in large pans to which sugar and water are added. As the seeds roll around in the pan, they become covered in successive layers of the sugar syrup and start to look like little tiny white eggs or little oval snowballs. The candies were named Les Anis de Flavigny and are still made from the same original recipe which requires candy makers to spend 15 days to take the 2 milligram seed to a 1 gram candy ball.
The candy factory is still located in the Abbey in the small village (population about 400) of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain (“Flavigny”) although the monks no longer make the candies. Since 1923, the Troubat family has owned and managed the company and now manufacture more than 250 million anis candies (more than 550,000 pounds) annually.
Today, Maison Troubat makes more than ten varieties of the french mint including the original, lemon, orange blossom, tangerine, blackcurrant, ginger, mint, violet, rose, and licorice. The flavored varieties are made from natural flavors extracted from plants by steam or alcohol distillation. Essential oils are made from mint leaves, orange blossoms, rose petals and more (to make one liter of natural essence of orange blossom, a ton of orange blossoms are needed and to make one liter of natural rose essence, two tons of rose petals are needed). There are no artificial flavors or colors used to make Les Anis de Flavigny.
Each anis candy is small and looks like a little oval egg although the mints are no bigger than a large pea. Smooth and slightly sweet, the mints melt on the tongue and are not meant to be bitten but the desire to bite into the mint when the little oval gets very small is very hard to resist (it’s the American equivalent of licking and then biting into a Tootsie Pop). The real treat – whether the candy is allowed to dissolve or is bitten into – is in the center: a burst of mild anise flavor fills your mouth for a satisfying ending.
Les Anis de Flavigny are packaged in sachets, oval tins, traditional boxes, and plastic bulk packets although the tins and bulk packets are most widely available in the United States. Each tin (50 grams or 1.76 ounces) contains about 50 mints and sells for $4 – $5, depending on the retailer. www.candy.com sells 8 tins of one flavor for $24.95 while www.smallflower.com sells the tins for $4.25 each (with shipping only $1.95 for the full order). A Touch of Europe (www.touchofeurope.net) sells the bulk plastic packets (8.8 ounces) for $16.50 plus shipping (very reasonable and based on the size of the order).
To read more about Les Anis de Flavigny, go to the company website: www.anis-flavigny.com