What Does Tonka Bean Smell Like?

 baking with tonka beans

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Out of many of Homesick’s most popular candle scents comes a unique fragrance: the tonka bean. Used primarily as base notes and mid notes that linger beneath the surface, tonka bean is not as well-known as vanilla, but used more than you might realize.

So what does this little bean bring to the table in terms of fragrance? And just what does tonka bean smell like? Here, we break down the aroma one might expect from a Homesick candle that includes tonka beans and explore the scent’s origins. 

Where the Tonka Bean Comes from

 tonka bean fruit and seeds

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Tonka beans come from the tonka bean tree which grows in Central and South America’s tropical rainforests. Capable of growing to be 1,000 years old, the tonka bean tree blooms rose-colored flowers which in turn produce a fruit that holds a single inch-long tonka bean.

As the fruit drops from the trees, the beans are harvested, cured for 24 hours through alcohol and then left out to dry. Once the tonka beans dry, they create a frost-like crystallization over the skin, resulting in coumarin, which is the absolute essence used in fragrances, deodorants, soaps and even cinnamon once it’s diluted.  

Often called the “love-wishing” bean, some cultures believe the tonka bean to be an aphrodisiac or to have mystical properties to conjure up courage and wealth. 

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What Does Tonka Bean Smell Like, Exactly?

While similar to vanilla, tonka bean doesn’t quite call to mind food, although it’s still a coveted ingredient and has been used in recipes for hundreds of years. Instead, the tonka bean lends a more neutral tone, like the nutty aroma of cinnamon. In comparison to vanilla, tonka bean offers a more subtle nuance of spices like nutmeg, toasted almonds and earthy woodsy scents. And it has the slight accent of amarena cherries, like those found in an Old-Fashioned cocktail. 

Overall, tonka bean is a deep, rich and warm scent which is why it’s most commonly used as a base note in perfumed productslike our Homesick candles! Essentially, the tonka bean works to blend together other ingredients. Often, the longer the candle burns, the more noticeable the tonka bean becomes. 

As mentioned, the tonka bean works to elevate or balance out other scents. For example, the tonka bean pairs wonderfully with fruit-based and citrus scents, as well as smoky and musk scents. Ultimately, the tonka bean brings more dimension, sometimes softening sharp notes like citrus or tamping down overbearing scents like musks and smoky aromas.  

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Homesick Candles with Tonka Bean Notes

If you like the sound of this delicate yet spicy scent, take a look at some of Homesick’s candles that include the tonka bean as mid notes and base notes. From the East Coast’s Upstate New York pumpkin patches to the West Coast’s wine vineyards, here are some of our more popular candles that include the delightful tonka bean.

New York State Candle  

If you’re in a New York state of mind, check out the New York State Candle. Not to be confused with the Big Apple NYC-specific candle, the New York State candle captures the Upstate region, known for its Hudson Valley pumpkin patches and apple orchards, as well as the leaf-covered trails of the Adirondacks. In this candle, tonka bean and musk act as a base, elevating the earthiness of autumn hayrides and fall foliage.

new york homesick candle

Pittsburgh Candle

Within the Pittsburgh candle, you’ll find base notes of tonka bean, which helps balance the musk and top notes of smoke, clove and sandalwood. There’s nothing more reminiscent of Pittsburgh than the smell of industrial steel, pierogies and fireplace smokebut the tonka bean keeps it from being overwhelming. 

California Candles

Whether you’re from Southern California or Northern California, we have a candle to remind you of home! The Southern California candle brings to mind fresh sea breezes and citrus fields of oranges and lemons, muted perfectly with undertones of tonka bean. For Northern Cali, the tonka bean adds depth to the nuttiness of vanilla, amber and musk with tasty pear and apple, reminiscent of its famous wine region and redwood forests. 

Grandma’s Kitchen

While it lacks the tonka bean ingredient, the Grandma’s kitchen candle is a favorite for those who appreciate a nutty flavor. With the scent of freshly baked snickerdoodles, which lend cinnamon, clove and vanilla notes, it offers the same sugar, spice and everything nice notes you might find with a tonka bean-inspired candle. 

Experience the Smell of Tonka Bean for Yourself

Want to know what the tonka bean smells like? Experience it for yourself! From the Beach Cottage Candle to the Birthday Party Candle, tonka bean offers a pleasant undertone that might just be the “love wish” you need to feel at home.