What is Benzoin Gum?
Benzoin is the gum of different trees in the genus Styrax. The gum of the species Styrax officinalis is an exception and sold separately as Styrax gum. Two different kinds of Benzoin gum have to be differentiated: Siam Benzoin (also known as benzoe tonkinensis) and Sumatra Benzoin (also known as benzoe sumatranus). A derivate of Benzoin Gum is Benjamin Gum, where Benzoin is compressed to blocks with other components.
Siam Benzoin gum is harvested from the tree species Styrax tonkinensis. The gum is called Siam because Styrax tonkinensis is endemic to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. Siam Benzoin is beige to red-brownish in color and has a pleasant, sweet balsamic odor with a distinct note of vanilla. The Siam Benzoin gum is mainly used for the industrial production of flavors and fragrances, especially for the production of brown flavors such as vanilla, chocolate and nut-flavors. There are five different customary qualities of Siam Benzoin gum (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). These qualities are differentiated by the color and size of the gum lumps as well as by the amount of foreign particles present in the gum.
Sumatra Benzoin gum is harvested from the tree species Styrax benzoin and Styrax paralleloneurum. Both trees are endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra – hence the name of this variety of Benzoin gum. Sumatra Benzoin has a dark yellow color and a styrax-like odor that is distinctly different from the odor of Siam Benzoin gum. This gum is used for industrial application in the production of soaps, detergents, tobacco products and adhesives. Sumatra Benzoin gum has four customary qualities (A, B, C, D). As for Siam Benzoin gum, these qualities are differentiated by the color and size of the almond-shaped gum lumps and by the amount of foreign particles present in the gum.