Vanilla has somehow become a synonym for bland, which is really unfair. It not only has a subtle flavour of its own, it boosts the flavours of other ingredients. Seriously, try it next time you make something with apple and cinnamon, a bit vanilla really makes a positive difference. Vanilla essence is ok, but it's a bit meh by comparison if for no other reason than the alcohol base overlays its own flavour. If you don't want to mess around with pods, this is a fabulous (non messy) alternative. The tube of paste also makes it easy to add a dab in your morning coffee, because, yum.