Soap making secrets: Where does the natural colorant annatto come from?

Soap making secrets: Annatto seed pods

One of my favorite natural colorants to use in my soap is annatto. I infuse olive oil with annatto seeds to get a rich orange color for my handmade Soap á l’orange. Annatto is a colorant that comes from the seeds of the achiote tree, which is native to tropical countries.

I’ve been using dried annatto seeds since I started making cold process soap.

Dried annatto seeds

In November, I was able to see where those seeds come from during a trip to Costa Rica.

Achiote (annatto) tree

The achiote tree is a relatively short evergreen, growing to around 30 feet at its tallest. It’s easy to see why the achiote is a popular landscaping plant in warm climates, even in the United States.

Achiote flower

It produces beautiful light pink flowers that stand in stark contrast to the bright red spiky seed pods that later develop.

Achiote (annatto) seed pod

Our guide for the day demonstrated how native Costa Ricans cracked the seed pod open and turned the seeds into a bright orange-red paste. With the help of a brave volunteer (who not five minutes earlier also volunteered to eat a termite), he showed us how the paste was used as face paint for certain ceremonies.

Making achiote (annatto) paste

Annatto is extremely versatile and is used to color everything from margarine to paint. Costa Ricans love using it in their most popular dish, arroz con pollo (rice with chicken). It gives the rice the same nice yellow tint as saffron at a fraction of the cost.

If you’d like to learn more about how to use annatto as a colorant in soap, check out my easy DIY for infusing olive oil

Monday musings: Handmade soap and good, clean fun


A look back at 2015

New Year’s Day is fast approaching and soon it will be 2016! (Someone please tell me where the time goes when it flies away?) So today I’m taking a look back at the moments that shaped 2015 for Emmet Street Creations.

Handmade soap

There are so many creative soap makers that inspire me. You can check out some of my favorite finds on Pinterest!  I would normally feature them here but, this week, I thought I’d share the best-selling soaps of 2015 from the Emmet Street Creations Etsy store.

  • Crisp apple and rose – Scented with a perfect mix of apple and rose fragrance, this soap is not too fruity and not too floral. It was a big seller at the shows I did this year!
  • Exfoliating rosemary and mint – The eye-opening scent and exfoliating juniper berries keep customers coming back for more!
  • Soapy sample pack – Can’t decide which soap to buy? This item is for you! You’ll get three amazing soaps of your choice for only $12!

Good, clean fun

If you’re not following Emmet Street Creations on Facebook, here are the top 3 most liked posts from 2015:

Previous musings from Emmet Street you might have missed

Last but not least, here are the three most viewed posts in 2015:

What moments defined your 2015? Share them in the comments below or on the Emmet Street Creations Facebook page!