The essentials about Vanilla

 

Fun facts

THE WORLD’S THREE VANILLA VARIETIES

Three vanilla varieties

Vanilla Planifolia, or bourbon vanilla, is mainly grown in the Indian Ocean.
Its natural vanillin content and smooth, chocolatey taste have made it the leading variety.

 

Vanilla Tahitensis is grown in Tahiti, French Polynesia, and in New Guinea.
It has a particularly floral, anis flavor.

 

Vanilla Pompona originates from Central America. Its bean is very long and very fleshy, growing up to 27cm (10.6 in).
It boasts sweet, floral and fruity notes, but is low in vanillin.

It's ecological needs

VANILLA’S HISTORY

Vanilla history map

 

Vanilla was originally the privilege of gods and elites’ members of the Mayan and Aztec societies. They used it to flavor and sweeten the cocoa drinks they made exclusively for them.

 

In the 16th century, the Spanish tasted it and brought it back to Europe. From that moment on, the Europeans tried to introduce vanilla vines back home, without success because they didn’t have Mexico’s Melipona Bees, the only insect capable of pollinating this wild orchid.

 

But in 1841, Edmond Albius, a young enslaved teen, revolutionized vanilla production by discovering a technique for fertilizing the flowers by hand. He used a wooden spine to tear away the membrane that prevents the plant’s organs from touching, which is still the technique used.

Fertilization of the Vanilla

2500 tons per year of Vanilla are nowadays produced worldwide and Mexico represents only 1% of this production, with over 80% of the Vanilla being produced in Madagascar.

VANILLA PRODUCTION: A PROCESS REQUIRING PATIENCE

The 10 stages of the vanilla production

Vanilla is a precious fine good that requires meticulousness and patience. Between the planting and the tasting of vanilla it takes about 5 years and ten steps!

Vanilla is first propagated by planting 1 to 2m (3.3 to 6.6 ft) cuttings in June to July, at the end of the dry season. It can start to become productive within three years. Then the growth is very quick, ranging from 60cm to 1.2m (2 to 4 ft) a month depending on climate conditions. Vanilla plants are fertilized individually by hand every day from September to January. 15 to 20 days after fertilization, growers get rid of the weakest vines and the least attractive beans. Once it has been pruned, a vanilla plant has 25 to 120 beans. The vanilla’s fruit – the beans – are picked from June to September after growing for eight to nine months, they turn yellow when ripe.

Once harvested, the beans are blanched using water at 160°F (70°C) during 2 to 3 minutes to stop the ripening process. To let vanillin develop through a natural enzyme reaction, beans are sweated in crates covered with a tight lid or a jute cloth and polyethylene band during two days. They are then let to dry alternating between the sun and the shade for up to two months, before being refined in wooden boxes covered with wax paper for 5 months. This helps develop the secondary aromas. The beans are then categorized, sorted by colors and measured.

Finally, the vanilla is packages and shipped for you to taste the incredible aromas developed throughout this demanding process!

Now that you know everything about how the Vanilla is produced, discover how to choose and use it!

Norohy Vanilla