What To Look For When Buying Vanilla Beans Online
Vanilla Beans are truly remarkable. The pungent aroma is nearly impossible to describe because there is nothing like it. For many of us, though, that fragrance sends us spiraling into a wormhole of nostalgia. A genuine calmness washes over us and we begin to crave our favorite sweet treats and baked goods. But, when buying vanilla beans online, you can’t inhale that magical aroma. So how can you know what to look for when buying vanilla beans online?
Truthfully, obtaining quality vanilla can be quite difficult. The orchid that produces these lovely beans won’t grow just anywhere, the plant requires a humid, tropical climate to thrive. And even if it is growing in an optimal region, it can take up to three years before the plant produces a single bean; and that only happens with complete attentiveness by its caretaker. The flowers need to be pollinated by hand and when they do produce a fruit, it only lasts for a single day before the beans begin to ripen and open.
Add fluctuations in the supply and demand of vanilla beans and you may just find buying quality vanilla beans online to be an overwhelming challenge.
There are a few things you should take into consideration to ensure the vanilla beans you are buying are worth your time, money, and culinary project.
Consider the growing region of vanilla beans.
While all vanilla beans can be traced back to Mexico, the plant has been taken to and cultivated in a variety of regions. As time passed, the characteristics of these growing regions—things like climate and soil quality–attributed to the evolution of each variety of vanilla bean. As such, the flavor, visual, and aromatic profiles of of vanilla beans from the various regions will differ.
The most common vanilla beans you will come across are:
- Mexican Vanilla Beans
- Tahitian Vanilla Beans
- Madagascar or Bourbon Vanilla Beans
- Indonesian Vanilla Beans
- Ugandan Vanilla Beans
- Papua New Guinea Vanilla Beans
Each has unique characteristics that make them ideal for certain types of recipes. For instance, Tahitian Vanilla Beans tend to be floral and sweet and lend well to baked goods, creams, and chocolate. It’s important to consider the flavors you want to add to your dish. So do your research!
Consider the species of vanilla bean.
There are two separate species of vanilla orchid: Planifolia and Tahitensis.
Planifolia is the more widespread and familiar vanilla bean. It is strong, pungent, and often referred to as earthy. It is the vanilla bean that you will typically find in most growing regions.
The Tahitensis, on the other hand, is considered to be much sweeter and mild than the cousin it is a mutation of. It is primarily grown in Papua New Guinea, despite the fact that it was originally produced in Tahiti. Though, they can be found from other regions as well.
Consider the quality of the vanilla bean.
When perusing the many vanilla beans online, you’ll notice that some are considered ‘Grade A’ vanilla beans while others are considered ‘Grade B’ vanilla beans. The difference is in the moisture level.
Grade A vanilla beans, often referred to as ‘gourmet vanilla beans’, are often preferred by chefs for 2 reasons; the added moisture in the bean makes them much more attractive and allows the vanilla flavor to lend itself more easily to recipes when there isn’t time for an infusion process.
Grade B vanilla beans are often referred to as ‘extract vanilla beans’. As the name suggests, these beans are great for extracting flavor. Because the beans have a lower moisture content, the vanilla flavor is more concentrated. If you are making an extract or can steep the beans in liquid prior to completing your recipe, Grade B vanilla beans will work perfectly. Grade B vanilla beans are also much cheaper because they are far lighter than the gourmet version.
With the many variations of vanilla beans, it’s critical to consider what you will be using yours for prior to purchasing vanilla beans online. It’s also nearly impossible to know what you are getting until it is delivered. The best way to ensure you are buying a high-quality vanilla bean from on online source is to peruse the reviews to determine if other customers were satisfied with the quality of beans.
Let’s continue this conversation in the comments. Tell us what you will be using your vanilla beans for and we will help you determine the perfect vanilla bean to enhance your dish!