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Which is Better, Tahitian or Madagascar Vanilla Beans

Slofoodgroup Team June 11, 2022

For many people in this world, the realization that there are different varieties of vanilla beans out there might leave them completely stupefied. I mean, vanilla is vanilla, right? Wrong! This couldn’t be further from the truth. Chefs know this, perfumers know this, and vanilla enthusiasts certainly know this.

But, if you are just diving into the world of the vanilla obsessed and learning about the many different varieties of vanilla beans available to consumers, you might be wondering which bean is “the best”—especially when it comes to the two most prevalent varieties: Tahitian and Madagascan.

Keep reading to learn about these two popular varieties of vanilla beans. Or, for a more generalized overview of the various types of vanilla beans, feel free to dig into this blog post. 

Comparing Tahitian and Madagascar Vanilla Beans

To put it bluntly, neither the Tahitian nor Madagascar vanilla bean is better than the other. That said, there are key differences that position each of them to be better than the other for specific uses. So let’s take a look at what sets these two apart from each other and which applications are served best by one bean over the other. 

Aroma of Tahitian vs Madagascan Vanilla Beans

Tahitian Vanilla or Vanilla Tahitensis, as it is scientifically named, is revered for having beautiful floral properties. Meanwhile, Madagascar, or Vanilla Planifolia, is the more widespread, classic vanilla scent recognized around the world. Despite the fact that Planfolia is more common overall, it’s the more exotic, floral scent that exudes from the Tahitian variety that is often preferred for use in pampering products such as lotions and perfumes. 

Flavor Properties of Vanilla Tahitensis vs Vanilla Planifolia

As mentioned previously, the Madagascar Vanilla Beans most people know and love, are of the Planifolia variety. They are also commonly referred to as Bourbon Vanilla Beans, not because they contain bourbon whiskey but because of the  Bourbon Islands from which they were frequently cultivated. Though, they do suit many cocktails quite well!

They are known for an incredibly deep flavor with notes of sweet cream and chocolate. They have a more intense vanillin component that really stands out in savory dishes and desserts that require high heat levels

Tahitian vanilla beans, on the other hand, possess flavor qualities similar to stone fruits and edible flowers. The beans are quite plump in comparison to most Bourbon beans and are nearly bursting with vanilla caviar, so they are perfect for incorporating those aesthetically pleasing black specks we like to see in our dishes. Aside from being the preferred vanilla variety for perfumers, they are also quite often the chosen bean for use in the kitchens of pastry chefs, because of the delicate floral notes they possess. 

Now that you have an idea of whether Tahitian or Madagascar vanilla beans are better for specific uses, you are nearly ready to begin your vanilla exploration. To help you along the way, we’ve put together a handy guide to assist in your vanilla purchasing decisions.