What are Ugandan Vanilla Beans?

Shawn Gavin April 26, 2021

Vanilla beans from Uganda, what are they and why you should consider buying

Often called the green gold from the pearl of Africa, Ugandan vanilla beans are a wonderful addition to the worlds most beloved flavor. Uganda, while not currently a huge producer of vanilla worldwide has come to be known for producing high-quality vanilla beans. High in vanillin content and distinguishably different than their Madagascar vanilla bean peers, Uganda continues to be quite unrecognized by most consumers for vanilla.

So what are Ugandan vanilla beans and why you should consider buying them...

Well from a technical perspective Ugandan vanilla comes from the orchid vanilla planifolia, the same species of vanilla grown in Madagascar, Indonesia, and originally native to Mexico and Belize. It is a flat leafed vanilla orchid that has been commercially adopted worldwide due to its high level of vanillin content, larger harvests and overall ability to successfully be grown in areas 10-20 degrees of the equator.  Uganda is perfectly positioned to capture vanilla glory but theft, lack of supplies and instability on prices continue to be a challenge for its growers who are skeptical if the world is really ready to sustainably support them.

What do Ugandan vanilla beans taste like?

Ugandan vanilla beans are creamy and extremely bold in flavor with an aroma reminiscent of figs, milk chocolate, and raisins. They produce a higher-than-average vanillin content which makes them perfect for desserts such as chocolate truffles or ice cream.

What is the difference between Grade A and Grade B Ugandan vanilla beans?

Grade A or Gourmet Ugandan vanilla beans have a higher moisture content compared to Grade B Ugandan vanilla beans. They are also longer and generally have a color of chocolate brown to black.

Grade B Ugandan vanilla beans have less moisture and may contain minor cosmetic blemishes due to longer drying periods. They have a reddish-brown color and are more dry compared to Gourmet Ugandan vanilla beans.

But are Ugandan vanilla beans really any different than Madagascar vanilla beans?

Yes, absolutely! Bourbon style vanilla pods from Uganda are significantly different than Madagascar vanilla beans. Ripened and cured, vanilla is essentially very similar to wines from the same grape produced in different regions of the world. Each country or regions terroir  (which is a fancy French word in the wine world meaning, environmental, and other localized variables that give unique character to a crop) imparts a certain element of character that distinguishes one vanilla bean from the other. Think Tahitian vanilla beans from Tahiti   compared to Tahitian style vanilla beans from Papua New Guinea . If you have ever experienced these two origins of vanilla beans side by side, you would never again mistake one for the other.  Ugandan vanilla beans are quite supple with a dark brown to black appearance usually a bit heavier than Madagascar. The appearance is overshadowed by the rich, earthy, milk chocolate like aroma that pairs perfectly with many desserts. 

Uganda has two dry seasons making it perfect for growing vanilla that is extremely fresh year around due to multiple harvests that can take place

Unlike most other vanilla growing regions in the world, Uganda has two growing seasons for vanilla beans. Uganda is the only country in the world that currently is able to harvest vanilla twice annually. As such, communities in Uganda are able to stay busy almost year around growing, harvesting, curing and preparing vanilla for export.

So are Ugandan vanilla beans cheaper than Madagascar vanilla beans?

At times yes, at times no.  Vanilla is a commodity and its price is determined by both supply and demand. Ugandan vanilla beans may be more or less depending on the season or supply making it important to support stability in the marketplace and not just pursue the cheapest option. A healthy and sustainable vanilla supply chain consists of fair prices, stability in price and diversity in origins. It a fair proposition for growers, consumers and vanilla lovers worldwide.

Why you should consider buying vanilla beans from Uganda

By having two harvests annually, Uganda produces some of the absolute best vanilla beans in the world. The vanilla beans are high in vanillin content, favored by many manufactures for making vanilla extract and have a rich flavor profile that stands up well in baking applications. Still not convinced that Ugandan vanilla beans are the right vanilla beans for you? Click here to purchase bourbon vanilla from Uganda and see for yourself what you are missing. 






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