Buying vanilla beans in bulk, storing vanilla beans, types of vanilla, and more...We know you have questions.
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Mexico - the birthplace of vanilla
First discovered in Mexico and a secret of the Totoac Indians for possibly generations, the modern day vanilla bean is now grown and cultivated in many regions of the world outside of its original birthplace of Mexico. Most commonly vanilla beans now come from Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Tahiti and Uganda. While other areas of the world also grow vanilla beans the most ideal conditions are 10- 20 degrees of the equator.
Madagascar Vanilla Beans
The birth of hand pollination for vanilla cultivation, Madagascar and the surrounding islands off the coast of Africa known as the Bourbon islands unleashed a world of opportunity for vanilla worldwide. Madagascar to this day, still continues to dominate the worlds supply of high quality vanilla beans that are sweet, creamy and mellow in flavor
Tahiti - a new species of vanilla is born
A rich tropical climate, and the successful crossbreeding of Vanilla aromatica and Vanilla fragrans that was imported to the island resulted in the modern day Tahitian vanilla beans known as vanilla tahitensis. While vanilla tahitensis is now grown in Papua New Guinea and several other areas of the world, it is Vanilla from Tahiti that continues to be referred to as the queen of vanilla with flavor notes described as floral, cherry and almond like.
Vanilla beans are grown in several regions of world within 10-20 degrees of the equator. The most common places vanilla beans currently come from is Madagascar, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. While all vanilla beans grown worldwide come from mainly two species of vanilla (vanilla planifolia and vanilla tahitensis)vanilla beans from each respective regions do have different flavor and aroma profiles. Some vanilla beans are fruity and floral, some vanilla beans such as our Uganda vanilla beans is sweet, chocolaty with notes of raisin and fig. Most importantly vanilla beans are different much likes, wines, apples, grapes and more. Appreciating them what they are is an important aspect of cultivating vanilla diversity and sustainability.
On average there are 7-10 vanilla beans in an ounce +/- . This estimate is not to be taken as a literal value as many other factors need to be taken into consideration such as the type of vanilla bean, the grade of vanilla bean and so forth. For instance, vanilla beans from Tahiti have a higher moisture content than other vanilla beans and there may be only 5-6 vanilla beans to an ounce depending on the size of the vanilla bean pod which can range from an average of 14 cm up to 22 cm. Our Pompona vanilla beans may only have 2-3 vanilla beans per ounce sometimes less depending on the length of the pod. Vanilla is a natural agricultural product. We do our absolute best to ensure consistency but if you are looking for a certain count of vanilla beans we do encourage users to purchase by the each so you receive the exact amount of vanilla beans you are looking for. Purchasing vanilla beans by weight however is always the most economical regardless of the count of beans since there are many natural size and shape variations.
Gourmet vanilla beans can be used for making vanilla extract. The gourmet variety of vanilla beans are traditionally higher in moisture content. For making vanilla extract it is recommend to use a slightly higher weight of vanilla than the recommended .83 ounces of vanilla to every one cup solvent that is recommend for grade b vanilla beans. The recommend ratio for gourmet vanilla would be an increase to .94 ounce of vanilla beans to every one cup solvent. Further reading on this can be found here.
Our answer to this is simple... What is it you are trying to do with your vanilla beans and what flavors profile do your enjoy when cooking or baking with vanilla? If you looking for an all around vanilla bean that is the work horse of professional kitchens worldwide, try our Madagascar vanilla beans . If you are simply looking to make some vanilla extract at home, we recommend our Papua New Guinea vanilla beans or Grade B vanilla from Madagascar. Nonetheless, we think any one of our delectable vanilla beans will be suitable for whatever cooking adventure you had in mind. A helpful tip when selecting vanilla is always to remember that whether it is Grade A vanilla or Grade B vanilla beans, Vanilla Planifolia is the richer, more bold and aromatic option while vanilla Tahitensis, is a softer, fruity and floral vanilla. Deciding which is best is completely up to you. Happy cooking
Vanilla Planifolia or Bourbon vanilla as it is commonly referred to is a species of the vanilla orchid. While native to Mexico and Central America, Vanilla planifolia is most commonly associated with vanilla beans that come from Madagascar. Madagascar is the world most famous growing region for vanilla beans. The island of Reunion, once known as the Bourbon islands, located about 100 miles off the coast of Madagascar is where the term Bourbon vanilla comes from but now is commonly associated with vanilla planifola that is grown in Uganda, Indonesia, India, Costa Rica and other such places. Bourbon vanilla beans contain no bourbon or alcohol it is simply a name that was made famous by the island of Bourbon.
Tahitian Vanilla or Vanilla Tahitensis is a species of orchid in the vanilla family. It is said to be a hybrid cross between vanilla planifolia and vanilla odorata. It is characterized by broader bean pods and a distinctive sweet, floral and softer aroma than that of vanilla planifolia. Regions in which vanilla tahitensis are primarily grown are Tahiti also know as vanilla from Tahiti, the most famous of the growing regions and Tahitian Vanilla beans from Papua New Guinea with smaller regions in various other areas of the world. Both Tahitian vanilla from Tahiti and Papua New Guinea are distinct in terms of flavor, aroma and appearance due to growing environments, curing, and other factors.
Vanilla should always be stored in an airtight resalable container wrapped in wax paper and tightly sealed in a jar or double zip lock bag, removing as much air as possible. If you have your own food sealer these work great and are the most recommended tool to keep your vanilla for almost indefinite periods of time. We also recommend storing your vanilla beans in sugar. This can help preserve your product. The great part about using sugar to store vanilla beans is this leaves the sugar smelling and tasting wonderful and preserves the beans for later use.
Never store your vanilla beans in the refrigerator as this can both dry out your vanilla beans and add additional circulation moisture that promotes a specific type of mold that only grows on vanilla.
The Ideal storage conditions for vanilla beans are cool, dry areas, such as a pantry or spice cupboard and avoiding direct sunlight. 72 degrees is the recommend temperature control, with little to no humidity.
When making vanilla extract there are several things to consider when purchasing vanilla beans and it all comes down to choosing the flavor you love, buying vanilla from a supplier you can trust, and purchasing the right amount of vanilla beans for the job. Located below you will find a few highlights on some great choices of vanilla beans for making vanilla extract but this is not a comprehensive list. We suggest you be adventurous and explore the many different regions of vanilla and find the vanilla that suits you best.
Madagascar - the most commonly available vanilla bean worldwide and also one of the most consistently flavorful. Madagascar bourbon vanilla is rich, dark, creamy with a flavor profile that is unmistakable. Vanilla from Madagascar is what vanilla represents to most people and why Madagascar is the worlds largest vanilla growing region.
Uganda - strong notes of milk chocolate, fig, raisin, and earthy undertones shine with Uganda vanilla. Vanilla from Uganda is is from the same species as vanilla from Madagascar but grown in the pearl of Africa. A world class vanilla bean for cooking, baking and vanilla extract. Over the years, independent lab reports have shown Ugandan vanilla is consistently higher in vanillin than Madagascar vanilla beans. Uganda also has two annual growing seasons, providing for fresh vanilla practically year around.
Papua New Guinea - the wild west of the pacific. PNG is abundant in both bourbon and Tahitian style vanilla beans. Vanilla from Papua New Guinea are grown in remote towns and villages in small plots by families and small co-ops. Crops of vanilla planifolia and vanilla tahitensis are interlaced in this island chain and at times mixed together however the best beans come from farms in which beans are cured and harvested separately. Tahitian beans are floral, with notes of stone fruit such as cherries, dark chocolate. These beans make for a flavorful vanilla extract that goes well with chilled desserts, fruit mixes, chocolates, and more. Bourbon style vanilla beans from Papua New Guinea are noticeably smokey, woody and slender in shape. These vanilla beans make a full bodied vanilla extract and pair well with other smokey profile liquors such as bourbon, and brandy but also work well in flavor neutral spirts like vodka.
Tahiti -French Polynesia, a remote island chain that only grows true Tahitian vanilla beans or vanilla x Tahitensis as it is scientifically known. Vanilla from Tahiti is uncharacteristically high in moisture resulting extremely fragrant vanilla beans that represent less than one percent of vanilla beans world-wide. Soft, floral, intoxicating with unmistakably sweet and tart. The aroma of real Tahitian vanilla is like waking up in a lush tropical garden fruits.
If you are looking to purchase the worlds best vanilla beans. You will find vanilla from Tahiti is second to none.
Other vanilla growing regions of the world - with so many great varieties of vanilla there truly is a lot to explore in vanilla when choosing the best vanilla bean for making vanilla extract and you can find it all right here at Slofoodgroup.
On average, one vanilla bean is equal to 1-2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. It should be noted that in some recipes, vanilla extract or vanilla powder may work better than the actual bean – typically the case with cake batter and cookies. Vanilla bean powder also works well in these recipes and distributes nice and evenly. Fresh vanilla beans are great but we really do like to pick and choose how and what we use our vanilla beans for. Vanilla extract tends to have a more assertive flavor and vanilla bean is a bit more subtle and suggestive than extract.
Here is a video on how to use vanilla beans and remove the seeds from several different varieties of vanilla beans. See the video here!
Let’s be clear: Both grade A and grade B vanilla beans work great. They both have advantages and disadvantages, just like fresh and dried herbs. Grade A vanilla beans are traditionally higher in moisture (seven percent more, on average), but you can offset this by changing your ratio of water. Grade A vanilla is also usually higher in vanillin, so while you may get more beans per pound with a Grade B vanilla, you’ll get more taste with Grade A beans.
If making extract, Grade A vanilla beans will also be easier penetrated by alcohol, whereas Grade B vanilla will take a little bit more time. Grade B vanilla beans are usually a little cheaper depending on the current year’s vanilla market. We encourage you to play around and see for yourself what type of vanilla bean and what grade of vanilla bean you prefer
Vanilla beans are expensive because they are a commodity and, like all commodities, price fluctuates with supply and demand. When demand goes up, so does price. It is also the second most labour intensive spice to cultivate behind only saffron. Each flower needs to be hand-pollinated and harvested then cured over a series of weeks or even months. Finally, frequent natural disasters such as floods or cyclones in vanilla-growing regions can devastate crops and push up the price. These and many other reasons are why vanilla is so expensive. Time magazine recently published a great article on the subject.
This is a great question and one that really has not wrong or right answer. Vanilla beans from different origins all have a different aroma and flavor profile. Madagascar vanilla beans tend to be the most commonly used vanilla beans both commercial and in home kitchen due to their greater availability and overall consistent quality. We encourage users to really experiment and play with vanilla beans from different origins before making a decision on which vanilla bean is the most flavorful because at the end of the day, only you or your customer can make that decision.