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How to choose the right vanilla?


How to choose the right vanilla?


Its history

The name "vanilla" comes from the Spanish word "vainilla," which means "pod." It is believed to originate from Central America, specifically an area stretching from Mexico to Guatemala, passing through Belize and Honduras. Legend has it that the Aztecs used vanilla to sweeten the bitterness of chocolate. The Totonac people, inhabitants of the coastal regions of the Gulf of Mexico, held a monopoly on vanilla cultivation until the 19th century.

In 1850, a Reunionese slave named Edmond Albius discovered a method for manually pollinating the vanilla orchid flower. In gratitude, he was granted freedom. He then adopted the name Albius, referring to the white color (alba) of the orchid, as his freedom name.

The preparation of vanilla pods requires a great deal of care, patience, and expertise. Harvesting, refining, and calibrating are entirely manual processes that demand rigor, patience, and love. The pods are initially scalded, then steamed and sun-dried for two weeks. They are hand-flattened, shaded for 8 months in crates, and finally calibrated.

The aromas of vanilla pods come from vanillin, an aromatic aldehyde that appears in the form of white crystals. In other words, the higher the vanillin content, the more potent the aromatic and gustatory power of the pods.



How to choose the right vanilla?


The size of the vanilla pod does not matter as long as it has been harvested at optimal maturity. The origin should be identifiable on the label.

Quality criteria include fragrance, length, flexibility, apparent defects (cracks, no cracks, traces of mold), color (black, brown, or reddish), frosting, moisture content (fatty, dry), and vanillin content.

One can also choose vanilla based on the intended use. Each vanilla, depending on its origin, has a unique aromatic profile.

The different origins


Vanilla from Madagascar (Vanilla Planifolia): Introduced in the 1880s by Reunionese planters on the island of Nosy Bé. It is mainly cultivated in the northwest of the "Red Island," in the Ambanja, Sambava, and Antalaha regions. Harvested immature (at 7 months) due to fruit dehiscence (the pod splits before maturity).

It features fruity, chocolatey, warm notes, and a fragrance reminiscent of aged amber rum.

Vanilla from Papua New Guinea (Vanilla Planifolia): Its cultivation remains confidential, with only a few tons produced each year. Its aniseed, fresh, and floral notes pair wonderfully with delicate fish, creamy sauces, as well as in pastry, on homemade madeleines, French toast, cookies, beurre blanc, or macaron filling.

Vanilla from Tahiti (Vanilla Tahitensis): Introduced in 1848 by Admiral Hemlin. Today, its cultivation focuses on the high islands and the leeward islands. Unlike vanilla from Madagascar, Tahitian vanilla is indehiscent, meaning it does not split. It remains on the vine for an additional 3 months compared to Madagascar vanilla before being harvested.

Its floral and buttery notes blend perfectly with honey, apricot jam, a Tarte Tatin, and fish en papillote.

Mexican Vanilla (Vanilla Planifolia): Cultivated primarily in the state of Veracruz since the 12th century, the historical birthplace of vanilla. Perfect for pastry.

It is fruity, chocolatey, and has notes of aged amber rum. Ideal for use in crème brûlée, crepe batter, custard, or rice pudding.

Vanilla from Réunion (Vanilla Planifolia): Introduced on the island of Réunion in 1819 by Captain Philibert and botanist Perrotet. Rare and exceptional, it is sometimes frosted. The vanillin content is such that white crystals resembling frost form on the surface of the pods.

It boasts spicy notes and releases a fragrance reminiscent of aged Bourbon. Ideal for cooking with duck, sautéed shrimp, or scallops.

Our selection method


We exclusively offer high-quality vanilla pods (gourmet or TK, depending on the country). The vanilla pods should be plump, chubby, fleshy, and dark brown or black.

The drier the pod, the more it loses its aromas, fragrance, and flavors. The longer it ages and matures, the more exceptional its aromatic profile becomes. A good-quality pod should be harvested between 6 and 12 months and matured for at least 90 days.


Vanilla, derivatives, and substitutes.


Vanilla Bean: This is the preferred form for cooking. Assessing its quality and identification is easier with a bean. However, it is a delicate product and should be stored in suitable packaging, protected from air and light to prevent organoleptic degradation.

Vanilla Powder: Made from dried and ground lower-grade beans. Less aromatic than the bean, it is a convenient alternative in cooking, provided its origin is trustworthy.

Terre Exotique Vanilla Sugar: This is our Reunion brown sugar with 3% added vanilla powder, equivalent to 2 pods per 250g jar. The sugar and vanilla powder blend is sometimes referred to as "vanilla sugar." It should not be confused with vanillin sugar, which is sugar combined with vanilla flavor (natural or artificial).

Terre Exotique Vanilla Extract: To obtain this, a cold hydroalcoholic extraction of the beans is first carried out. The resulting natural extract is then combined with glucose syrup and spent vanilla seeds. Terre Exotique's extract is of high quality, with a concentration of 300g of vanilla per liter, derived from Madagascar's vanilla planifolia. Its use in cooking requires precision due to its potent aroma. We recommend a maximum of 5g per kg or 1.7g per liter of preparation.

It's important not to confuse vanilla extract with vanilla flavoring, which is composed of water and sugar, often supplemented with glucose syrup and non-natural vanilla flavor.

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