Which vanilla to choose?
If vanillin plays an important role in our perception of vanilla, it only represents the dominant note and the most easily perceptible to our uninitiated noses.
Growing conditions, climatic parameters, preparation methods, harvest period, vanilla is a natural product that can show significant differences between vanilla from the same source.
Like most aromatic plants, the originality of the aroma is due to the subtle marriages of dominant notes and secondary notes, sometimes finer and used to enhance the dominant character of the main note.
Like a perfume or a wine with its top notes, base notes and heart notes, vanilla, the vanillas we should say, as they are plural prove to be of a more complex aromatic complexity than the mere mention of his name does not suggest it.
The presence of frost (absent on Tahitian vanilla) is an additional sign of quality, it is the crystallization of vanillin . It is absolutely necessary not to remove these crystals, which would amount to depriving yourself of part of the aroma. The use of the whole pod is also recommended, the aromatic power of vanilla is not limited only to the black grains included inside it but to the entire pod (epicarp included).
Madagascar, the absolute reference (Indian Ocean)
Origin : Madagascar (east coast, SAVA region, acronym respectively designating the cities of Sambava, Vohémar, Antalaha). A dark, oily, supple vanilla with delicate and floral aromas, developing warm cocoa notes depending on the batch. It is the reference vanilla in everyone’s mind, the one we meet when we discover this spice, it is also the most used in the world with a world production of nearly 80%. The pods are 12 to 20 / 22 cm long and 3 to 8 mm wide for an average weight between 3 and 5 g. 2020 production estimated at 2000 tons, 2200 tons for 2021.
Recommended applications : pastry, ice cream, desserts, teas (cuts in infusion), white meats and fish.
Our opinion :
Indispensable it remains the vanilla of reference and preference despite a sometimes overused name (too many dry pods sold en masse in supermarkets). Significant aromatic differences between Madagascar, Comoros & Reunion Island, all three benefiting from the “Bourbon” appellation. Stable production in recent years with little carryover of stock from year to year. The 2017 crisis with prices approaching 500 euros seems to have left traces in the minds of consumers judging the product as having become too expensive.
Mexico, the origins of vanilla (Pacific Ocean)
Recommended applications : pastry, ice cream, desserts and hot dishes.
Confidential distribution in Europe, it is a rare vanilla here. Quasi-monopoly of import and consumption held by the North American neighbour.
Tahiti, unique and unmissable (Pacific Ocean)
Origin : Tahiti French Polynesia. The pod is unsplit, truly fleshy, thick and oily with a shiny wrinkled dress and more or less dark brown, size of the pods from 12 to 22 cm for an average weight of 5g for the shortest to 12/15 g for the large ones lengths. The fragrance is delicate and warm, sweet with notes of gingerbread, fig and fruity with scents of prunes. The most singular of vanillas by its aspect and its atypical perfume. For foodies. The flavor is powerful, we really find fruity notes of prunes & figs (typical of Tahitian vanilla). all islands combined, production of 35 tons in 2021.
Recommended applications : pastry, ice cream, alcohol (rum in maceration), fruit salad, fish.
With production increasing lately and prices decreasing, our French vanilla is becoming really affordable, who will complain about that. More expensive to buy than its counterparts Planofilia or tahitenis from New Guinea, it is nonetheless economical to use (one pod from Tahiti can represent the equivalent of 2 pods from Madagascar). Considered by many as the most prestigious vanilla, it is said to be a cross between Planifolia and Pompona.
Papua New Guinea
The best value for money
Origin: New Guinea cultivates the Tahitensis and Planifolia varieties indiscriminately, even if the distribution of the latter botanical variety remains more confidential. Tahitensis produced in New Guinea turns out to be very different from its Tahitian twin, the pods are unsplit, supple and fleshy but the aromatics remain otherwise less refined. The presence of frost (natural vanillin) is frequent. These aromas are woody on the attack, developing spicier base notes such as pepper or even tobacco. Some batches are aniseed & with a flavor of roasted nuts in the kitchen. Average weight of 4 to 6 g depending on the size of the pod. Production of 250 to 300 tons for 2021.
Recommended applications : pastry, ice cream, all desserts (fruit salad, compote), hot dishes and sauces, a very versatile vanilla due to its aromatic notes.
Our opinion :
A vanilla that we found a short time ago, under the improbable and too general commercial name“vanilla of the islands” or“vanilla of the tropics”, probably due to its image deficit because it does not have the notoriety of Madagascar. Although rarely identified by its origin, it remains a vanilla with an excellent quality/price ratio. One of our favourites, as its quality is constant and its price among the most attractive on the market. Good aging of the pod over time (it dries less quickly than these sisters). The production merges with the Indonesian neighbor, the latter very often reselling the production of Papua New Guinea. Its production has become stable and the consistent prices offered to farmers have made it possible to perpetuate the sector.
Island of the meeting,
the French Bourbon
Significant aromatic differences depending on the producer, the pods rich in black grains are generally finer than Madagascar or Comoros with an aromatic flavor typical of Planifolia vanillas (chocolate, spicy)
Recommended applications : fish, white meats, compotes, fruit salads.
Riding on a name with strong symbolism and historically attached to vanilla, it is currently one of the most expensive sources on the market, if not the most expensive. Production has been steadily increasing for several years with an organic offer that Tahiti does not yet have.
India, land of spices
A vanilla with chocolate, woody aromas sometimes revealing more floral notes on certain pods. The pod is thin and black. The flavor is frank and delicate, typed liquorice.
Recommended applications Fish, white meats, compotes, fruit salads.
A vanilla with a commercial profile identical to vanilla from New Guinea or Uganda, it is rarely sold under its true geographical identity. Close to Bourbon vanilla, it is slightly less fine, but also less expensive. Production of 200 to 250 tons a few years ago but has become very low since, in competition with vanillas whose production costs are lower (Papua New Guinea).
Comoros, Madagascar's little sister (Indian Ocean)
Recommended apps :
Located in the North-West of Madagascar, the Comoros offer us an atypical vanilla with an unequaled vanillin rate of 2% and more.
The aromatic notes are strongly floral and heady. Production of 40 tons for 2021.
Application : versatile vanilla with its less sweet and rawer side, it is suitable for any type of recipe.
A very interesting vanilla that suffers from the immediate proximity and competition of Madagascar for its fame related to vanilla. It is mainly used by the flavour industry because of its high vanillin content.
New Caledonia, the potential
The latest addition to the list of French vanillas, we particularly appreciate its aromas between caramel, liquorice and its “orange blossom” side.
Recommended applications : dessert
It is sometimes difficult to source vanilla because production can be so random. However, this vanilla deserves all our attention with an interesting development potential like all French productions.
Madagascar in the line of sight
The market is mainly absorbed by a famous world giant of sparkling drinks, it is a Planifolia vanilla close to Madagascar without however having the aromatic finesse. The pods are fine with an aroma more spicy than Madagascar.
Recommended applications : dessert, hot dishes, sauce
In line with Papua New Guinea vanilla, without however equaling it, an origin with a very good value for money.