Experimenting with baking or thinking of taking your pastry creations to the next level? Using pure, natural vanilla straight from the bean yields distinctive, unparalleled flavour compared with bottled extracts and essences. It is however an investment in flavour, the incredibly labour-intensive process required to grow, harvest and process the beans makes it the second most expensive spice in the world after Saffron.
Vanilla beans come from the string-bean-like pod of a tropical climbing orchid, the vines take 3-4 years to grow before they develop flowers. Like most orchids, the plants are sensitive to environmental changes and require an experienced, dedicated hand to flourish. We source our Planifolia and Tahitensis pods from Papua New Guinea where they are grown and processed in the traditional way, without the use of chemicals or additives.
These plants are our grower’s livelihoods and are often hand-pollinated by the vanilla farmers themselves as the flowers bloom for only one day, a window that cannot be missed. The farmers must then diligently care for the plant for the next 6 to 9 months until the bean is ready to be harvested. The beans are then hand-picked and carefully cured using a process that takes several months and multiple steps, all done by hand.
Once harvested the beans are immersed in hot water to halt the ripening process. Then they go through a "sunning and sweating" process that lasts for 7 to 28 days where the pods are put out in the sun during the day, then densely stacked together in boxes at night to sweat. This process activates the enzymes within the pods which develop the vanilla flavour and in time turn the pods from green to deep brown. They are then put out in the sun to dry and packed away for several more months to allow the flavour to deepen. This curing process gradually brings down the moisture content of the beans. Our vanilla beans are classified as Grade A or Gourmet beans which means they are generally larger and have a moisture content of 30-35%. Lesser grades are drier and used to make the extracts and essences you find on supermarket shelves.
The process from pollination to the finished product available on our site takes 12 months, with each step being done by hand. A labour of love with a price tag to match and a flavour you can enjoy knowing you are supporting the labour of love for our vanilla farmers.
Planifolia vs. Tahitensis
We stock the “original” Planifolia Vanilla Beans as well as Tahitensis Vanilla Beans which are two of the most popular in the world. Both are grown using the method described above in Papua New Guinea.
Planifolia beans are sometimes referred to as Bourbon vanilla beans. They are long and slender with a distinctive aroma, described as rich, fruity, sweet and buttery with hints of caramel. They have thick and oily skin and an abundance of seeds.
The Tahitensis or ‘Tahitian vanilla’ pods are more delicate than Planifolia and smaller in size. They are slender with a distinctive aroma, described as fruity, floral and sweet spice. They have a strong vanilla flavour with cherry and chocolate notes. They have shiny and oily skin with seeds inside.
Because the flavour compounds of Tahitensis Vanilla are more sensitive to heat than Planifolia Vanilla, Tahitensis Vanilla is often selected for recipes that don’t use intense heat such as short or no-bake recipes.
Our beans are 100% pure and natural with no additives or artificial flavours. Shop Vanilla Beans >>