We have carefully selected a producer of Bourbon vanilla from Madagascar, also called vanigasy, to offer you the best flavours of this precious spice.
The origin of vanilla in Madagascar
It is in 1880 that vanilla (fruit of an orchid) from Reunion Island arrived in Madagascar. The French colonists imported the best plants to plant on the Big Island. Its ideal climate and the ancestral know-how of its farmers make it one of the best vanilla in the world today.
What is Bourbon vanilla?
It was at the beginning of the 19th century that the orchid “Vanilla Planifolia” was imported from Mexico to Reunion Island. Its name comes from its former name: Bourbon Island. It is in reference to this origin that the vanilla produced in the Indian Ocean is named as such, since 1964. Bourbon vanilla is of exceptional quality, with dark brown, supple pods that are about 18 cm long. Their flavour is sweet, fruity and rich in vanillin, the aroma is round and generous. The presence of vanillin crystals on the surface of the pod is a guarantee of quality.
Characteristics of a good Bourbon vanilla
The natural vanillin content is between 1,8 %.and 2,3 % %, and the moisture content for black vanillas is 25 % to 35 %. %. The aroma should have a clean and pronounced vanilla smell, without being woody. Frosting may form on well-prepared Bourbon vanilla, which is the result of the crystallization of the vanilla essential oil. Finding it on the pods is an additional indication of quality.
The vanilla flower
The first vanilla flower of the vanilla plant will appear in the first year. But it takes 5 years before the vanilla tree reaches adulthood.
The flowers of this one are grouped by eight and form a small bunch under the armpits of the leaves. The flower is white to pale yellow. They will only live for half a day, so it’s a race to marry these little princesses. If they are not fertilized, they will wither and die.
The fruit of the flower: the vanilla bean
The fruit of the vanilla is called the bean. This one is long, it is a dry fruit that looks like a big bean. But if we talk about botany, we are dealing with a capsule. The capsule is a non-fleshy fruit that opens at maturity to release its seeds through a slit.
After fertilization, the ovary that served as a stalk at the base of the flower will turn into a hanging pod, 12 to 25 centimetres long. The fresh and still odourless pods have a diameter of 7 to 10 millimetres.
Edmon Albius: the slave who discovered the secret of creation
For about twenty years, the vanilla vines planted in Reunion remained infertile, as the insect or bird capable of pollinating its flowers was missing. In 1841, Edmond Albius, an aspiring slave botanist, found the secret of manual fertilization by lifting the partition between the male and female organs of the flower with a spade. The future of Bourbon vanilla is assured…
Ancestral manufacturing techniques
It takes two years of care to go from the flower to the precious brown pod! Inspired by Mexican techniques, the Reunionese Ernest Loupy and David de Floris perfected the manufacturing process in the 19th century. The process starts with scalding the green pods in water heated to 65°C and then steaming them, where they acquire their beautiful black colour.
Last step: drying
The natural drying in the sun is done daily for 2 to 3 weeks, then on racks in the shade is decisive for the quality of Bourbon vanilla beans. To develop their aroma, they are then stored for 2 to 3 months in a wooden trunk with paraffin paper inside.
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