Tahitian vanilla, still too little known to the general public, is a rare product that has nothing to envy to its cousins from Madagascar or Reunion Island, in terms of flavour and aroma.
History of vanilla in Tahiti
The first vanilla plants were brought to Tahiti in 1848 from Manila, in the Philippines, and belonged to the species Vanilla aromatica. They were planted in the government garden in Papeete and began to bloom in 1850. Other species were brought back from the West Indies and Reunion, but some, such as Vanilla aromatica and pompona, have since disappeared. Only the plant known as Vanilla tahitensis is still cultivated today.
The characteristics of Tahitian vanilla
Tahitian vanilla has a rounder sensory profile than Bourbon vanilla(Vanilla planifolia grown in the Indian Ocean: Madagascar, Comoros and Reunion Island).
Characterized by “caramel” and “aniseed” notes (the key odorant components are vanillin and anisyl alcohol). Tahitian vanilla beans are richer in fatty acids than Bourbon vanilla beans.
The species Vanilla tahitensis is also cultivated in Indonesia and New Guinea.
The bees of the genus Melipone that fertilize vanilla flowers in Mexico do not exist in Polynesia. Fertilization is done by hand by women and girls. At the time, they used a small stick made of coconut veins and showed remarkable dexterity. Fertilisation must be carried out in the morning, from 6 o’clock onwards, because in the afternoon the pollen, too dry, does not germinate on the stigma. A beautiful vanilla tree can produce 80 to 120 pods on 6 to 15 inflorescences.
Shade cultivation, which artificially reproduces the canopy, screens and reduces light levels by 50%. This semi-intensive production method has many advantages, including better control of productivity and the health of the vines. The harvest of the Tahitian vanilla is carried out from the beginning of May to the end of August, possibly until October. For a pod to become an exceptional product, it needs a long preparation that will last from 3 to 6 months. Every day she went out into the sun to warm it up. It is then covered with a cotton sheet that will absorb the residual moisture produced by the heat. Each pod is massaged one by one to mix the first aromatic components