Tahitian vanilla, still too little known to the general public, is a rare product that has nothing to envy its cousins from Madagascar or Reunion, in terms of flavors and aromas.
History of vanilla in Tahiti
The first vanilla plants were brought to Tahiti in 1848 from Manila, in the Philippines, and belonged to the Vanilla aromatica species. They were planted in the government garden in Papeete and began to flower in 1850. Other species were brought 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 presents a more "rounded" sensory profile than that of Vanilla bourbon (Vanilla planifolia cultivated in the Indian Ocean: Madagascar, Comoros and Reunion Island).
Ccharacterized by "caramel" and "aniseed" notes (the key fragrant components are vanillin and anisyl alcohol). Tahitian vanilla pods are richer in fatty acids than those of Bourbon vanilla.
The species vanilla tahitensis is also grown in Indonesia and New Guinea.
The bees of the Melipone genus which fertilize vanilla flowers in Mexico do not exist in Polynesia. Fertilization is done by hand by women and young girls. They used, at the time, a small stick made of coconut ribs and showed remarkable dexterity. Fertilization must be carried out in the morning, from 6 am, because in the afternoon the pollen, which is too dry, no longer germinates on the stigma. A beautiful vanilla tree can produce 80 to 120 pods on 6 to 15 inflorescences.
Cultivation in shadehouses, which artificially reproduces the canopy, sifts and reduces the light by 50%. This semi-intensive mode of production has many advantages, in particular better control of the productivity and health of the vines. The harvest of Tahitian vanilla takes place 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 in the sun to warm her up. It is then covered with a cotton sheet which will absorb the residual moisture produced by the heat. Each pod is massaged one by one to mix the first aromatic components.