All the vanilla beans cultivated around the world come from MEXICO and where transplanted to Madagascar, Indonesia, Reunion, Tonga, Costa Rica, Papua New Guinea, Reunion, etc, etc. They go by the name Vanilla Planifolia but it's really "Mansa" meaning "Domesticated" in Spanish. Pompona is a cross originated in Mexico in the early 1900's with the idea of increasing the vanillin content. Vanilla Tahitensis is a subspecies like Pompona with low vanillin yield. That is why the Vanilla Planifolia was called Vanilla Planifolia and under in the old text books they wrote in parenthesis ................... (The True Vanilla) and it originated in Mexico and no where else. So what is the different between the Mexican and the one's grown in Madagascar, Papua New Guinea? 0, nada, nothing. Quality vanilla beans comes when you grow the vine on rich soil and with good farm practices (not crowding the vines, water/moist environment and the right shade/sun). BUT, the most important part of the process is WHEN to cut the bean from the vine. This has to be done bean by bean when yellow at the tip (this is how nature tells that the bean is fully matured "the vanillin inside" is ready for further process). The 2nd part is the drying/curing process again if the bean has been cut when yellow at the tip not only will you get higher vanillin (2.%+) but also the process of curing will be shorter (vanillin is a natural preservative). Also there will be very little loss beans due to mold which occurs more often when the beans are cut "green" instead of yellow at the tip. Please note that drying and curing go together after that you get "the maturing in the boxes" which could last up to nine months before releasing to market. You could get a beautiful plum bean but it could have very little vanillin count just because it was cut before it's maturity. So, is not about where the vanilla beans are grown but about when they where cut. The quality of the vanilla bean can be measured by it's vanillin content in the lab. The higher the vanillin count is the result of all of the above. Vanilla is really an orquid and the vine and the resulting orquids grown better in a "canopy environment" that is where the toll trees cover and protect from the sun and the rain creating a "moist hot, cooking" perfect growing environment that is why is so important to protect the forest/jungle. The best vanilla beans come not from plantations but from "home farm" where the beans are cut one by one when yellow at the tip/fully matured and cured by the same farm family. To make vanilla extract you need 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans, 35% alcohol and water.
Juan J. San Mames
Vanilla, Saffron Imports