All the rest (about 97%) comes from the chemical synthesis of the Vanillin molecule (called simply “Vanillin”, it’s produced from the Phenol or residues of wood pulp containing Lignine) or from a transformation of a natural molecule to Vanillin, (called “Natural Aroma”, it typically comes from Ferulic Acid of the rice or from cloves).
There are many well-known products using the Natural Vanilla as a special ingredient, like Coca-Cola Vanilla (in USA), the Nestlé yoghurts and desserts, many excellent Ice Creams, the best patisseries, perfumes like J’Adore (Christian Dior), Obsession (Calvin Klein) and Opium (YSL). Breast milk seems to have a Vanilla flavor (as for the research of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia) and we miss it all life long!
But the fantastic natural Vanilla aroma and flavors do not come only from Vanillin … in Vanilla there is more than 150 aromatic compounds, giving that full intense great flavor.
Originally from Mexico, the Aztec were using it (called “Tlilxochill”) to improve the “Xocoatl” drink, made by cacao and honey: history says that Hernando Cortes, The Conqueror of Mexico, has been invited by Emperor Montezuma to share some chocolate aromatized with Vanilla. Since that time, this spice has been precious, very rare and highly required worldwide.
The Vanilla sourced from the Indian Ocean (Madagascar, Comoros, Mauritius and Reunion), where 80% of the global crop is produced, is commonly called “Bourbon” variety and it’s considered the best quality with consistent fine organoleptic, delicate floral aroma, creamy, woody, full, mellow, with strong notes of cacao and leather.
The Vanilla beans may be commercialized as Gourmet beans (“Black”) and Extraction grade (“Red”), depending on humidity and content of the active ingredient. “Shorts” and “Cuts” grades are also available.
The Vanilla tree comes from the Orchidee family
The most cultivated varieties are:
The Vanilla Planifolia or Fragrans, grown mainly in the Indian Ocean and considered to have the highest quality.
The Vanilla Tahitiensis, coming from Polinesia and Papua New Guinea, that has usually less Vanillin content and which is used mainly in perfume industry.
The Vanilla Pompona, coming from tropical America, which is less cultivated and used.
In Madagascar there are about 80.000 families and 200.000 farmers working on the culture of Vanilla. It takes about 3 years to obtain the first fruit. The farmers make the pollination by hand, as there aren’t any Mexican bees abroad: the flower will bloom for only 1 day and more than 700 million flowers are pollinated by hand every year in Madagascar. It’s necessary to make hand pollination of about 40.000 flowers to obtain just 1 kg of natural ready Vanilla.
The cycle is long :
September / October :flowering and pollination by hand
June / September :collect of the pods
Evolution of the vanilline content in the beans depending on the degree of ripeness/maturity
Thermal Treatment or BlanchingThe Vanilla beans are “killed” in hot water, to stop the ripening process; our Curing Masters know how long for each different type of maturity and type of beans … This will trigger biochemical reactions and let the hydrolyze to transform the β-glucosidase endogen in Vanillin and glucose.
SteamingThe beans stay in dark cloth or blankets for 24 to 48 hours to sweat.
Sun and Shadow DryingThe beans are exposed to sun rays for at least 2 weeks, a few hours per day and then wrapped in dark cloth to retain heat for the rest of the day: in this way they will start fermentation but also will be stabilized, avoiding development of any mold and microbial contamination. The moisture of the pod should drop down very slowly.
Triming And RefiningDuring many months the pods are kept in wooden boxes to reduce moisture content again and to develop the aroma and the organoleptic characteristics.
SortingWe inspect, grade and separate by expert hands the beans depending on the dimension and the characteristics (split or not). Straightening the beans will help to spread the oil and give a nice brilliant shine.
ConditioningThe beans are prepared in “bundles” or in “vrac” depending on the customers’ needs and then we let them rest for at least 3 months in boxes to strengthen the aroma. We inspect it regularly to avoid mildew, any contamination or insect, to guarantee quality and moisture.
We continuously use a scientific approach to a very traditional market. We know what our customers look for (consistent high quality, high vanillin content, the right moisture, no microbiological contamination, no molds, no metallic particles, no glass, no stones) and we do everything necessary to assure this.
When we choose to use the green Vanilla or the semi-cured Vanilla, we use strict elements to select the best crops. We check the maturity degree, the length, the variety, the presence of imperfection, of split beans, the absence of insects and molds, the absence of phenolic acid …
A scientific approach is necessary and this is why we have our own Laboratory to analyze :
- the moisture of the beans (on dry and humid surface)
- the Vanillin content (ISO norm, method UV or HPLC) before any sourcing.
If the beans do not reach our standards, they are automatically refused. We only want to buy the best quality beans, use the right curing (thanks to our Curing Masters!) to deliver consistent fine Vanilla.
We know how dangerous the presence of metallic particles in the beans may be, that’s why we control each bean twice during the curing procedure (before and after curing), to avoid the presence of any metallic particles.
HACCP and CERTIFICATIONS
To assure the highest quality and standards, Planifolia Group is using the HACCP standards and norms to analyze and prevent all risks to the final customers Health.
Official certifications are important to ensure to our customers that Quality approach is matching the highest standards of the Flavors and Fragrances and of the Food Industry.
It’s really hard to track the long trip that the Vanilla beans do from the source to the end user. Some farmers produce just a few kilograms per year and are very far away (days of trip by walking, 4 sheels drive car and traditional boat!)
We are helped by an external and independent specialist (8 people working for Planifolia Group in that matter) to check each bean when it arrives, to track it during all its life and the curing period, until the final delivery, considering the loose of weight and humidity at each stage. We are one of the most advanced suppliers in this matter.