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There are different vanillas in the world. Bourbon vanilla is without doubt the best known, but also the most produced. Mainly cultivated in Madagascar, it can be found in various countries of the Indian Ocean. Renowned for its olfactory and gustatory qualities, this vanilla is a must to discover. Discover the history of Bourbon vanilla.
Originally, vanilla was cultivated in Mexico. At the beginning of the 19th century, it was imported to the Indian Ocean, and in particular to Reunion Island. This posed a natural problem. Indeed, in Mexico, vanilla is pollinated by an endemic bee (the melipone bee) which allows the vanilla tree, this kind of orchid, to be fertilized. However, this bee is not present in the Indian Ocean, so it was not until 1841 and Edmond Albius, a young slave, to discover the principle of manual fertilization of vanilla. Today, Bourbon vanilla (a label created in 1964) is grown only in the Indian Ocean. This label distinguishes it from vanilla produced in Mexico, Uganda or Tahiti. If you buy Bourbon vanilla, it can only be produced in the following countries: - Madagascar; - Reunion Island; - Seychelles; - Mauritius; - Comoros. Good to know: Edmond Albius was a slave who worked as an apprentice gardener on the estate of Ferréol Bellier-Beaumont de Villentroy, a wealthy planter.
Reunion Island is now a French island. The kings of France from 1589 to 1789 and from 1815 to 1848 belonged to the Bourbon dynasty. In 1642, in the name of King Louis XIII, the French took over the island and naturally named it "Bourbon Island" . This is why the vanilla planifolia cultivated in the Indian Ocean is called Bourbon vanilla. This gives it a geographical character.
If Bourbon vanilla is produced in different countries of the Indian Ocean, today Madagascar is the biggest producer of this vanilla. It cultivates Bourbon vanilla on 30,000 hectares, mainly in the region of Sava in the north-east of the island which has four districts: Sambava, Antahala, Vohemar and Andapa. Madagascar vanilla represents today about 80% of the vanilla consumed in the world.
I found small producers and collectors of Bourbon vanilla in Madagascar who offer me a vanilla with a powerful aroma. The taste may vary slightly depending on the size of the pods, I offer you Bourbon vanilla pods from 10 to 20 cm and more. The smallest pods have slightly acidic floral notes. The pods of 18 cm and more are fleshy pods which assert cocoa and intensely vanilla notes. I invite you to taste two types of Bourbon vanilla beans to find the one that meets your taste requirements.
Growing vanilla is a real game of patience that can only be entrusted to expert hands. The vanilla tree flourishes ideally in an area located between 10 and 20° north and south latitude at less than 700 m altitude. It likes humidity and temperatures between 20 and 30° approximately. If I mention patience, it is for a simple reason: vanilla flowers 3 years after planting. Then, it is necessary to pollinate manually the Bourbon vanilla according to the principle of Edmond Albius. This pollination lasts 2 to 3 months, and the vanilla bean will only be harvested 6 to 7 months later. In short, from the moment the vanilla planifolia is planted, it takes 4 years to harvest the first pods.
Did you know that? The women in charge of pollinating the vanilla orchid are called "marieuses". They use a thin strip to lift a small mobile separation between the male and female organs of the plant. When the pod has reached maturity, it is harvested before following a very precise process:
- scalding: the pods are placed in a basket immersed in water at 60-63°.
- steaming in blankets in wooden boxes: this is when the pod, which was initially green, changes its skin to obtain its chocolate colour.
- drying: for several weeks, the vanilla beans are dried between sun and shade.
- refining: this essential stage lasts between 2 and 24 months (Bourbon Gold vanilla and Frosted vanilla). The Bourbon vanilla beans are stored in wooden trunks. It is here that they develop all their flavours.
People are in charge of sorting the pods to remove those that are mouldy so that they do not alter the quality of the others; - measuring: this involves sorting the pods to make bunches according to the dimensions of the pods.
Why Bourbon vanilla? This vanilla is named after the dynasty of kings who ruled France in 1642 and who gave their name to Reunion Island (Bourbon Island). Who invented vanilla?
It was the Mexicans who first cultivated vanilla. When it was imported to Reunion Island, it was the slave Edmond Albius who discovered the principle of vanilla pollination.
For some, Bourbon vanilla is the best. However, it is difficult to determine a ranking, it is your taste that will tell you which is the best vanilla for you.
You can buy it on David Vanille, I propose you different sizes of beans and various quantities according to your needs, from 2 beans to 1 kilo for group orders or great chefs (cooks and pastry chefs).
Bourbon vanilla comes from the Indian Ocean, it is cultivated in the following countries: Madagascar, the Seychelles, the Comoros, Mayotte, Reunion and Mauritius.
You can wrap your pods in greaseproof paper and place them in an airtight jar with a sugar base. Bourbon vanilla can also be kept in a jar with a base of alcohol. You can also freeze your beans for 24 months.
There is simply a difference in the name, Bourbon vanilla being a label created in 1964 which corresponds to the culture of vanilla in the Indian Ocean.
You can use Bourbon vanilla in various savoury and sweet preparations (fish, blanquettes, creams, yoghurts, ice creams, cakes, etc.). It is also used to flavour an arranged rum. You can also make your own vanilla extract, vanilla sugar or vanilla powder. It is possible to use the split pod to remove the seeds or to infuse it in a liquid.
This price will vary significantly depending on the quantity purchased. I practice degressive prices, the more the quantity is important the less the price per kilo of the Bourbon vanilla pod is high.