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Vanilla is considered an expensive product. The price per kilo will vary significantly depending on the origin of the vanilla, the weather conditions in the producing countries and the global supply and demand. However, if vanilla is considered a luxury product today, this is due to the long and tedious cultivation process. However, don't be tempted to go out and buy cheap vanilla, as you may be very disappointed by the quality.
Vanilla flourishes in specific regions of the world, not everyone can produce quality vanilla. Ideally, it is grown at a latitude between 10 and 20° north and south and at an altitude of less than 700 m. The ideal temperature is between 20 and 30°. When vanilla growers plant a vanilla tree (a species of orchid), it takes three years to obtain the first fruits. Also, unlike some spices that offer a good yield from the first year, vanilla takes its time, which justifies a higher price. Another element that impacts the price: pollination. When vanilla was discovered in Mexico, an endemic bee pollinated vanilla to produce flowers and fruits. In the Indian Ocean, and particularly in Madagascar where Bourbon vanilla is produced, this bee does not exist. A slave from Reunion, Edmond Albius, found a solution to pollinate vanilla... manually. This technique is used today in all vanilla plantations.
Also, the women who carry out this action are "marieuses". Of course, they are used to this operation, but it is still tedious. Again, this explains why vanilla is expensive. Finally, vanilla follows a precise process. When the pods reach maturity, they undergo several treatments:
- Scalding: the pods are placed in a basket immersed in water at about 65° for a few minutes.
- Steaming: the vanilla beans are placed in large wooden boxes for half a day. Initially, the vanilla bean is green. At the end of this stage, the vanilla bean is dressed in chocolate.
- Drying: in the sun and in the shade, the pods are placed on racks for one to two weeks.
- Maturing: this is the longest stage. It lasts about 8 to 12 months (3 months minimum for industrial vanilla). The vanilla is placed in wooden trunks, during which time it develops its full aroma. During these 8 to 12 months, people regularly come to sort the beans to ensure that they do not go mouldy. If some have gone mouldy, they are removed from the trunk so as not to damage the others.
- Grading: the pods are sorted according to their size and tied up to form bundles of pods.
Between the moment of planting and the tasting of the vanilla, it is necessary to count at least 1 year. This is one of the reasons why vanilla is expensive.
Have you ever bought cheap vanilla in a supermarket? If so, you may have noticed that the beans are often small, not very fleshy and not very tasty. It's simple, when you're making a recipe, you're sometimes tempted to put two beans in to make it taste better. I imagine that this speaks to some of you.
The vanilla I am suggesting is certainly more expensive. However, a single pod is enough to flavor your preparations and really smell like vanilla. Another important point: the conservation. My vanilla keeps for a long time (3 to 4 years without any problem in good conditions) and does not spoil. On the other hand, a cheap vanilla will go mouldy quickly. Once again, you won't have made any money by buying a cheap vanilla. Finally, it is the appearance of the pods that can alert you. A vanilla bean with a smooth skin has not gone through all the production stages for an optimal product.
In order to optimize costs, some growers are forced to pick the vanilla before it is ripe. However, this is to the detriment of the consumer, who does not get the same quality.
The price of vanilla is determined by several factors, it is interesting that you can understand what you pay:
- The origin: vanilla from Mexico is a rare product, it is more expensive than vanilla from Madagascar, Uganda or Papua New Guinea for example.
- The size of the pod: most of the time, the bigger the pod, the higher the price.
- The packaging: some of my customers are as passionate as I am about vanilla and order large quantities. I also work with chefs and pastry chefs, so I have chosen to offer you a discounted price for your vanilla.
- The plant, the vanilla tree: there are different varieties of vanilla, namely vanilla planifolia, vanilla pompona and vanilla tahitensis. The pompona is more expensive than the others, and is notably the one that is grown in Mexico.
- World supply and demand- Weather conditions in producing countries