Vava’u Vanilla Update: December 2014

It has been just over 18 months since we established our Vanilla program in Vava’u, Tonga to assist local farmers in reclaiming and re-establishing their vanilla plantations. Through ongoing support we hope to assist Tonga in bringing a once thriving Vanilla industry back to life while delivering you the finest vanilla in the world. Join us for our latest Vava’u Vanilla update:

The journey so far

At our last update, we were at the exciting stage of seeing the very first vanilla beans emerge after many long hours of hand pollinating individual vanilla flowers. In the following 6 months they grew to 18-20cm long beans and slowly matured until yellow tips developed, meaning it is time to pick.

From picking to curing

With the Vanilla beans growing, we have been busy in the background working with the local farmers to develop curing facilities in Vava’u. Curing is the most important step in the production process – it’s where the vanilla beans are transformed from flavourless green beans into that heady, aromatic flavour you know and love. It’s also the process that allows farmers to achieve a higher dollar return for their vanilla bean crops.

The stages of curing are:

Blanching – Beans are blanched to stop their growth and activate the enzymes responsible for the development of aroma.

Sweating – Still green, the beans are then tipped into large containers and covered with cloth or wool to keep them warm as they start to ‘sweat.’ At the end of this process, usually 7-10 days the beans have turned brown and developed their characteristic vanilla flavour and aroma.

Drying – Now brown but retaining most of their moisture, it is time for the beans to dry out which intensifies their flavour and aroma. The beans are laid out in the sun the traditional way and then alternated with periods of shade to reduce their water content to 20-25%. This process usually takes two weeks.

Conditioning – Once dried, the beans are packed into boxes and stored for several months to allow conditioning to occur. During this process, a range of chemical changes occur to the beans that creates the complex, well balanced flavour and aroma profile of the vanilla you enjoy at home.

Sorting and Classification – The final step in the curing process is grading, where the Vanilla beans are manually sorted according to their length, shape, colour. Queen selects the finest of the Vanilla beans graded to produce its Vanilla products.

The final result!

The moment we’ve all been waiting for has arrived, our very first batch of single origin Vanilla from Vava’u, Tonga has been produced. This real Vanilla extract with seeds has a full-bodied bourbon vanilla profile with a hint of chocolaty aroma, ideal for all baking applications. This very special Vanilla is available in New Zealand supermarkets now and we are hoping it will be stocked in a range of supermarkets in Australia soon. Watch this space!


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