How to choose the best quality vanilla beans?

There is absolutely nothing like the delightful aroma of vanilla beans. It even leads many of us down the nostalgia lane, reminding us of the sugary goodness of our favourite cookies or cake. However, buying vanilla beans online doesn’t let us experience that magic in the first place. So, how do we choose the best quality vanilla beans online?

What’s interesting to note is that vanilla bean pods come from an orchid (the only orchid that produces edible fruit). Growing quality vanilla beans is quite difficult. It requires the perfect tropical climate and the gentle care of the cultivator. Even in the most optimum conditions, the planet can take up to three years to produce a single bean. The flowers need to be cautiously pollinated by hand, and the cultivator needs to be alert at all times. After all, growing vanilla is an extremely labour-intensive activity which only bears “fruit” after three years. 

Even when they finally bloom, the flowers stay open only for 24 hours and need to be carefully pollinated within 12 hours. To this, are added the modern-day economic challenges of supply and demand. Thus, finding the best quality of vanilla beans online can be quite challenging. Yet, we are here to make the task easier for you.

Here are a few things that will help you decide whether the vanilla beans you are investing in are worth your time and energy – 

  1. The growing region

The origin of vanilla beans was in Mexico. Melipona bee species, only found in Mexico, is the only natural pollinator of this orchid thus explaining its origin. It was introduced to the warm tropical and subtropical regions of the world only later on.  

Vanilla orchids take well in the high humidity regions and generally they should be grown in regions where the temperature doesn’t drop below 55 degrees. The shade should be bright and filtered. Further, the potting medium should be well-drained and humus rich.

What makes Indian vanilla beans so special?

Despite a vast variety of vanilla beans available in the world, Goodness Vanilla specifically focuses on providing the best quality of Indian vanilla beans to its customers. Why is that so?

Indian vanilla beans are rich, full-bodied and are full of chocolatey flavour. With an aroma which has hints of chocolate and spice, they are just irresistible. 

Most Indian Vanilla farmers have adopted the scientific method of intercropping exquisitely to not only ensure greater yield per plant but also longer and better quality of vanilla beans. Also, the vanillin content in the Indian vanilla beans is over 2%, exceeding the world average by an impressive margin.

If you want to make vanilla-infused cakes, shakes or iced coffee, Indian vanilla beans are probably the best you can get. Creamy, sweet and richly aromatic, they infuse into the dishes a distinct spicy aroma, which will make you fall in love with them.

Other commonly found vanilla beans

The other commonly found vanilla beans are – 

  • Bourbon
  • Indonesian
  • Ugandan
  • Mexican
  • Tahitian

It is crucial to indulge in thorough research before you purchase vanilla beans because each one of them is suited to a specific purpose. 

Bourbon vanilla beans

No, it has nothing to do with whiskey! The name refers to Île de Bourbon. Most of the production traces back to the island of Madagascar, the largest vanilla bean growing region in the world. They are the strongest and most flavourful of all the vanilla beans. You can be sure that they will be a bang-for-your-buck.

Their assertive flavour makes them ideal for baking. While Tahitian beans were historically more expensive than Bourbon, the socio-economic and political developments have brought them at par in terms of prices.

Indonesian vanilla beans

It is quite ironic that Indonesian vanilla beans haven’t received the popularity that they rightfully deserve. After all, Indonesia is the second-largest vanilla bean growing region after Madagascar. Moreover, the distinct curing process renders these beans a smoky flavour. They work best when used in heat applications.

Ugandan vanilla beans

Ugandan vanilla beans have an intoxicating aromatic flavour. Their buttery flavour will remind you of chocolates and figs.

Mexican vanilla beans

Some experts claim Mexican vanilla beans to be the best vanilla beans in the world. Their price is on par with other pure vanilla extracts. The sweet-spicy scent of Mexican vanilla beans will make you crave for a cup of ice-cream. These vanilla beans are pretty versatile and can be used for a wide range of baking and cooking applications.

Tahitian vanilla beans

The flavour of these beans is more subtle as compared to the other origins, and its popularity that has largely picked up since the last decade can be majorly attributed to its high cost. Ideally, they can be used in fruit salads or scenting tropical fruit desserts. Tahitian beans are more plumper than the others. They are naturally so, and this has nothing to do with their quality being better than the beans having other origins.

  1. The grades of vanilla beans

While looking for vanilla beans online, have you come across the two types – Grade A and Grade B? Let’s see what the difference between the two is. 

Grade A or gourmet vanilla beans (Black Beans)

The two reasons why chefs choose gourmet vanilla beans are – 

  • The added moisture makes them more attractive
  • The vanilla flavour is infused in recipes much more easily

Grade B or extract vanilla beans (Red Beans)

These beans are more suited for two purposes – 

  • For making an extract
  • When you have the time to keep the beans in a liquid before completing your recipe

Extract vanilla beans are much cheaper than gourmet vanilla beans.

How to use vanilla beans?

Now, that you know how to choose the best quality of vanilla beans, let’s see how you can use them most optimally.

Depending on the flavour you want to infuse, you can either use the whole bean or a portion of it.

If you want to enhance the flavouring properties, you can slice the bean open. Here's how you can do it – 

  • Lay it flat on a cutting surface and hold one of its ends. Carefully, slice the bean open lengthwise.
  • It will expose thousands of tiny seeds. Moreover, since a greater surface area of the bean is exposed, the flavouring properties will be enhanced.
  • You can also choose to scrap the seeds from the pod before removing the beans.

Generally, vanilla beans can be used several times. For instance, if you have placed a vanilla bean in a glass of lemonade, the beans will hold in a lot of flavours even when the liquid is gone. On the other hand, if you soak it in a hot cream mixture and scrape out the seeds and pith, the remaining flavour won’t be as strong.

After you have used the bean pieces, you can rinse and dry them. If the vanilla beans have flavoured quite a lot of beverages, let the pieces dry and retire them to a jar. They will have a delicate flavour and fragrance for quite some time to come. If you have used the beans once or twice, you can grind them and use them for flavouring cookies, ice creams and a host of other dishes.

Final words

You will certainly not regret investing in the best quality of vanilla beans. Their blissful aroma, especially that of Indian Vanilla's, will be a treat to your senses. It is not for nothing that the best chefs in India who opt for the highest quality of vanilla beans prefer Goodness Vanilla to make finger-licking desserts and dishes.

What are you waiting for? Treat your loved ones to the goodness of vanilla with Goodness Vanilla! Indulge in nature’s best!

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