Types of Bean
The vanilla bean is the only fruit that is borne by an orchid. There are over 100 different species of vanilla bearing orchids but only two are used for vanilla flavouring, however the two varieties are completely different in both flavour and aroma profiles.
The variety that you select should be entirely a matter of personal choice depending on the process, the table lists some common uses of vanilla and the variety recommended.
Our experience has determined that a blend of both varieties often provide the best results. This may involve some experimenting, whether using beans directly in a recipe, or making an extract, essance, paste or any sweet or savoury dish.
Boubon beans are less plump than the Tahitian variety. Both varieties have over two hundred natural organic compounds that contribute to thier unique flavour profile. Tahitian beans provide a stronger aroma with a greater complexity in their notes, while Bourbon beans share some of these major notes but are less complex providing the classic vanilla flavour.
Bourbon vanilla comes from the fruit of an orchid variety called vanilla planifolia. It's main component is called vanillin (about 2-3% in our beans). Bourbon vanilla has a creamy, sweet, smooth and mellow flavour with a long finish but with a subdued nose. Use bourbon for applications requiring a classic lingering vanilla accent.
Tahitian vanilla comes from the fruit of an Orchid variety called Vanilla Tahitensis and it's main natural compounds are p-anisyl alcohol and vanillin (about 1.34% in our beans). Tahitian beans are more delicate than Bourbon with a stronger nose, they are flowery, fruity and anisic with a smooth flavour, pasry chefs love to work with the Tahitian variety as they crave it's instant flavour burst without the lingering finish.
Identify a good bean
It is important to recognize a nice looking bean beyond just its colour or grade. Look for a pod that contains as many seeds as possible. We call these seeds caviar and you can use the caviar to make vanilla extract, essence, paste and other vanilla based products. Caviar gives the bean its flavour, so look for an oily plump bean with a thin skin and not to much moisture content. However the bean should be moist, as opposed to hard or brittle. A good test is to tie a knot in the bean. This should be done with ease, without breaking or splitting. When scraping the caviar from the inside of the pod the seeds should come off the skin easily, with no mush or residue being evident. You my often see tiny white crystals on the inside or outside of the beans. These are the highly desirable flavour enhancing crystals. Avoid mold, which will look different - sometimes resembling tiny white fluffy hairs.