Let’s start by stating that there’s not one vanilla but multiple “vanillas” out there. While Madagascar is the World Champion of vanilla, producing over 80% of the global supply each year, other countries like Mexico, Uganda, Indonesia, India, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia are also producers with their own kind of vanilla and curing processes.
Today, we’re narrowing it down to the Bourbon vanilla planifolia from Madagascar. There’s typically Gourmet Quality (Grade A), Grade B or TK Vanilla and Red Vanilla. Red vanilla is mainly only used for extraction by industrial fragrance and food companies.
So what’s the difference between Grade A and Grade B? Which one is best?
If you’re a baker, Grade A Gourmet quality is the top notch quality vanilla. The smell and taste is fully bodied and ’round’ with an iconic sweet after taste. It is best used in pastries, cakes, ice cream. That’s the type you want ot get the most flavor out of your vanilla. The look is gorgeous, sleek, dark and moist. The bean is fleshy and supple. You can easily tie a knot with it without breaking it.
Grade B, aka Extract vanilla or TK vanilla is not a ‘lower’ quality vanilla. It is drier and a bit more reddish or brown than Grade A. It is perfect for making extract or arranged rums. Great for baking or savoury sauces as well. Because it contains less water than Grade A, it is lighter too. While 250g of Grade A vanilla might give you around 70 to 80 beans. 250g of Grade B vanilla will account to over 100-110 pods. The money is not in the water though. Grade B still has a rich vanillin content (which is what matters). However, because it’s been dried under the sun longer, it has more of a smoky flavour.
So which one is best? It depends. For baking, Gourmet is always the top notch go to vanilla. But it is also rarer and hard to produce. So Grade B is also a great way to get more beans per weight so a good catch nevertheless.
Grade A is very rare as it is very hard to produce. We currently have limited stock available. You can get some on www.madanilla.com/shop.