History of Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla

Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla. Those three words elicit delight and joy from professional pastry chefs to amateur masterchefs alike. There’s nothing quite like the fresh and floral fragrance of, arguably, the world’s most popular spice and flavour. Vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world (after saffron) and Madagascar is responsible for more than 80% of the world’s production. Botanically speaking, vanilla hails from the orchid family, an extensive collection of about 25,000 different species. Despite its ubiquity and popularity, few know the history of this flavouring.

Vanilla’s ancestry hails from Mesoamerica, where local Mesoamerican cultures cultivated the orchid. Most sources credit the Totonacs of Mexico’s east coast as the first cultivators; the Aztecs (who called it tlilxochitl) adopted vanilla cultivation techniques when they took over the Totonacs; the Spanish returned the favour, eventually introducing it to Europe and the rest of the world. Interestingly, the vine would stay indigenous to the Mesoamerica area for quite some time due to its symbiotic relationship with its only pollinator, the melipona bee. But human ingenuity would not be restrained for long – in 1841, on the French colony of Réunion, Edmond Albius pioneered a hand pollination method that would successfully allow the cultivation of vanilla around the world. Thus, the cultivation of Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla started to, excuse the pun, bloom. It is now the dominant variety in the world.

Madagascar, and surrounding islands, remains the world’s leading producer of vanilla. Consequently, the Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla is now the dominant species sold (it derives its name from the old French name for Réunion, Île Bourbon). Recently, organic bourbon vanilla has seen a rise in popularity, given its exceptional quality and sweet, creamy, mellow and smooth flavour. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla is also known for its hard to dilute taste, enabling it to be paired with rich foods. Rounding out the popular global varieties are the Tahitian vanilla, known as V. tahitensis and grown in the South Pacific, and the Mexican/Central American vanilla, known as V. pompon and found in Central and South America and the West Indies.

Here at Madanilla, we source our organic bourbon vanilla direct from Madagascar growers and send it straight to your door.

Author: “Mad Dan”

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