Vanilla is one of the most expensive spices in the world.
It has a unique flavor and is usually used in beverages, ice creams, cakes, cookies, custards, and many other sweet dishes. Vanilla comes from the flowering plants called orchids.
They are native to Mexico. However, you can find vanilla plants in other places around the world like Uganda, Indonesia, Tahiti, and Madagascar.
Vanilla beans have their distinctive flavor and characteristics, as a result of the different types of vanilla plants, climates, soils, and production methods.
In general, vanilla beans have a sweet, slightly floral, and woody flavor.
People use 3 main types of vanilla plants for vanilla production including planifolia, pompona, and tahitensis. Planifolia is cultivated in Mexico and Madagascar. Tahitensis comes from Tahiti while pompon is cultivated in Central America, South America, and the West Indies.
Vanilla beans contain a main organic component known as vanillin which gives the vanilla its distinctive flavor. However, there are also more than 250 different components that can be found in vanilla beans.
Therefore, vanilla beans can have fruity, floral, and spicy flavors.
What is Real Madagascar Vanilla?
Real Madagascar vanilla (bourbon vanilla) comes from the same vanilla plants as Mexican vanilla. However, it has a higher percentage of vanillin than the other types of vanilla beans out there. This makes its flavor warm, sweet, and creamy.
Madagascar has optimal conditions for the cultivation of vanilla plants. Fertile soil, hot and humid climate contribute to the quality of the real Madagascar vanilla.
Madagascar is producing 80% of the vanilla in the world. It is high-quality vanilla which is a mixture of sweet, floral, earthy, with hints of oak, dried fruits, and leather.
Difference Between Madagascar Vanilla and Regular Vanilla
The difference between Madagascar vanilla and regular vanilla is the rich creamy flavor of Madagascar vanilla as a result of the high vanillin content.
However, there are also some differences in the curing process of vanilla beans. In Madagascar, the green vanilla beans are soaked in hot water for a while before the drying process. This gives the Madagascar vanilla beans their complex and unique flavor.
The pollination of the vanilla flowers is another difference.
In Madagascar, people pollinate the flowers by hand because there are no natural pollinators, so real Madagascar vanilla costs more than Mexican vanilla because of this.
What is Madagascar Vanilla Syrup?
Madagascar vanilla syrup consists of vanilla extract, water, and granulated sugar. It has a sweet flavor and thick texture.
This syrup works as a sweetener for hot and cold beverages, a flavoring agent, and a topping for desserts. However, do not confuse it with vanilla extract because they are not the same.
Madagascar vanilla extract is a mixture made during the process of softening and filtering the vanilla pods in a mixture of ethanol and water.
This vanilla syrup has a slightly bitter flavor and a thinner texture. It works as a flavoring in cakes, cookies, puddings, ice creams, baked goods, and desserts.
What Is So Special About Madagascar Vanilla?
The unique flavor is what sets apart Madagascar vanilla from other types of vanilla. It has a rich, creamy, sweet, and mellow flavor due to the highest amount of vanillin of all other vanilla beans.
What Does Madagascar Vanilla Taste Like?
Madagascar vanilla has a rich, sweet, warm, and creamy flavor due to the high content of the vanillin. However, you can describe its complex flavor as sweet, floral, and earthy, with hints of oak, dried dark fruits, and leather. It pairs well with different fruits like pears, apples, peaches, strawberries, melon, and ice cream.
Why is Madagascar Vanilla So Expensive?
Madagascar vanilla is expensive because vanilla plants are very difficult to grow. It needs time and hard work to produce vanilla from the vanilla orchid plants.
People pollinate Madagascar vanilla orchid flowers by hand. Vanilla orchid flowers in Mexico, on the other hand, are pollinated by melipona bees. That also contributes to the higher price of the Madagascar vanilla.
However, the main reason why it is expensive is that the weather conditions worsened in the past 2-3 years. In 2017 Madagascar was hit by a cyclone that destroyed many vanilla plants. And those plants need from 3-5 years to grow and produce pods.
Why is Mexican Vanilla So Good?
Mexican vanilla is so good because it has a distinctive, delicate flavor like no other vanilla. Its flavor is smooth and spicy with a woody hint.
It pairs well with other spices like cloves, nutmeg, and allspice. You can add it to different baked goods, ice creams, sweet bread, cheesecakes, custards, and chocolate desserts.
What is Better Tahitian or Madagascar Vanilla?
Tahitian vanilla provides a floral, chocolate, cherry, caramel, and anise flavor. Madagascar vanilla, on the other hand, has a rich and creamy flavor.
Tahitian vanilla contains smaller amounts of vanillin than Madagascar vanilla. It represents only 1% of the world’s vanilla production. So, it is harder to find and can be more expensive than the other types of vanilla.
Tahitian vanilla is a common ingredient in different sauces, smoothies, puddings, pastry creams, grilled and braised meats, and many other sweet and savory dishes.
Which is Better Madagascar or Mexican Vanilla?
Vanilla orchid plants were first cultivated in Mexico. And for centuries Mexico, has been the main vanilla producer.
Only in Mexico, melipona bees pollinate the vanilla blooms. Additionally, the beans are thicker than other vanilla beans and have a different flavor.
Which one you choose is just a matter of taste preferences.
You can use Mexican vanilla if you like smooth, spicy, and woody flavors. Or you can experiment with the Madagascar vanilla and give a nice, rich, creamy, and sweet flavor to your next recipe.
Madagascar vanilla along with all other types of vanilla is a unique spice. It provides a beautiful flavor to different cakes, cookies, sauces, syrups, frostings, cold and hot beverages.
The vanilla flavor pairs well with other sweet spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and cocoa powder. You only have to choose the right match for your recipe.
Just be careful when you are buying vanilla because there is much fake vanilla that contains bad substances that are harmful to your health.