No Green Beans

Green Vanilla beans from pinteres

Green Vanilla beans from pinteres

There are times when being green is not a good thing.  Take for instance Madagascar vanilla beans.  The island is the premier producer of vanilla beans world wide( just after Indonesia)* but has had troubles recently with the quantity of its beans and also with the quality.  Although you can buy vanilla from other sources such as Indonesia and Mexico, the quality of the beans has consistently not been perceived as being as high as the Madagascan vanilla.  That could be changing though.

The salient point here is that vanilla pods need to ripen before they are marketed.   When they are green they are not saleable. The vanilla pods have to turn that tarry black before they are ready.  Nowadays though some traders are harvesting the beans while they are still green and vacuum packing them, like off season sweaters, then opening the vacuum packed beans when the price of vanilla has risen enough to make their sale highly profitable.

Properly aged vanilla beans

Properly aged vanilla beans

It’s a nifty little scam until you realize that raising the price of vanilla world wide is not in many peoples’ interest.  The demand for natural vanilla is high anyway these days because more dairy products flavored with natural vanilla are consumed in countries like India and China.  In the US, chains of the Whole Foods variety often use natural vanilla in their bakeries and personal products, so that the cost of vanilla currently is quite high.

The Madagascan authorities are concerned that at a certain price point other growers might enter the market, such as the Chinese, or several African nations.  This would be sure to lower the price point of vanilla globally.  What to do?

The Madagascan authorities have begun searching for the green vacuum packed beans and burning them, this way the market price of Madagascan vanilla is not manipulated. So far there have been several seizures and subsequent vanilla conflagrations. These in order that the unscrupulous vanilla producers should learn their government means business this time.

The finicky vanilla orchid

The finicky vanilla orchid

I am all for producing a fine quality of vanilla, and if the price of pods gets stratospheric,  there is always good old vanillin (which after all is the chemical part of vanilla that smells like vanilla) there to fill in.  However more vanilla in the world might not be a bad  thing.  Possibly the demand from China and India would keep pace with the new production, and if that happened then vanilla would still be pricey.  It sounds as if, with all its best efforts, Madagascar may not be able to grow enough premiere vanilla for a vanilla hungry world, and then too, vanilla vines, to produce beans in the first place,must be hand pollinated.  Really, the plant is one of those that require very specific pollinators in nature.

Vanilla scents,  just like many cheap baked goods, usually make do with vanillin, but the real thing has a depth of scent that vanillin can’t really match.**  Try Hermes’ Vanilla Galante if you want to smell  true vanilla tincture, there’s just something ethereal about those beans, when they’re black of course, not when they’re green…

* Bloomberg claims 80%, Wikipedia disagrees, I’m no expert here…

**Original Jicky had a mixture of vanillin, though an impure grade, and real vanilla, the origin of the Guerlain signature vanilla.  What they do these days, only Thierry Wasser knows.

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8 thoughts on “No Green Beans

    • Wouldn’t it be nice to have more of the black beans and more real vanilla? Not sure if you are a vanilla lover though?

      • I definitely like vanilla as in “food” and there are at least several vanilla-rich perfumes that I enjoy (e.g. Diptyque Eau Duelle, Guerlain Spiritueuse Double Vanille and Mona di Orio Les Nombres d’Or Vanille), though I’m not sure if any of them have real vanilla in them.

        • Eau Duelle was one of those perfumes I almost couldn’t smell, but now I will go back and take another sniff as we have a Diptyque Store not too far away 😉

  1. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to smell like a vanilla ice cream cone so thank you for writing this article.

    Are there any vanilla colognes that you really enjoy?

    • Not all vanillas melt down to a puddle of former ice cream. Take Shalimar or Spirituesue Double Vanille, and as to vanilla colognes yes, I like Atlier’s Vanille Insensee which is a good version very low key but true to vanilla. If you like to save money, Couvent des Minimes Eau des Missions is good too, similar to the Guerlain.

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