To answer this question, we have to better understand where does vanilla come from – and there are a few places! Most notably, Madagascar is responsible for 70-80% of the world’s supply of vanilla beans. Rodelle also sources vanilla beans from Uganda, Indonesia, India, Tahiti and more.
Madagascar vanilla is Rodelle’s primary source of beans because of our joint venture with Sahanala. At Rodelle, we’re committed to product and practice transparency – as well as the belief that success is a team pursuit. We want to be that proverbial “rising tide that raises all boats,” improving quality of life and sharing profits with the farming communities that make our vanilla production possible. It is this perspective that has inspired us to foster direct working relationships with vanilla farmers in Uganda, Indonesia, and Madagascar.
In 2015, we partnered with Sahanala Madagascar, an employee-owned cooperative of more than 4,000 vanilla farmers that gives 100 percent of its profits back to each farmer-owner. Rodelle pays Sahanala a fair price for their vanilla beans, and our joint venture establishes a farm-to-table vanilla extract that is traceable through farmer registration and stringent purchasing practices.
You can read more about responsibly and sustainably sourced vanilla from Rodelle here!
For vanilla beans to grow best, they must be 20 degrees north or south of the equator. They prefer to grow in lush, tropical climates with one (ex: Madagascar) or two (ex: Uganda) distinct rainy seasons per year. Vanilla bean orchids are actually the only edible orchid flowers!
Vanilla beans are hand pollinated by vanilla farmers with a small instrument like a toothpick. During flowering season, the orchid flowers must be pollinated early in the morning upon first opening meaning that most vanilla farmers will pollinate hundreds of flowers each day! Vanilla is commonly understood as the second most labor intensive crop behind saffron!
Once the green vanilla beans are harvested, they go through a curing process to bring out their natural flavor components. We have a proven portfolio of single-origin vanilla extracts developed from vanilla beans of various origins that deliver a traditional bourbon vanilla profile or a unique sweet & caramellic taste of vanilla grown and processed at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Our Indonesia vanilla extract tends to be woody and smokey, whereas the vanilla from Uganda is driven by the creamy vanillic notes. Our Papua New Guinea vanilla is known for its unique Tahitensis type profile which tends to be more floral and cherry like. You can find our single-origin Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract and Fairtrade in-store and Organic Certified Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract online.
Vanilla beans can be used as a stand-alone flavor component and flavor enhancer in many recipes. And, they are the flavor component of vanilla extract! Because vanilla extract is a solution of vanilla bean extractives in water and alcohol, we encourage you to choose pure extracts from Rodelle and shake before each use to get the most out of your extract. You can read more tips and tricks about vanilla, as well as the history of vanilla and answers to frequently asked questions here. And, if you’re searching for inspiration on how to use vanilla beans, we have a helpful how-to use video here and a collection of recipes featuring vanilla beans available here!