THE MAJOR TYPES OF VANILLA
Vanilla beans differ in chemical, physical and organoleptic properties not only according to the species, but also within a species, depending on the geographical source and the physical form or grade. Consequently, preferences are expressed by consumers for particular types for certain applications. The trade in true vanilla (from V. fragrans) in the twentieth century has been dominated by Madagascar (Malagasy Republic), the Comoros Islands, and Reunion; producers of "Bourbon" vanilla. Indonesia, Mexico, and Tonga have been next in importance, followed by the West Indies and South America. Other minor and intermittent suppliers have included Rodriguez, Mauritius and Seychelles, Uganda, and Fiji. During the last ten years, Indonesia, and also Tonga in smaller proportion, has improved the quality and the quantity of their production.
Mexico has traditionally been regarded as the supplier of vanilla possessing the finest aroma and flavor. Consumers accustomed to artificial vanilla, however, often dislike the aroma of Mexican vanilla and consider it deficient in "body".
This has a deeper "body" flavor than Mexican Vanilla but lower aroma. Bourbon Vanilla is frequently "frosted" and is marketed in grades of whole and split beans and a category known as "vrac", comparable to Mexican cuts.
The main area of production is initially Bali and South Java. But during the last five years, vanilla culture has been spread out all over Sulawesi, Sumatra (North and South), Lomboc, Flores and Timor Timor. Generally speaking, Indonesian vanilla is known as a mixed quality with little attention paid to grading. However, quality has improved year after year and today it is possible to find some lots comparable to "bourbon" vanilla. Indonesian vanilla possesses a deep full-bodied flavor well appreciated in America.
SOUTH AMERICAN AND WEST INDIAN VANILLA
The small volume of true vanilla entering trade from this region is more similar in properties to Bourbon vanilla than Mexican vanilla, if frequently of poor quality.
TAHITI VANILLA The vanilla produced in French Polynesia is obtained from V. tahitensis and possesses a characteristic aroma of commarin and usually has a lower vanillin content than true vanilla. It is generally less favored for flavoring due to its relatively high volatile-oil content which can result in cloudy extracts. Tahiti vanilla is exported in five main grades which rarely frost.
VANILLONS (GUADELOUPE VANILLA OR ANTILLES VANILLA)
This is produced from V. pompona on certain of the former French West Indian islands, principally on Guadeloupe. Vanillons has a low vanillin content and possesses a characteristic floral aroma, bearing similarities to Tahiti Vanilla. It is mainly employed in perfumery as its flavor is considered to be poor and it tends to provide gummy aqueous alcohol extracts. Vanillons was exported in three grades, but today this quality is not traded anymore.