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Vanilla, an extreme journey

  • by Luc Gabriel
La vanille, un voyage extrême

How to transform vanilla pods into an exceptional olfactory component?

By manually harvesting the pods at the right stage of maturation.

The villagers bring their harvest, as ripe as possible to obtain the best possible quality. Upon receipt of the goods, the pods are sorted according to their size, condition and color. Precision is crucial. With skill bestowed by experience they light four circular holes. The goal ? Heat water in pots to obtain a temperature between 50° and 65°.

Silence, it's getting hot!

During this time, the pods are placed in raffia baskets. When the water has reached the right temperature, the baskets are immersed in the pots for about a minute. A chemical transformation process then begins. Thanks to the heat, the structure of the vanilla pods deforms and begins an enzymatic reaction which will transform the glucovanillin present in the green pods into vanillin. Operators quickly pack the hot pods into large wooden crates. They are then covered with cotton blankets which retain the heat in order to make the vanilla “sweat”.
The pods stay in this hot, humid environment for three days and eventually turn brown. For the scent of vanilla to develop, you must move on to the second stage: drying and heating the pods in the sun.

They are placed on a frame to dry but be careful, the slightest drop of water will render them unusable. So you need a cloud expert, a weather divination guru who identifies the warning signals. Clouds ? We're going back urgently. The process lasts one to two weeks, depending on weather conditions.

Then we bring the pods in the shade so that they can dry and develop this characteristic aroma which makes them one of the best known but also among the most precious ingredients in perfumery.