Vanilla belongs to the Vanilla planifolia genus of climbing
Orchid family. It is obtained primarily from the fully grown but
unripe beans, subjected to fermentation-curing process to produce
the characteristic fragrance and flavour. Apart from Vanilla
planifolia, two other vanilla species Vanilla tahitensis, from
Tahiti, Vanilla pompona from some South Pacific Islands, also yield
vanillin, but of inferior quality.
Vanilla beans have a
delicate aroma, yet rich and mellow with pleasant aftertaste. Their
unique flavour is because of Vanillin (C8 H8 O3). This is found in
small amounts in the fully mature and processed vanilla bean, along
with several secondary aromatic compounds like volatile oils, fixed
oils, resins, organic acids, tannin, sugar, gum, wax, cellulose and
water. The full flavour produced by vanillin is enhanced by the
secondary aromatic compounds, a complex of aromatic aldehydes,
alcohols and esters, which vary with different species of vanilla
and within the same species.
Four major types of vanilla
beans are distinguished in the world market.
- Bourbon Vanilla (produced in Madagascar, Comoro and Reunion)
- Java Vanilla (produced in the island of Java in Indonesia)
- Bourbon-like vanilla (mainly produced on the island of Bali in
- Mexican vanilla