"Caviar" of spices
If you thought vanilla was the weird caramel-colored liquid you see on supermarket shelves, think again. Real vanilla is the "caviar" of spices, also known as "black gold". From this extraordinary spice comes the most popular flavoring in the world and it is the second most expensive in the world after saffron. I just got back from a culinary trip to Madagascar in search of the elusive vanilla pod. See the amazing landscape of Madagascar from an eight-passenger plane, drive through vanilla jungle plantations surrounded by the most beautiful landscapes, experience the sweet smell and aroma of vanilla, and visit vanilla factories to see first-hand the craftsmanship involved in vanilla production was an eye-opening experience rarely seen by Westerners.
Vanilla comes from the seeds of the vanilla orchid, and vanilla production dates back to 12th-century Mexico. The Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés brought vanilla to Europe in the early 16th century, and from there it gradually spread to other parts of the world, including Madagascar. Only after seeing this process in real life can you understand why it costs $250 per kilogram. Our small team has teamed up with an award-winning Belgian pastry/chocolate chefPierre'a Marcoliniegowho thought he knew everything about vanilla. After our first visit to the plantations, we were all deeply moved by the extraordinary cordiality and hospitality of Madagascar, but also amazed by what we learned about the variety, flavors and aromas of vanilla.
The world's largest producer of vanilla
It was not an unusual task for Pierre Marcolini to travel directly to the source of his ingredients. Since opening his eponymous chocolate house in Brussels in 1995, he travels around the world every year to meet and buy directly from producers of the highest quality cocoa beans and other raw materials. Its cocoa beans come from independent producers in Cuba, Indonesia, India, São Tomé and Príncipe, Peru, Venezuela and Madagascar. In the same way, carefully selected exotic ingredients are selected, such as pink pepper from Morocco, Iranian pistachio, Sichuan pepper, vanilla from Madagascar, Sicilian lemons, cinnamon from Ceylon or hazelnuts from Piedmont. This spring, the chocolate master's quest for the best vanilla took place in Madagascar, an island in the Indian Ocean off the southeast coast of Africa, the world's largest producer of this spice.
Madagascar's main industry is vanilla, and although it is mainly grown in the Northeast, vanilla farms can be found throughout the country. In each area, vanilla has subtle variations in flavor due to rain and terrain. Madagascar exports virtually all of its harvested vanilla, and most Malagasy people have never tasted this extremely valuable product.
Is Madagascar the new Costa Rica?
Madagascar resembles Costa Rica thirty years ago, before the Central American country became the top tourist destination it is today. This island country has an equally varied natural beauty with jungles, mountains, volcanoes, over 5,000 kilometers of coastline and some of the world's most unique flora and fauna. However, it is a difficult place for visitors to navigate as tourism is still in its infancy (GDPtourismit is only 1.4 percent. There are a small number of direct flights from Europe to Madagascar, including a daily flight from Paris to the capital and one from Milan to Nose Be, a seaside resort on Madagascar's northwest coast. However, it is safe to say that this African country is one that everyone has heard of and been intrigued by, but few have visited. That seems to be changing, as evidenced by the government's attractive new tourism programme.websitepraising the many beauties of the country.
ethical vanilla trade
Crossing Madagascar in a small Cessna plane and jeep from the capital Antananarivo, we travel with Pierre Marcolini to often hard-to-reach vanilla farms and factories to observe and learn from skilled farmers. The welcome at each vanilla plantation was always friendly.salama(hello in Malagasy), along with music, dancing and a gift of hand-made colored fabricfrom lamba(sarongs). Farmers own their own farms and belong to "associations" or collectives that consult with the government to set a price per kilogram, which in theory everyone sticks to. In this way, farmers get a fair price and it was these producers that Pierre Marcolini visited, including plantations and factoriesSahanala,addedEmsoprano. Everyone is considered an ethical producer who sources vanilla in a way that respects and protects the environment and develops lasting relationships with farmers, pickers and communities in different areas.
Twelve months from flowering to export
Pierre Marcolini has been importing vanilla from Madagascar for some time. After all, this country produces about 80% of the world's vanilla supply and is rightfully considered the best in the world. But for the first time, Mr. Marcolini personally undertook the complicated, laborious process and negotiated with farmer collectives. ABOUTvanilla planifoliaorchids must be hand-pollinated on the only day of the year they bloom in order to produce the precious vanilla pods. After a nine-month gestation period, each green pod is harvested and hand-labeled with the farm name for traceability. The next three months include drying the pods to a dark brown color, quality control, sorting and packaging, which is also mostly done by hand. The high price is influenced by labor-intensive cultivation and manual post-harvest processing. The weather can also wreak havoc on prices. Cyclones, droughts and floods can damage these vulnerable crops, limit supply and drive up prices.
Few people know that the taste of vanilla differs not only depending on the country of origin, but also the region. There are many different regional variations in taste in Madagascar due to soil, altitude and climate. Even more surprising for Pierre Marcolini was the discovery that aging vanilla can add or alter flavor, which he discovered while tasting two-year-old vanilla at Somava in Antalaha. As someone who is constantly on the lookout for new flavors, this discovery has been useful in creating their latest newly released vanilla-based products.
Dom Pierre'a Marcoliniego
“Another chocolate makerPierre Marcolini describes his company as:casajust like a fashion house like Chanel is doing and launching seasonal "collections". This is no ordinary chocolate maker. Pioneer of the "bean to bar" movement, since 2001, he has been making his own chocolate from cocoa beans and you can taste it. The first ambassador of sustainable chocolate has impressive credentials. Pierre Marcolini was originally a confectioner, already at the age of nineteen he led the team of confectioners who prepared his legendary macaroons, and at the age of 31 he won the World Confectionery Championship and opened his first chocolate house.
Destination Vanilla Collection
Pierre Marcolini was sacked this monthvanilla of destiny, a collection of chocolates, marshmallows, financiers, and a tablet that uses five of them Vanilla: Bourbon Vanilla from Madagascar, Blue Vanilla from La Reunion, Vanilla from Ceylon, Tahiti and New Caledonia. In addition to his acclaimed macaroons and chocolates, Pierre Marcolini creates seven ice cream flavors that also use carefully selected ingredients. At the top of the list this summer is vanilla ice cream from Madagascar with dark chocolate swirls made from freshly arrived dried vanilla pods.
The Summer Chocolate Collection includes boxes containing nine or eighteen beautifully decorated small round chocolates that combine Pierre Marcolini's Grand Cru cocoa with the world's finest vanilla. Vanilla Caramel is a delicious combination of creamy ganache and caramel coulis, flavored with Tahitian vanilla, surrounded by a dark chocolate shell. Vanilla Praline is a delicious almond-nut praline with Bourbon vanilla from Madagascar, while the Vanilla Ganache praline with hazelnuts and ganache is infused with Pompona vanilla from New Caledonia and blue vanilla from Réunion. Taking marshmallows to the next level, three delicious versions, made with vanilla, nougat and pistachio, covered with milk or dark chocolate. Maison's square white chocolate bar is low in sugar (only 25%), allowing the creamy, rich Madagascar vanilla to shine through.
Pierre Marcolini is clearly doing something right. From a small shop in Belgium in 1995, today La Maison has more than 40 boutiques in Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Great Britain, Japan, China and the United Arab Emirates.