Kinds of Vanilla

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

The different vanilla-producing regions produce beans with broadly different flavors. Bourbon vanilla from Madagascar and neighboring islands is generally considered to be the finest, with the richest, most balanced flavor. Indonesian beans seem lighter, with less vanillin, and sometimes smoky qualities. Mexican beans contain about half the vanillin of Bourbon beans, and have distinctive fruity and winy aromas. Rare Tahitian vanilla beans—from a different species, V. tahitensis, also have much less vanillin than Bourbon beans, but carry unique flowery and perfumed notes.