I just wanted a couple vanilla beans to make some vanilla extract, and maybe some cookies or ice cream. I went shopping locally and was shocked by the high cost ($10 per bean?!) and low quality (read: brittle, crusty, shriveled) vanilla beans I found. IndriVanilla began with one small letter to one small vanilla farming co-op in Indonesia. I wanted high-quality vanilla beans for less than I could get them locally or online; this farmer was looking to get fair trade prices for his vanilla beans. Middlemen, referred to by the farmers as "traders," pay vanilla farmers very little for their prized beans. IndriVanilla was born to provide more people besides myself with high-quality, low-cost vanilla. I buy direct from the farmers at their asking price.
IndriVanilla buys from a family-run vanilla co-op. The farmer's sister, parents, and brothers all contribute in unique ways to the business. Even the farmer's young son (below) tags along to watch and learn about vanilla production.
IndriVanilla's Bourbon vanilla beans are the highest quality I have come in contact with as a chef. They come from organically grown vanilla orchids, scientific name Vanilla planifolia. They are also known as Madagascar vanilla beans, but due to the region in which they are grown, we like to call them Java vanilla beans. Vanilla is grown in Madagascar, Tahiti, Tonga, Hawaii, and other tropical locales. What makes Java vanilla beans special is their clear, true vanilla flavor. Java vanilla doesn't disappear into your recipes: it will enhance and complement every ingredient and offer an aroma and flavor so truly vanilla, you'll be amazed. Java vanilla beans work beautifully in cakes, cookies, frosting and icing, ice cream, creme anglaise, creme brulee, quick breads, vanilla extract, and anything else you can dream up where you want a pure, rich vanilla flavor. See our "Recipes" page for links to some great preparations using vanilla beans.
While not certified organic (the high cost of certification is prohibitive to the farmers' small operation), the farmers do not use pesticides, insecticides, or synthetic fertilizers or chemicals to grow their vanilla beans. They use a sustainable and natural method of sheep farming to fertilize their crops and control insect populations.
Vanilla beans cost more than many food products because they are extremely time- and labor-intensive to produce. Vanilla orchids can only be fertilized by one species of bee native to Mexico, and some hummingbirds, making production without human intervention virtually impossible. Each vanilla orchid is hand-pollinated, hand-harvested, and hand-cured.
The pictures below are recent photographs from the farmer IndriVanilla buys from. He takes great pride and care in his plantation and his vanilla beans: it is a quality you will sense from the moment you use your IndriVanilla beans for the first time.