Where Have All the Vanilla Flowers Gone? 


There is currently a world-wide shortage of vanilla, which has affected us and many others. Prices have been driven up dramatically. This will one day turn around, but new vanilla vines take three years to mature, so for now we all have to be very patient while things restore to normal.

But nature always triumphs, and we have made the decision to level up our much beloved Rooibos Vanilla tea blend to…

Drum roll please…

Rooibos Honeybush!

And we also want to say goodbye to Vanilla with love, so here are some Vanilla facts that you may wish to know.  

"I don't often wear perfume, because I am sensitive to smells, but vanilla has a warmth to it, and it's inviting and soft."

~ Tessa Virtue
  

A Little About Vanilla 

Vanilla is an orchid vine which grows up the sides of tree trunks. One of the most popular flavours with old and young alike, Vanilla is enjoyed in things from ice cream and confectionaries, and body creams and perfumes.

Vanilla is almost as expensive as Saffron, making it the second most expensive spice in the world. It can sell for more than silver!

This luxury spice is found primarily on Madagascar, an island in Africa. Madagascar, responsible for up to 85% of the worlds vanilla crops, has been experiencing many challenges including deforestation, and this has driven the prices up to bordering on exorbitant.  

Madagascar’s Vanilla Challenges Include: 

• Years of drought, brought about by climate change.
• Extreme weather events like Cyclone Enawo
• Labor exploitation resulting in rioting.
• Intense political unrest
• Violence against the farmers, by organised crime groups.  

Why Is Vanilla Farming So Challenging? 

Vanilla is time-sensitive and hard to grow. The vines take three years to mature.

In Madagascar, where over 80% of vanilla is produced, the flowers have to be pollinated by hand. The pods need several months to cure after harvesting. The whole process is time-consuming and labor-intensive.

To guarantee that that the plants produce beans, they have to be pollinated that day. In order to get the most out of the crops, and ensure the maximum gathering of Vanilla, manual pollination is needed. This is due to the fact that the flower only blooms for one day of the year – can you imagine the pressure?! And, to make it worse, it must happen before noon on the day it blooms. Farmers work with thin sticks, to manually ensure pollination. It is a delicate process, but necessary.

After this, the glorious Vanilla beans must be carefully hand-picked, a task that can only occur when they are fully ripened. Once harvested, the vanilla beans are then dipped into hot water to stop photosynthesis.

And now begins the process of curing – this can take months, until the beans have turned deep, dark brown. Once that has been established, the pods must be stored until the delicious, aromatic flavours have matured.

As you can see, there are no short cuts when it comes to producing Vanilla, and this is why so many people and products use cheaper substitutes like synthetic vanilla flavourings.

The Current Vanilla Situation

There are approximately 40 million vanilla orchids in Madagascar.

However, with approximately 80,000 vanilla farmers on the island, most of them are impoverished and are often indebted to vanilla intermediaries. If the farmers do not make enough profit from their harvest, they borrow money from them and use the upcoming vanilla harvest as collateral.

However, if the harvest fails or the vanilla is stolen from their fields, they cannot repay their debt. Premature vanilla harvesting and dilution has led to an imbalance in the quality of vanilla that comes from Madagascar, as well as a general lack of trust from consumers, restaurants and gourmet chefs. Vanilla farmers are therefore left in a poverty trap in Madagascar and they often lack the efficient practices and finances to be able to grow high-quality vanilla.

Poverty and deforestation have been and will remain major issues in the country. But there are also sustainable conservation efforts which try to tackle these problems. Whether the motivation is genuine altruism, brand building or a simple self-interest in the preservation of their business assets, vanilla producers in Madagascar seem to be redefining the relationships with the farmers they directly source from.

With thanks to All Things Supply Chain, read the entire article here

What Vanilla Substitutes Are Available? 

There are many vanilla flavoured products, for those less exacting than we are. These are made from extracts, but less than 1% of them come from actual Vanilla beans. They come from other sources, including:

• The plant compound called Lignin
• A clove oil compound called Eugenol
• Wood pulp – can you believe.
• And lastly, and we hate to tell you this… cow feces

Of course, there is nothing in this list that we would use in our tea blends, as we use only 100% organic herbs and spices.

And Now For the Delectable Alternative... Honeybush!

We felt that replacing the Vanilla with honeybush was the perfect choice.

Why, you may ask…the honeybush has a naturally sweet and comforting flavour, bringing very similar qualities to vanilla. This made the honeybush and the rooibos perfect partners. And so we wish everyone in the vanilla industry as speedy a recovery as possible, we are more than confident that you will be as thrilled with our new blend as we are.   

As always, we raise a cup to the healing of our planet, and to the health of our fellow tea lovers... 

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IMPORTANT NOTE: Are you on any prescription medications? Before adding something new to your diet for medicinal purposes, make sure to check with your Physician .

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Article credit : Taka Turmeric Tea

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