Since Cortès’ arrival, all the vanilla consumed in Europe was coming from Mexico. The vanilla orchid replanted on other territories was developing, even flourishing but did not produce vanilla pods. Since 1850, thanks to Edmond Albius’ discovery, the flowers are fertilized by hand, the rostellum being pressed to separate the stigma and pollen on the Reunion Islands, then Mexico. I wanted to find again this region of Mexico, north of Chiapas, where flowers are naturally fertilized. For a long time, Europeans thought that Indians were keeping a secret, after giving away the secrets of cocoa and quinine when really; it was a particular hummingbird living in the Chinantle forest, which was the one fertilizing the vanilla flowers. Our great discovery was our encounter with Elias, a man crazy about vanilla who still hand picks the wild vanillas in this ancient forest. He taught us that the hummingbirds only fertilize the three most beautiful flowers of the cluster. The vanilla pods become impressive and their concentration is surprising, with particular notes of ylang-ylang. This remarkable man helps three little villages to develop, in which the small producers cultivate vanilla plants but, as the hummingbirds do, only fertilize the three most beautiful flowers.

The wonderful fragrance of vanilla, its name, its colour, its taste, everything evokes the sweetness of childhood. In Cancale, as well as in our vaulted basement in the Epices Roellinger shop in Paris, we store and mature almost twenty different kinds of vanillas from 12 countries. To develop its aromas, the vanilla pods need to be matured in specific temperatures and hygrometric conditions.

If the Portuguese made the diffusion of pepper and cinnamon possible and the Deutsch did the same for nutmeg and clove, it is the French sailors and farmers who are the adoptive fathers of vanilla, knowing its pollination and preparation secrets. These magical pods grow near the Equator, and they represent for us the beauty of the world, produced by men and women who often rely on it to live. We are happy to be able to present the result of their hard work and knowledge. Like a champagne or a great coffee, you will be seduced by one more than the other, and each can choose the right vanilla according to the dish or pastry that each is making.

Our vanillas are stocked in the maturing cellar, with controlled temperature and hygrometric conditions, away from the light. They are carefully put away in tinplate boxes so that they keep their flexibility and their aromas and fragrances can mature. The first Vanilla Cellar ® is in Cancale in my private home, the second one is a small old Paris vaulted cellar in the “Epices Roellinger” shop at 51bis rue Saint Anne.

When you have a beautiful vanilla of great quality, you need a lot less of it. For 4 to 6 persons, 1/3 of a vanilla pod is enough. Slice it lengthwise and with the back of a knife, scrub the seeds and incorporate them in the preparation. Let this open vanilla pod infuse as long as possible.

For savoury recipes for 4 to 6 persons, you can use 1 to 2 cm of the vanilla pod, its taste and fragrance should not take over. In these dishes, vanilla is used as a “base”; the other flavours will be able to lean on this very sweet flavour. It will act as a link and reveal the other flavours of a sauce or a bouillon. Vanilla pods are expensive (their production is long and complex), we have to be careful not to waste it. After using it, you can dry the pod and put it in a sealed jar with sugar to get a vanilla sugar.