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About Vanilla: Grades, Qualities and Types

Everything you need to know about Vanilla

Vanilla Direct young vanilla orchid flower
Vanilla Direct green vanilla podsr
Vanilla Direct girl picking vanilla

A short History of Vanilla & Types

Originally from Mexico, Vanilla found it´s way in the mid-century (when Botanics was the hobby of many Aristocrats) from London and Paris to the French colony Reunion (where it was discovered how to pollinate the flower by hand), and over to Madagascar - where due to perfect climate, earth etc conditions, the best quality in the world, "Bourbon" Vanilla is made.

The commercial success (3,000 tons per year!) of the superior "Planifolia" Vanilla type in Madagascar, triggered competition from vast plantations in Indonesia - Vanilla from Indonesia is much cheaper because it´s "Pamplona" Vanilla type has much less flavour, is boring in comparison hence needs the addition of lots of sugar. This is why even price-conscious giants such as Coca Cola buy their Vanilla in Madagascar!

Other Vanilla types are Tahitian (most of this type is now made in Papua New Guinea - looking big juicy and flat, but having less flavour, and a strange floral taste, not everybody enjoys), or Mexican (bold and brutal flavour) or African and Indian (full but bland taste). There is a reason our creamy, rich and sweet tasting Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla is the most wanted worldwide!

Names to describe Vanilla Bean Quality

There is no authority on quality, grading, names, typing, colouration or calibre, however, there are lots of words to confuse buyers. Beware!

Vanilla is similar to fine wine. A name like "Bordeaux" wine can mean anything from €2 worth a bottle being re-sold expensive at a restaurant, to €200 for a fine vintage bottle. When you buy from us, you can be sure to get simply the best quality from Madagascar available!

Vanilla beans are on average of mixed lengths between 14-19cm. The words "Grade A" or "Bourbon" Vanilla beans are most commonly used to describe the average stereotype: beans of about this length, with few or no splits, that have around 30% humidity, and thus are not too wet to be unstable, and not too dry to stop radiating aroma and aesthetics. Unfortunately, this description "Grade A" or "Bourbon" alone does not tell you much about the taste quality! See below:

Just one example how important it is to buy from a reputable, trusted source like us: Vanilla beans sometimes are awash with a vague and nondescript phenol medicinal smell, from the benzenoid crystal inside the young beans picked too young, having turned into phenol rather than Vanillin crystals.


Made in the "Vanilla Islands" being big Madagascar, plus the tiny Indian Ocean islands of Mayotte, Comores, Reunion and Mauritius. The best chefs in the world and the food industry all agree: The best Vanilla in the world. Still - there is a huge difference between bad Bourbon, and good Bourbon Vanilla!


General Term for black colour beans, not a quality specification.


35-38% humidity and appears juicy, but inferior quality - more water weight and hence more profit for the vendor. Gourmet beans can be vacuum packed to appear juicy - a time-bomb as they dry out or mould up - use immediately for brewing extracting or baking. Usually, these beans have not expressed their full flavour, are nice in appearance, but unstable, in critical need of vacuum to biologically and aerobically stabilize, and carry a risk of mould as a near certainty within a month. There are many "gourmet/premium" vanilla beans sold on for their nice appearance, sadly masking inferior flavour and substance being mostly water. 


TK Vanilla is a name used to describe beans around 30% humidity, with a balanced Vanillin-to-moisture ratio and lab analyses match, and a fully developed aromatic expression and flavour. Good Vanilla at this level and as it ages and dries may also have off-white or sugar-like Vanillin crystals on the surface, or spiking from the skin like ice (not to be mistaken for mould).


22-25% humidity, which begins to appear "fox-coloured" red in contours and surface. These are beautiful and while you must get closer to smell the flavour, the flavour when used in cooking baking etc. is just as potent as TK quality!

Very Dry

Beans around 15-20% humidity, being very brittle and hard and shrunken - but bursting with flavour! These beans may be deceptively empty in smell because they have dried and closed all of the pores on their skin and cannot "breathe," so it can be difficult to tell before using, if they are good Vanilla with lots of Vanillin per weight, or if they are very old, or even worse, extracted or low-quality Vanilla.

Grade A

There is no such thing as a grade of Vanilla bean and no standards: Anybody can say anything is grade A. Typically it is used and abused to indicate beans that are black, intact, and nice in appearance. This does not say anything about the flavour.

Grade B

There is no such thing as a grade of Vanilla bean and no standards. Anybody can say anything is grade B. Typically it is used and abused to indicate beans that are brown, messy, and ugly in appearance. Often, it is used to sell garbage-grade Vanilla with no flavour.


Vanilla beans which have been grown small naturally by chance, with no difference in the end flavour or character. They are slightly cheaper simply because of the length of less than 14cm.


Vanilla beans which have been split naturally (while growing or from sun curing, or by hand) with no difference in the end flavour or character. They are cheaper simply because of appearance.


These are vanilla beans which are very inconsistent in appearance, size, even shape, and are very messy or cut or small, crooked, bent, or otherwise. There is no difference in the end flavour profile if equally good quality was used in a cut mix. They are cheaper simply because of appearance - and because it is difficult to say for amateurs if lower quality was used in the "mix".

Powder (Unextracted)

These are cuts which are ground into dry fine powder and feature more surface density and can be better absorbed for some uses. Difficult to say if the lower quality was used in the "mix". This is why Michelin Star Chefs (and you and me!) make their own Powder!

Powder Detritus (Extracted)

This is scam powder which is sold after beans have been extracted for flavour and is the leftover dead husks and shells and tannins without much or any Vanillin inside. It is sold legitimately for decoration (i.e. tasteless but beautiful dots in your Vanilla yoghurt which can now claim "made with original Madagascar Vanilla"), and illegitimately as the Vanilla powder for flavouring, to unknowing customers - beware! It has no flavour.


These are the tiny black seeds scraped from the inside of the bean, the most expensive and intense part of Vanilla you can get. Ripe moist seeds have the appearance of caviar.


This is a term either for excellent and very expensive caviar - or for ground specs of garbage Vanilla that is used to scam customers. Watch out – and be sure which is which when requesting and comparing!


Most Vanilla matter has a Vanillin content of around 1.5-2.5%. More than 3% Vanillin level is less solvent, and clusters, and so wastes flavouring effectiveness. In order to break up high Vanillin content above the natural level, you need to use chemical and totally inorganic solvents

Do not settle for anything less than the real best beans. We bring Madagascar´s treasure to you and your tastebuds. Order today!

  • 100% natural
  • Organically Grown
  • Fair Trade
  • GMO-Free
  • Gluten-Free
  • Natural and Irreplaceable by Science - 230 Distinct Chemical Compounds contribute the flavour of real Madagascar Vanilla

Choose your Madagascar Vanilla to buy

Don't miss out: When you buy our Vanilla, you not only get a much better taste than with everything else you can normally buy, you also make a much better deal!

ONLY ONE of our great Vanilla beans with approx. 4 grams has the flavour of 3 teaspoons of world's best quality Vanilla paste, or makes 50 ml Vanilla extract, or creates a litre bottle of "Vanilla Rhum", or produces half a Kilo of Vanilla sugar - and if for baking you only use the caviar extract inside, the shell then still works to make your own Vanilla powder and Vanilla sugar!

Fresh Vanilla Paste: The best. "Caviar" (those little brown flavorful specks) from inside the Vanilla beans. You can do it: Split a bean open and scrape the inside out (Then use the shell to make your own Vanilla powder or Vanilla sugar or Vanilla extract!)

  • Vanilla Extract: When you put a Vanilla bean into alcohol or ethanol. You can do it: Use quality high proof Rhum or Vodka.
  • Vanilla Powder: Usually entire Vanilla beans ground to powder: You can do it: Use an oldschool coffee grinder.
  • Vanilla Sugar: A Vanilla bean (or powder) in a jar of sugar. You can do it: As longger the bean in the sugar as better.

Avoid all artificial synthetic imitations ("Flavouring" etc) as they have a harsh chemical aftertaste - remember, the synthetic Vanilla flavour is a side product of the petrochemical industry - yak! Only buy the real natural stuff, with the best coming from us in Madagascar.

100% Madagascar Vanilla

Only the best Bourbon Vanilla from Madagascar. Buy straight from our farm for the best quality!

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