Tahitian vanilla is among the purest in the world. Of course, its exquisite aromas have conquered the taste buds of the best gastronomes: it is also and above all a symbol of French Polynesia. Discover the black gold of Tahiti during a visit to a vanilla plantation.
Tahitian Vanilla in Short
A Symbol of French Polynesia
As you walk along a Polynesian path, you are sure to smell the powerful aroma of vanilla. Indeed, Tahitian vanilla is grown throughout French Polynesia, especially in the Leeward Islands. Vanilla farms are particularly numerous on certain islands, notably on Tahaa, also known as Vanilla Island.
Each year, several tons of vanilla are harvested and exported, but not enough to satisfy gourmets around the world. With a production varying between 10 and 15 tons depending on the year, the Tahitian vanilla bean is a rare product. Consequently, market prices are soaring. Count more than 600€ per kilo for the highest quality pods.
Because of the very high prices, vanilla has been nicknamed the black gold of Tahiti. However, the importance of vanilla in the landscape is far from being limited to these economic data. Vanilla cultivation existed in French Polynesia long before globalization. Therefore, vanilla belongs to the local cultural heritage, just like the Tiare flower.
Vanilla’s roots in the culture of the islands are even stronger because its production is almost entirely artisanal. Indeed, modern techniques are inefficient and most of the work is done manually. Hundreds of modest and often family farms are involved in the complex process of vanilla bean transformation.
These artisanal farms provide a living for the local economy and employ several thousand people throughout French Polynesia. Moreover, they strongly mark the identity and the landscape of some islands. On Tahaa, the plantations are so numerous that it will be impossible not to see them or smell the aroma of vanilla drying in the sun.
However, vanilla bean production is a demanding job and not necessarily financially rewarding in the short term. From the hand pollination to the drying of the pods in the sun, the vanilla, first green then black, is transformed over time. It is this know-how that the small Polynesian farmers keep alive to obtain the best vanilla in the world.
Visit Tahitian Vanilla Plantations
Tahitian vanilla is at the same time a tasty spice, a rare product and an essential cultural object. There is nothing like a visit to a vanilla plantation: choose your island carefully! The best destinations are in Tahaa, Huahine and Raiatea.
Among the must-do activities in Tahaa, a visit to the Vanilla Valley is a must. This establishment organizes guided tours with many explanations on the vanilla manufacturing process. You can even take advantage of a visit to the store to buy some beans and related products such as vanilla rum.
Huahine is also renowned in the Leeward Islands for the quality of its production. Due to the size of the island, the farms are farther apart from each other. To better appreciate the discovery, choose a guided tour by car with a visit to a vanilla plantation on the program. This adventure will allow you to see the essence of Huahine and to appreciate vanilla more serenely. Book today!
Enjoy the Specialties of Tahiti!
French Polynesia has a cultural heritage that will appeal to all your senses. Trust vanilla to spark your dreams and awaken your sweet tooth! Start planning your stay in the islands, find the best time to visit French Polynesia and contact us to prepare your program of activities on site!