FAQs

All Heilala Vanilla Products are Gluten Free . The Heilala Vanilla Extract is made using only our Vanilla Beans, Water and Alcohol. The Vanilla Paste has a very small amount of seaweed extract added, 0.5%, just enough to suspend the Vanilla Seeds. So Celiacs can use the full Heilala product confidently. We currently have Kosher Certification from the Kosher Licensing Authority for our Vanilla Beans.  If you are looking for a Halal compliant Vanilla product, then both our Vanilla Beans and our Ground Vanilla Bean Powder are compliant. Our Vanilla Extract, Paste and Syrup are all based on our unique extraction method that uses alcohol so are therefore not Halal compliant. We have plans to develop an alternative extraction technique in the future and release a Halal certified Vanilla Extract alternative.
 

Vanilla is the only fruit-bearing member of the orchid family. It has an incredible and fascinating history of over 2000 years. The large orchid plants bear a small creamy/yellow flower and on the day of opening the flower must be hand pollinated. Once this has occurred in approximately nine months a fully grown green bean is ready. This green bean then undergoes a complex and often guarded drying and curing process where the flavour develops and the bean turns dark brown/black. It is one of the most labour intensive agricultural product in the world.

There are many reasons including; Freshness, Quality (richest grade in Asia pacific region as rated on www.vanillareview.com) as we are direct from Plantation to your  Kitchen (no traders, distributors and unnecessary handling, less Food Miles), we are the experts on Vanilla, it is all we do. There is a strong fair trade story to our brand also. Establishing the plantation in Vava’u Tonga has provided employment for the village together with resources that has enabled running water, housing, facilities for education of the children in the village. Our products are all 100% pure Vanilla! Nothing nasty added.

The flavour and fragrance of Vanilla varies according to where it is grown. Preference can come down to personal taste. There are four main Vanilla regions: Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla, Indonesian Vanilla, Mexican Vanilla and Tahitian Vanilla. Heilala Vanilla is the Bourbon variety, often called Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla. Madagascar Variety are considered to be the best quality, they are described as creamy, sweet, and rich. The French planted the cuttings from Mexico in Madagascar and Reunion (formerly known as Ie de Bourbon) over 300 years ago and now eighty percent of the world Vanilla crop is Madagascar Bourbon. Indonesian Vanilla in the past has been plagued with quality problems due both to growing soils and to a speedy and artificial curing process. Mexican Vanilla, the original home of Vanilla, is known for being creamy, sweet, with a hint of nutmeg and clove notes. Tahitian Vanilla Beans are typically shorter with thicker walls than Bourbon Vanilla and have fewer seeds. They are have a sweet and fruity cherry like flavour. Tahitian Vanilla is grown in Tahiti and then also in other areas such as PNG and Asia.

Heilala is pronounced, "Hey la la". Easy. It is the national flower of Tonga and is very unique in that it changes colour from white to red when placed in salt water! Additionally one of the daughters of the family in Vava'u that we are in partnership with is called Heilala. So Heilala was the original working name and it stuck when we first started selling our Vanilla Beans to Chefs!

In regards to organic status,  when vanilla is grown by small growers on their lots in third world countries near the equator it is typically grown organically. We have duplicated this in our plantation in Vava'u, Tonga, one of the most pure and natural growing environments in the world. We complete all weeding, mulching, pollination, picking, drying, curing and grading by hand and have always practiced organic, spray free growing.

We did start an organic certification programme as a producer and processor with NASAA in 2013 however we faced numerous challenges based on our remoteness and the number of growers spread over a number of small islands that grow our vanilla. We did obtain certification as a processor however this has now expired (June 2014) and on consultation we have been advised that until we can obtain organic certification for our growers the processor certification is of little value.  We are planning on revisiting the organic certification for both producer and processor in 2015 once we have a detailed project plan and can allocate the  level of investment involved to complete full certification.
 

Heilala Vanilla was founded on strong Fair Trade practices. After a cyclone in the Islands of Vava’u in 2001, we completed many community projects and consequently were offered the lease on the land in the village of Utungake. The chief of the village wanted to provide necessary employment for his community together with a sense of purpose and pride. Each year we undertake projects in the surrounding villages! We are now working with Fair Trade New Zealand on incorporating our current practices and policies into the Fair Trade Certification model.

Our Heilala Vanilla Beans are brought back to Tauranga New Zealand where we then chop the beans and use a cold extraction method where we continually pass water and ethanol alcohol through the chopped beans for a few weeks to ensure the complex 200+ flavour of Vanilla are extracted. Then this mixture is diluted with mineral water and placed in barrels for ageing then filtered and bottled. Our Extract contains nothing but vanilla, ethanol, and mineral water. This ensures our Extract is 100% pure. Inferior Extracts have numerous additives and although labelled pure extract can in fact by law still add various syrups, caramel or other flavours! If you see a clear liquid labelled as Vanilla, it is artificial and is made using by combining propylene glycol or glycerine with artificial vanillin. The ultimate quality of the finished Vanilla Extract depends as much on the care taken at the beans point of origin and the curing process as it does on the extraction. Another reason why Heilala Vanilla is preferred by chefs, the same people are growing and curing the Vanilla and then completing the extraction process. Pure Vanilla Extract is very concentrated and a little goes along way! The products that are labelled Vanilla Essence are typically imitation Vanilla and is a man made chemical compound that mimics the flavour and aroma of Vanilla! It is manufactured from either paper industry by products or coal tar. Not nice. Of the total world Vanilla consumption, 98% is artificial, only 2% is real. All those mass manufactured Vanilla Ice Cream, Yogurts, Biscuits, Cakes and Chocolate use artificial Vanilla!

The "fold" of Vanilla Extract or Paste refers to the concentration of Vanilla per litre of Liquid that is the relative strength of the Vanilla Extract. Our retail products are single fold. The food service and gourmet food manufacturers use our double, triple or highest concentration five fold. There are standards for Vanilla Extract set by the FDA in the US. We are happy to make recommendations for which vanilla is right for any type of product or manufacturing operation. The higher concentrations offer a more economical option in larger scale applications and also reduce the proportion of liquid being added.

Vanilla Paste has been developed as a convenience product. Recipes often call for the whole beans to be cut in half and the seeds scrapped out (referred by some as 'Vanilla Caviar'). With Vanilla Paste the Vanilla Seeds are suspended in our Vanilla Extract, matching the Vanilla Extract in flavour, allowing the paste to be spooned out as required, the scrapping is done for you and will save a step in the kitchen. Vanilla Paste should be stored in a cool dark place (the pantry) not the refrigerator! One teaspoon of paste equals one teaspoon of extract in terms of flavour and one scrapped Bean. Use when the appearance of the seeds is required! Great stirred through cream, cream fraiche and served with desserts. Also great with stewed fruit! A gourmet touch to shortbread, ice cream, and an essential for crème brulee.

Vanilla has been referred to as the "underwear of baking", that is an invisible essential! It supports, balances, mellows and gives depth to dishes. It can also be its own star in say ice cream, custard or crème brulee! At various doses and concentration Vanilla can enhance the flavour of chocolate, coffee, nut and fruit flavours. When used with citrus for example it tends to cover the acid bite. There is an updated recipe section on our website. For food manufacturing we can make recommendations on applications.

Heilala Vanilla Beans are glossy, dark brown and supple. These are all indications of quality and freshness. Vanilla Beans in the supermarket are often stiff, dry and brittle! If you happen to see Beans that appear to be dusted in sugar crystals, these are prize-winners! The white crystals are in fact vanillin crystals! The vanillin crystals can appear to the naked eye when they are stored in a cold environment. Store your Vanilla Beans, Extract and Paste in a cool dark place, the pantry is perfect. To use the Bean, split lengthwise and scrap the seeds. Some recipes will also ask for the Bean to be immersed in the liquid and then discarded. This ensures all the flavour from the Bean is carried into the dish. The discarded Bean can be dried (room temperature over a few days) and placed in sugar jar!