Spotlight: Production Processing and curing of Vanilla Beans
Plantation: Our vanilla is sourced from farmer organizations. These organizations are made up of small holder farmers whose gardens are on less than 2 Hectares of land area. Farming practices (technology) from planting to harvest are rudimental (done by hand and local tools like hoes, pangas). No herbicides or chemical fertilizers are used.
Vanilla vines are planted under a canopy of banana plantation for shade. It is also a way to inter-crop and enable a farmer grow both a cash crop (vanilla) and a food crop (banana) on their limited land.
After initial planting, it takes 3 years to maturity. We have two seasons of vanilla; March to June and September to October.
Vanilla pods will be ready for picking when the ends become slightly yellow.
Harvesting: Vanilla beans are ready for harvest in six to nine months after pollination. The beans are harvested one by one when they are fully-grown and as they begin to ripe. At this stage, beans change their colour from dark green to light green with yellow tinge.
Sourcing: Our staff is in constantly visiting farmers in rural Uganda to check on progress of their plantation and discussing supply potential and prices for the next season. When the pods have matures, we purchase the pods are the farm and transport the harvest by truck to our curing facility. When the vanilla arrives at our curing facility, the following processes are undertaken;
Sorting and Grading: Size and appearance get the primary importance here, since; there is a direct relationship between the aroma (or vanillin content) and these factors. The beans are classified according to their length as follows:
Length of Beans
Grade of Beans
15 cm and >
Splits, cuts and damaged beans
Cleaning: The graded beans are washed with clean water.
Killing: Graded beans are immersed in hot water at a temperature of 60-70oC for periods as indicated below:
Grade of beans
Period of immersion
Sweating: The treated beans are then transferred immediately to a wooden box lined with blanket, for sweating and kept for 36-48 hours. The temperature initially is to be 48-50oC. By then, the beans will attain light brown colour and start imparting aroma.
Sun drying: Later on, the beans are spread in hot sun (from 12 noon to 3 pm) over wooden loft on a clean black blanket. The temperature of the bean, at this time should rise to 50oC. Later on, the bundles are transferred to the sweating box. Sun drying and sweating is continued grade-wise, as follows:
III & IV
At the end of this period, the beans lose half of initial weight, turn to a shining dark brown colour and develop wrinkles. Also, their aroma improves.
Slow drying: The next step involves the spreading of the beans in racks kept in well-ventilated room maintained around a temperature of 35oC and relative humidity of 70 per cent. The duration of slow drying is as follows:
On completion of slow drying, the vanilla beans get heavy longitudinal wrinkles, turn lustrous with brownish black colour and become supple. They offer a soft leathery touch; can be rolled around finger easily and on release, becoming straight. The moisture content at this stage may be around 30-35 per cent.
Conditioning: The dried and classified beans are bundled (500-1000gm each) and vacuum sealed in clear PTE bags.