This month bundles and batches, even truckloads of vanilla have gone missing in the hysteria of high prices. Fascinatingly, a long established branding technique helps to track the beans as they change hands (although this doesn’t ever typically prevent them from being onsold anyways nowadays.)
Small sellers around SAVA or smugglers into Tana peddle these tattooed beans to tourists, resellers, or small spice importers, and as in traceable bank notes, beans from particular farms can be found translocated around the world at every latitude since this September!
Other techniques thieves are using are dosing bad beans in perfume, vanilla essence, or honey….or adding weight and moisture right before a sale to increase weight and payoff. Unsuspecting or naive buyers are falling victim to these tactics more this year than ever before. Beware, and be alert for anything short of the normal unmistakable vanilla quality and scent!
Ironically, many end retailer consumers have no idea what real size a vanilla bean should be either, and what real moisture. 20-40% is a range of real quality, however beans are being sold now that span up to 60 or 80% humidity, and purposefully plumped up so that when they reach the real consumer, they lose most of their weight. Nice pliable and somewhat plump beans bring out better expression of vanilla flavor and scent profile…but these grey-brown water-loaded vanilla, oversized and overstuffed with mold-making moisture, is being peddled instead in shadier corners of the trade.
Now more than ever, as the price is high, vanilla vendors must be vigilant over quality.