The use of vanilla as a flavor essence goes back to ancient times. In 1519, Hernán Cortés was likely the first European to taste the flavor of vanilla. King Moctezuma of Mexico offered the Spanish invader a vanilla-flavored chocolate drink as a welcome gesture in his capital.
Cortés enjoyed it so much that he decided to import the flavor upon his return to Spain.
The Aztecs kept their secret well, as planting attempts failed for as long as two centuries. Without the natural pollination of the Melipone bee, a facilitating agent found only in the Central Americas, attempts to grow the vines in other locations proved futile. Even if the vines could grow, the vanilla plant could not bear fruit without its favorite pollinator.
Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean was the first place where it was believed possible to cultivate vanilla vines. And on that same island around 1850, a young slave named Edmond Albius is credited with using assisted pollination to fertilize a vanilla plant successfully.
His discovery allowed the island to see a glimmer of hope in a period of great economic difficulty.
By the early 20th century, annual French production on the islands of Guadeloupe, Martinique and Réunion Island was only 200 tons. Mexico still dominated vanilla production, but not for long.
Madagascar made a robust entry into the market, increasing vanilla production volume from 12 tons in 1901 to over 1,000 tons in 1929. Today, Madagascar remains a market leader with vanilla production equivalent to 80% of the global market.
De Monchy Natural Products has established operations in The Netherlands, Madagascar and the USA to supply vanilla beans to the global market. We are proud to continue the tradition of commitment to procurement and distribution of the highest quality products and outstanding customer service that have been the key to our company’s success for 165 years.