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There are two main varieties of vanilla orchids. The first, and most prominent, is known as Bourbon vanilla. The name is derived not from bourbon whiskey, but from the French Bourbon islands, one of which is Madagascar. This variety also can bear the name Madagascar vanilla as Madagascar is established as the largest producer of vanilla beans. Bourbon vanilla beans have a beautiful, rich aroma and produce vanilla extract that is versatile, mellow, and perfect to enhance the flavor of food.

The second variety of vanilla, Tahitian vanilla, is less prevalent in the industry. Tahitian vanilla traditionally comes from Tahiti, hence its name, but it also is a different botanical variety. The flavor profile of the Tahitian vanilla bean is very different from the Bourbon vanilla bean. It has a wonderfully complex, floral aroma and taste and it is also more distinct and noticeable in foods. Its unique flavor provides a certain something special to baked goods and desserts that makes them stand out above the rest. Those enjoying the dessert may not be able to pinpoint the difference because Tahitian vanilla is not as widely available, but they will notice the difference and ask what the secret is!

Cook’s offers two blends of Tahitian vanilla. The product with the strongest Tahitian flavor is the Cookie Pure Vanilla Extract. As the name suggests, it is a fabulous addition to your cookies, but it is wonderful in any application! The second is the South Pacific Pure Vanilla Extract. This blends more of the Bourbon vanilla beans with the Tahitian beans for a more subtle Tahitian vanilla flavor. Both are excellent additions to any cook’s cupboard!