Mexican vs Bourbon vanilla — what’s the difference?

One crucial detail of the curing process can help us distinguish between types of Planifolia vanilla beans. Planifolia beans must be “killed” after harvest to stop growth. The method of killing will produce a unique cure.

  • Bourbon Kill The vast majority of vanilla beans are killed by steeping in hot water for a few minutes. This technique was developed in the former French Bourbon Islands (now Madagascar). The time and temperature of the kill varies by curer, introducing a bit of difference to beans from various places. This method tends to give a soft, pliable vanilla bean.
  • Mexican Kill Vanilla beans are put on concrete slabs at mid-day and the beans are killed by the hot sun. This is harsher than the bourbon kill and results in a woodier vanilla bean. This method is used primarily in Mexico.

Tahitensis vanilla beans mature on the vine are are not killed after harvest.

For more technical details about vanilla and vanilla extract, check out the vanilla info page and the vanilla extraction tutorial.