Vanilla beans reviewed: Gourmet and Premium Madagascar planifolia.
Cost: Riziky sent these beans for review.
Riziky is a European (Belgium-based) vendor of Madagascar vanilla beans. Riziky is run by Phillipe and his wife, a native of Madagascar. These bean are pretty close to farm direct!According to Phillipe and his wife:
Riziky means “luck” in Malagasy, it’s the Malagasy name of our son and also the name of his grand-father. I grew up in a little lost village near Sambava, the capital of vanilla in Madagascar. My mother made vanilla from long time ago so I helped as child with my 3 brothers and 3 sisters. They live there without electricity and phone, so vanilla is very important for people there because sometime it’s hard to find food.
Fortunately, I had the opportunity to study in Belgium and France. I met my husband in Belgium and now I can buy the vanilla production of my family and give them a better price than the market. But as the production is not enough, my sister buys production from other little farmers, always with a fair price and only the best quality possible. Most people don’t know that vanilla production is a little like wine production: it depends a lot of the quality of the earth were grow the vanilla. So we buy vanilla only from the most renowned region.
Of course, this kind of vanilla is limited, it’s a little bit like the “Château Lafite” wine (laugh). We can’t sell tones of it, so our customers are mainly great restaurants, artisan glacier, and makers of other luxury food products.
The sample beans were vacuum packed.
Madagascar Planifolia Gourmet (14-17cm) 35 euros for 250 grams (~1/2 lbs)
Riziky’s gourmet beans are black, oily, and shiny. The aroma is intense and clean. It smells like the spicy nose of a freshly opened cola. A fantastic aroma.
The beans are flexible, but so plump they feel firm. They are uniformly plump — none of the beans are thin or flat. Below is a profile image comparing the plumpness (thinnest side) of a Riziky bean to another vendor’s bean of the same length and width. The Riziky bean is twice as thick (plump).
The skin is supple but not overly moist. Caviar is yellow, thick, and fatty. It’s moldable and clumps well. Caviar yield is slightly above average.
The Riziky Premium beans are not just longer, but also noticeably moister than their shorter counterparts. The aroma is intense and clean, but even more developed in the premium (longer) beans. Very plump — nearly cylindrical.
The caviar is slightly moister than the gourmet beans, and they yield about four times more caviar.
It’s quite common to see a few Madagascar beans with a visible tattoo, but never have I seen so many with the same tattoo. These markings could easily be mistaken as insect damage, but they’re really a series of pin-pricks that identify the bean grower.
This picture shows three of the best examples. It reads “JDD”. Many tattoos shrivel into the side of the bean and may be hard to see. According to Philippe at Riziky:
Tattoos are done when the beans are green, so if there is a thief, the beans can be identified. In the bean period, you see regularly army “check points” to help people because theft is a real problem in these poor countries.
Often you can read the first letter of the name of the farmer:
The “JDD” tattoo was clearly visible on more than half of the premium beans. Very cool. (see the Vanilla Tattoo gallery, and be sure to submit your vanilla tattoo pictures)
I know of nowhere else to get multiple Madagascar beans from the same farm. Most Madagascar vanilla is processed by a central curing facility that mixes beans from the entire country. The identical tattoos on many of the Riziky beans show that they came from the same location, thus preserving elements of terroir.
Overall, both classes of Riziky vanilla are very impressive. The distinctive Madagascar aroma is especially potent and fresh. Highly recommended.