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Way back in March, 2008 I reviewed some beans from the Arizona Vanilla Company. They were ok, but not great. I took some pictures, posted my notes, and nobody said a word.

A few days ago I posted about a 15% off sale at AZVC — a tip that came through the contact form. This post set off a firestorm of letters and comments. Here’s some interesting remarks from A humble vanilla lover, my reply follows.

Ian,

It is with great disdain that I write this email. I have spent several hours or so reading and re-reading your comments on the various vanillas and their corresponding vanilla companies. I have also spent a considerably shorter period of time trying to figure out who you are and under what credentials you write about vanilla and presume to review the products. There is nothing out there on you, expect some IT stuff that I presume is you. You have not written a recipe about vanilla. Your site does not talk about using vanilla. Nor is there anything that I can find that would lead me to believe that you are in anyway knowledgeable about the subject. Yet there you are, offer up you drivel on a subject that you may or may not be versed in. You hide behind anonymity, even on your own website.

Your site reminds me of this quote “In many ways, the work of the critic is easy. They risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to be judged. They thrive on negative criticism that is both fun to write and to read. The bitter truth that critics must face in the grand scheme of things is that the average piece of junk, humbly offered up for their review, is probably more meaningful than their criticism designating it so.”

I would suggest that you spend time communicating with more than just one or two of these vendors and try to understand the hard work and devotion that each one puts into their business. Understand how they came into this business, how they go able finding their sources, how they became experts in this field.

I submit that your site is not worth the cyber-paper that it is written on. It does nothing to promote vanilla nor help the consumer’s understand of how to use vanilla, in something other than extract. It is websites like yours that does more to discourage people from offer up their products to the market than any other single reason.

A humble vanilla lover. (June 8, 2008)

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Dear Humble,

Thank you so much for taking the time to browse my vanilla website and write. It’s always nice to meet another vanilla fan.

I try to provide honest notes as a vanilla enthusiast and a consumer, in accordance with the review procedure that I publish on the site. In the end though, I think it’s the high resolution images that help readers decide for themselves. Critique is the smallest aspect of the site…perfect beans are irrelevant to me because I only make extracts. Primarily, I like to highlight the amazing diversity of vanilla beans available, and get some interesting background from vendors and growers. To be extra fair, I always let people know I’m going to review their beans in advance of placing an order.

Background from vendors, pictures of plantations, and other fun facts are the reason I run vanillareview.com. I try to communicate with every vendor and grower I find on the internet. I believe every review on the site includes at least one quote from the vendor, and I’ve never done a review without first contacting the vendor. When I can’t contact a vendor (e.g. Rentak Timur), I continue to send an e-mail or two a month, hoping one gets through. I’m happy to create pages for any vendor, grower, or other person involved in the vanilla trade — I’ll even give them access to create a page of their own.

Additionally, anyone may leave a comment without any form of verification (besides the “captcha”). Even my notes are open to “review” :) Of course, there is the possibility that I delete harsh comments and criticism — but my critics could still leave comments on the original article at instructables.com, where I have no ability to delete them.

I hope this gives you a little bit of background about me and my site. I’ve had a great time learning about vanilla and met a ton of fascinating and interesting people.

Thanks again for writing. Please follow-up with any questions or comments. If you’d like, please compose your thoughts as an article and I’ll be happy to run it as a feature on the site.

Kind regards,

Ian