India

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Website: http://www.beanilla.com
Vanilla beans reviewed: India planifolia, Indonesia planifolia.
Cost: Beanilla provided this sample for review.

Beanilla’s excellent Madagascar, Tonga, Mexico, and Papua New Guinea vanilla beans are already featured on this site. Recently, they added India and Indonesia grown planifolia pods. Brent at Beanilla sent these vacuum-packed samples for review. Rarely do you find two beans with such different and distinct aromas, it’s an exciting and obvious contrast.

India planifolia (Grade A – $36.50 for 8 ounces, 1/2 pound)

More and more India vanilla is coming on the market. Two years ago it was difficult to track down, but in the past six months I’ve evaluated several samples.

Beanilla’s India vanilla beans are dark brown in color. The skins have a beautiful texture, the smoothness and sheen of the pods are evidence of expert curing. The pods are well-shaped and very flexible.  These vanilla beans are turgid with caviar.

Inside, the vanilla pods are oily and gooey. Sticky strings form as the bean is pulled apart. The aroma is dark and rich, with strong overtones of chocolate and prune. There’s a large yield of thick, moldable, and very oily caviar in each bean.

Indonesia planifolia (Grade A – $35.98 for 8 ounces, 1/2 pound)

Indonesia vanilla beans are often picked too early, and the curing process is typically hasty and unrefined. Gourmet Indonesia vanilla is rare; there’s only one other example on this site.

Beanilla’s Indonesia grown beans are black in color. The pods are flexible, but flat and not plump. The skins are moderately oily and only moderately supple, but these are still among the best cured Indonesia beans I’ve evaluated.

The caviar is pillowy and light. It has plenty of moisture, but isn’t especially sticky. Caviar yield is moderate. The beans have a spicy, cinnamon aroma that is a noticeable contrast to the India beans’ chocolate notes.

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VanillaMart (India)

Website: http://www.VanillaMart.co.uk
Vanilla beans reviewed: 1o each 12-15cm (regular), 15-17cm (gourmet), and 18-21cm (premium gourmet) planifolia from India.
Cost: VanillaMart provided this sample for review.

It’s always nice to see another vendor of India-sourced vanilla beans. India vanilla is not yet widely marketed, but the industry in south India continues to grow. This is a European vendor, selling vanilla beans from the United Kingdom.

VanillaMart’s vanilla beans are grown by a group of farmers’ co-operatives in South India (Malnad region of Karnataka). Pods are intercropped with coffee, cardamom, black pepper, and other spices. VanillaMart has been selling these vanilla beans in the UK for over a year, and has found wide acceptance of non-Madagascar vanilla.

The samples arrived loosely packed, instead of vacuum packed. The pod texture is supple and has a nice, matte sheen. Not overly-greasy, like some vacuum packed beans can be. All have a wonderful, spicy aroma.

12-15cm India planifolia (Regular – no longer sold)

Since I started the review, these vanilla beans are no longer for sale, but VanillaMart sent some as a comparison sample. The regular beans are not as moist as the two gourmet-length varieties, but they have plenty of flexibility. The skin is a bit dry, though, with some light brown streaks.  They have a good aroma and are moderately plump.

The last picture (below) shows the regular-length vanilla.

15-17cm India planifolia (Gourmet – £24.00 per 500 grams)

The gourmet-length variety is my favorite. The skin is supple and dark brown. The pods are flexible and oily. They have an average plumpness. The caviar is also quite oily, and there are some pools of oil left on the plate after cutting. There is an average yield of caviar. Its texture is very nice, quite moist and shapes well.

The first picture (below) shows the gourmet-length beans. The remainder of the photos show the premium gourmet beans because, apart from the length, they are comparable in quality.

18-21cm India planifolia (Premium Gourmet – £27.00 per 500 grams)

These vanilla pods have an average plumpness, a bit more than the Gourmet, but are also very wide. The skin is dark brown in color, flexible and oily. The caviar is slightly oily and has a beautiful texture. There is an above-average caviar yield, due to the size of these vanilla beans.

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Website: http://www.silvercloudestates.com/
Vanilla beans reviewed: 8oz (250g) planifolia from India
Cost: Silver Cloud Estates provided this sample for review.

Silver Cloud Estates’ vanilla beans are grown and cured on the same farm, a real rarity in the vanilla industry. This is definitely vanilla with a sense of place — all the beans are grown on the estate in the Blue Mountains of Southern India.

Click read more for the full review. Read the rest of this entry »

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Asian Poker

Online poker is a bit like this jock guy who peaked in high school around 2010. He used to be handsome, gigantic and ripped to the bone, he could throw a mean ball and he used to get all the girls. Unfortunately, he never got to play for an A-list team, now he’s pushing thirty, he’s starting to develop a beer belly and while he can still throw that mean ball he’s in desperate need of something that would reinvigorate him.

Online poker environment is far more difficult to thrive in and far less popular than it used to be. The idea of playing cards for a living is now no more romantic than the idea of becoming an esports player or creating a successful startup company. Poker lost a bit of its cultural significance and it isn’t as attractive for the potential new players as it once was. DominoQQ offer the best online deals.

However, it’s not like there is a plethora of jobs that can offer similar freedom that poker can provide, or even hobbies that can result in a nice side-income. Online poker is far from being done, but it could sure use a nice pick-me=up and the emergence of Asian online poker rooms can be exactly what the doctor ordered.


Why Asia?

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past year or two there’s a clear new trend when it comes to managing western online poker rooms. PokerStars is the obvious example of a site that does everything in it’s power to make itself less attractive to regs and more attractive to recreational players by cutting down on volume rewards, making bum hunting as difficult as possible, filming commercials with famous celebrities and coming up with new fast poker formats aimed at attracting the western clientele with ever decreasing attention spans.

Even if we consider another example of poker network that seems infinitely more reasonable and less revenue oriented in its changes like Microgaming decreasing the rake at micro stakes and allowing for unlimited screen name changes is supposed to have the same effect PokerStars is hoping for - increasing the number of new players and new deposits.

Asian market represents everything western poker so desperately seeks. A fresh batch of new players excited about gambling with lots of disposable income. Even though Chinese economy is slowing down it still managed to produce a large middle class that has time for leisure and money to spend. Given the fact that China is so insanely populous Asian poker market is no joke and might be the best thing that happened to poker since Chris Moneymaker’s win at the WSOP Main Event in 2003.

And that’s just China. Other Asian countries are also full of potential new players and on the whole that number is much larger than western poker rooms could ever dream of.


Gambling Tradition

“If you don’t gamble, you don’t know how lucky you are”. – Chinese Proverb

In western countries, we’re socialized to think that we’re the masters of our own domain, that we can achieve anything as long as we work hard enough. We don’t need luck or fate or God. Asian countries promote a vastly different narrative. Deep belief in luck and faith is at the very core of eastern culture.

People believe that their destiny is largely predetermined by the ancestors and therefore being lucky at a poker table is a sign of being blessed by the gods. Gambling is often a part of family gatherings, it’s not uncommon for Korean families to play gambling games for real money during New Year’s Holiday or Thanksgiving (Chuseok). Think about what would happen if you proposed a nice game of short handed 50NL to your parents and siblings after the next Christmas dinner.

Gambling is something that’s far more socially acceptable in the Asian countries than it is in western culture. It also has a higher cultural significance. Sure we had Casino, Maverick, Rounders and countless other works of fiction that managed to appeal to some parts of our society (namely young men), but poker is generally frowned upon when presented as an alternative career or even a serious hobby.

The social aspect of gambling is much more pronounced in Asia than it is in Europe or USA. The deeply-rooted ideas of capitalism and individualism make it obvious for western players that in order to play the game of poker with any degree of seriousness you have to value EV over everything else.

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