A vanilla plantation was established by a New Zealand family, in partnership with a local family from the village of Utungake in Vava’u, Kingdom of Tonga.
In 2005 the first crop of just 45kg of dried vanilla beans was harvested. Fast forward 11 years and Heilala Vanilla, now partnering with growers throughout Tonga, has had a significant impact on the Tongan economy providing employment and infrastructure across a number of communities. Heilala Vanilla continues to be focused on strong Fair Trade practices. In 2013, the Heilala Vanilla Foundation was established to ensure the ongoing sustainability of their unique partnership with the community in Tonga. The Foundation is a registered charitable trust with the New Zealand Charities Commission and each year selects a project to benefit the people of Vava’u. Heilala has also partnered with Oxfam New Zealand and the the Tonga National Youth Congress (TNYC) to produce Heilala Virgin Coconut Oil.
As well as being a huge boost for growers in Tonga, Heilala’s growth and global push is proving to be good news for other vanilla producers. Heilala recently partnered with a new group of growers in Madagascar. This additional supply of vanilla beans has been selected as they match the flavor profile of the Tongan beans and will be used when required in the manufactured product range.
Heilala is also aiming to get the vanilla industry in the Cook Islands off the ground by assisting and advising growers there. Vanilla growing is still in its early stages but Heilala hopes to include the Cook Islands in the future supply chain.
Heilala (pronounced Hey-la-la) is Tonga's national flower and changes color from white to red when in salt water.
Vanilla is the only fruit-bearing member of the orchid family. The large orchid plants bear a small, creamy, yellow flower and on the day of opening the flower must be hand pollinated.
Once pollination is completed, in approximately nine months, a fully grown green bean is ready to be picked. This green bean then undergoes a complex drying and curing process where the flavor develops and the bean turns dark brown / black. It is one of the most labor intensive agricultural crops in the world. The flavor and fragrance of vanilla varies according to where it is grown. There are four main Vanilla regions: Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla, Indonesian Vanilla, Mexican Vanilla and Tahitian Vanilla. Heilala Vanilla is the Bourbon variety. It is creamy, sweet, rich and one of the strongest and most bold vanilla flavors. 98% of the world's vanilla is artificial. Heilala is part of the rare 2% of real, pure vanilla. Products that are labelled as vanilla essence are typically imitation vanilla, a man-made chemical compound that mimics the flavor and aroma of real vanilla. It is commonly manufactured from by products of either the paper industry or from coal tar.
Heilala Vanilla has been named the richest grade in the Asia Pacific region because of our freshness and quality. We are highly rated on VanillaReview.com with the reviewer making these comments:
"These vanilla beans are gorgeous. The skin is soft and very supple, like a giant raisin. Very shiny and oily, with a golden sheen."
"The beans are all very round and plump. The aroma is rich and buttery."
"The caviar is very goopy and sticky. When the bean is split and peeled apart, gooey strings form between the two halves. The caviar is very oily and quite shapable. It leaves a lot of bright yellow oil on everything it touches. The caviar yield is pretty high for the size of the bean."
Establishing the Heilala Vanilla plantation in Vava’u and partnering with growers throughout Tonga has provided employment along with resources which has enabled running water, housing and facilities for education. In doing this, Heilala became the only vanilla company in the world with complete ownership of product from vine to pantry. The full trace-ability from source to pantry eliminates the need for unnecessary handling and you can be sure of 100% pure vanilla every time.
Heilala Vanilla continues to be recognized by the food industry with multiple awards celebrating their journey to becoming a globally recognized premium food ingredient brand that has strong connections to both their supply chain and customers.
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