The island of Taha’a lies to the southeast of Bora Bora and in the same lagoon as Raiatea, in the Society Islands. A peaceful and authentic island with a scent of paradise in the air. The sweet perfume of vanilla will accompany you throughout your visit to the island.
The prize-winning vanilla of Taha’a is internationally reputed to be one of the very finest vanillas and is used by top chefs and pastry chefs in kitchens all over the world. The scientific name of the plant is vanilla tahitensis and it is a hybrid variety of two different vanillas. In Mexico, the flowers are pollinated by the Melipona bee, a species not found in The Islands of Tahiti, so the pollination of the flower has to be performed by hand. It is a painstaking, dextrous procedure, known as “marrying the vanilla”, that also requires rapidity as the flowers only remain open for one morning before closing and dying. It then takes nine months for the fertilized flower to become a vanilla bean, or pod, and a further three or four months of drying the beans in the sun to cure and ferment them until they are dark brown and ready for the kitchen.
Visit a vanilla plantation
Taha’a is known as ‘vanilla island’ and you don’t need to spend a long time there to understand why. A visit to Taha’a is an occasion to learn more about this exotic spice and to purchase some of the beans at very attractive prices, probably less than 25% of what they would cost at home. Use the entire bean, or just the flavorful seeds inside, in recipes, sauces, desserts and, of course, ice cream and milkshakes. Vanilla tahitensis beans are long, dark brown, slightly wrinkled and shiny. They also smell divine!
When you visit Taha’a, take a tour round the island and don’t hesitate to stop at one of the many vanilla plantations. You’re sure of a warm welcome and you’ll be given a guided tour with a detailed explanation of how these long woody vines manage to produce one of the world’s most exotic spices. Many of the plantations have small boutiques where you can buy vanilla and derivative products at attractive prices, especially compared with what you’d have to pay back home.
Enjoy the island of Taha’a
The island of Taha’a is full of wonderful surprises. Apart from vanilla plantations, it has beautiful white sandy beaches, idyllic motu, a truly mesmerizing coral garden…and two rum distilleries!
There are also several Tahitian culture pearl farms in Taha’a. Visit one and learn about the cultivation of the famous Tahitian cultured pearl. After visiting the treasures on the island, rent a kayak and explore Taha’a’s magnificent lagoon, or take a boat excursion to visit some of the superb motu and have a picnic lunch on the beach.