This year the price of Madagascan vanilla, a key component in Canton Chocolate Noir tea, briefly exceeded the price of silver. This presented us with a dilemma- should we compromise on quality in order to hit our target cost?
Madagascan vanilla- the vanilla of all vanillas and a vital component in Canton Chocolate Noir has recently hit headlines. Why? Because this year the price briefly exceeded that of silver after a steady increase over the last five years.
Due to its rainfall, climate, and the specific quality of its soil, Madagascan or Bourbon vanilla is renowned to be the best in the world- favoured by the worlds best pastry chefs. The flavour is rather sweet, toffee, liquorice-like. Up until 2017 the island was the world's biggest producer of the crop. However, in March 2017 Cyclone Enawo hit Madagascar, destroying most of the crop for the year. This had a devastating effect on the growers of Madagascar and also caused a worldwide shortage of vanilla. This shortage is set to continue over the next few years as it takes 3-4 years for vanilla vines to establish and start cropping.
In 2013 when Canton Chocolate Noir was first created as a limited edition tea we were paying £80/kg for our vanilla, this year the price has spiked at £485/kg for the same grade. This presented us with a dilemma- should we compromise on quality in order to hit our target cost?
The easiest and cheapest solution would have been to source an artificial vanilla flavouring- but this option was never on the table, a compromise too far- Canton Chocolate Noir has always been and will always be 100% natural. So we experimented with the recipe a bit, reducing the vanilla contents and increasing the sweet cocoa-rich Yunnan Black element. But there just wasn't that immediate rush of delicious chocolatey aroma when we opened the bag for the first time. We tried a lower grade vanilla, but again no joy. So in the end the decision was clear- the recipe must stay the same and Canton would absorb the price increase in order to maintain the integrity of the blend. We are optimistic that as Madagascar recovers from the cyclone over the next few years, the price will slowly stabilise.
Canton sources its vanilla from a fair trade co-operative of farmers in the SAVA region on the eastern edge of the island, made up of around 100 small holders in total. The co-operative produce the highest quality vanilla in the traditional way, which involves painstakingly pollinating each individual vanilla orchid by hand, handpicking, sun-drying and hand sorting.
Canton Chocolate Noir
Canton Chocolate Noir is an exclusive Canton blend of Assam and Yunnan Black tea, Madagascan vanilla and Peruvian cocoa nibs. Available as loose leaf tea and in pyramid teabags.
If you are interested in adding Canton Chocolate Noir to your tea menu you can order on our wholesale website here.