150 years ago, the very first vanilla plants were grown at Ahmelewedr by an English missionary. Today, vanilla is a leading-light produce on the biggest of the Loyalty Islands. Lifou vanilla is a must with fish, in custard or simply to add flavor to your sugar.
A field full of vanilla
If you want to discover the vanilla from the islands, there's nothing better than a little cultural tourism. At Jozip, old Weniko Qatr started his cottage-type production at the foot of the cliff, on his property. You'll be simply and warmly received, and Weniko will guide you through the rows of vanilla before offering you a small flavored coffee. With the Mu tribe, in the south of the island, Lues will tell you all about the history of Lifou vanilla while you visit his property, "À la vanille joyeuse".
The house of vanilla
There are now nearly 300 producers and many, many planters supplying 100%-natural vanilla, which has become the brown gold of Lifou. To learn more about its production and the know-how involved, visit the house of vanilla. Located at the home of the Hnathalo tribe, you'll learn all the secret of Caledonia's vanilla from the isles and, more particularly, you'll learn why it has now achieved renown at the best Parisian addresses.
You can take some vanilla from the isles back home with you. It can either be bought on the spot, directly from the producers. Alternatively, you can find it in markets and supermarkets. Vanilla is an ingredient in all sorts of sweet and savory recipes. In New Caledonia, it is preferred in its natural form, or in a sauce to accompany fish. A delicious marriage.
The vanilla festival
Every year in October, the Lifou Tourism association organizes a weekend of vanilla-centric tourism. It's a fine chance for a tribal stay and to live at the rhythm of the festival and the isles. You'll be received in a tribal hut, and everyone takes part in the festival preparations. It's a great way to share life with the Kanaks and experience some authentic tourism. During the three days of dancing and singing, you'll enjoy learning about the chieftainships and visiting the Tanukul tortoise park. And, of course, you'll try vanilla in all kinds of recipes!
Frosted vanilla, a must try
Among the comforts of Mont Mou, Païta on Grande Terre, Julien Pascal cultivates an award-winning vanilla. The pods of his vanilla plantation contain two times more vanillin than normal! The powerful aroma alone is enough to delight your taste buds. Julien Pascal’s vanilla is also covered with a thin protective layer of frost, making it unique.
Spots for discovering vanilla cultivation:
- Chez Weniko Qatr, Jozip, Lifou
- Joyous Vanilla, chez Lues, Mu, Lifou
- Chez Kaloi Cawidrone, the vanilla plantation, Maré
- Chez Rawa, the vanilla plantation, Maré
- Haute Karikoué, Mont-Mou, Païta