Frequently Asked Questions

How do you say the name Heilala? 

Heilala is pronounced 'hey la la'. It is the national flower of Tonga and is very unique in that it changes colour from white to red when placed in salt water. 'Heilala' is also the name of one of the daughters of the Latu Family that the company is in partnership with.

What makes Heilala Vanilla different?

The freshness and quality (named the richest grade in Asia pacific region as rated on sets Heilala Vanilla apart. Full trace-ability from the source plantations direct to the consumers pantry ensures no traders, distributors, unnecessary handling and quality. 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. 

How does Vanilla grow?

Vanilla is the only fruit-bearing member of the orchid family. It has an incredible and fascinating history of over 2000 years. 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 and often guarded drying and curing process where the flavour develops and the bean turns dark brown/black. It is one of the most labour intensive agricultural crops in the world.

What variety is Heilala Vanilla?

Heilala Vanilla is the Bourbon variety, often called Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla. Madagascar Variety is described as creamy, sweet, and rich. The French planted the cuttings from Mexico in Madagascar and Reunion (formerly known as Ie de Bourbon) over 300 years ago and now eighty percent of the worlds Vanilla crop is Madagascar Bourbon.

What is Heilala Vanilla Extract?

Heilala Vanilla Beans are chopped into small pieces and a cold extraction method  is used to continually pass water and ethanol alcohol through the beans for several weeks to ensure the complex 200+ flavour compounds of Vanilla are extracted. The mixture is then diluted with mineral water and placed in barrels for ageing before being filtered and bottled. Heilala Vanilla Extract contains nothing but vanilla, ethanol, and mineral water. This ensures our Extract is 100% pure. The quality of vanilla extract depends as much on the quality of the beans and point of origin as it does on the extraction process. Products that are labelled vanilla essence are typically imitation vanilla, a man-made chemical compound that mimics the flavour and aroma of vanilla. It is manufactured from either the paper industry by products or coal tar. 

What is the Naturals range?

In an effort to create a line that all bakers could afford, we worked with an international flavor house to develop the highest-quality natural vanilla flavour to emulate the 200+ flavor compounds found in our vanilla beans. The 100% naturally sourced vanilla flavour is blended with pure Heilala Vanilla extract, resulting in a uniquely complex, rich and robust taste.

What is Vanilla Paste?

Heilala Vanilla Paste has been developed as a convenience product. Recipes often call for the whole vanilla bean to be cut in half and the seeds scraped out. To create Heilala Vanilla Paste, vanilla seeds are suspended in Heilala Vanilla Extract allowing the paste to be spooned out as required. One teaspoon of paste equals one vanilla bean in terms of flavour and number of seeds.

What does "fold" refer to?

The "fold" of vanilla extract or paste refers to the concentration of vanilla per litre of liquid that is the relative strength of the vanilla extract. Heilala Vanilla retail products are single fold. Foodservice and gourmet food manufacturers often use Heilala Vanilla in a double, triple or five fold concentration. There are standards for vanilla extract set by the FDA in the USA. 

What flavour does Vanilla add?

Vanilla is often referred to as the 'underwear of baking', an invisible essential. It supports, balances, mellows and gives depth to dishes. It can be its own star in ice cream, custard or crème brulee. At various doses and concentrations vanilla can enhance the flavour of chocolate, coffee, nut and fruit flavours. When used with citrus, it tends to cover the acid bite.

What do you do with a Heilala Vanilla Bean?

Heilala Vanilla Beans are glossy, dark brown and supple. These are all indications of quality and freshness. Poor Quality vanilla beans are often stiff, dry and brittle. If you see beans that appear to be dusted in sugar crystals, this is a good sign. The white crystals are in fact vanillin crystals and can appear when they are stored in a cold environment. Recommended storage for Heilala Vanilla Beans is in a cool, dark place - the pantry is perfect.

To use a vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Some recipes will ask for the bean to be immersed in the liquid and then discarded. This ensures all the flavour from the bean is carried into the dish. The discarded vanilla bean can be dried at room temperature over a few days and placed in sugar jar.

How should Heilala Vanilla be stored?

Heilala Vanilla products should be stored in a cool dark place such as the pantry.

Is Heilala Vanilla Organic?

When vanilla is grown by small growers  in third world countries near the equator, it is typically grown organically. In the Kingdom of Tonga, one of the most pure and natural growing environments in the world all weeding, mulching, pollination, picking, drying, curing and grading is completed by hand and organic, spray free growing has always been practiced. 

An organic certification programme with NASAA commenced in 2013 however numerous challenges were faced based on the remoteness and the number of growers spread over several island groups. Certification as a processor was granted, however on consultation, until organic certification for growers is obtained, the processor certification is of little value. Heilala are currently revisiting their organic certification program to determine a detailed project plan and the level of investment required to complete full certification.

Is Heilala Vanilla Fair Trade Certified?

Heilala Vanilla was founded on strong Fair Trade practices. After a cyclone in the Islands of Vava’u in 2001,  many community projects were completed and lead to the offer of a land lease in the village of Utungake. The chief of the village wanted to provide necessary employment for his community together with a sense of purpose and pride. Each year Heilala Vanilla undertakes projects in villages around Vava'u. Heilala Vanilla have been working with Fair Trade New Zealand on incorporating our current practices and policies into the Fair Trade Certification model.

Are Heilala Vanilla Products Gluten Free?

All Heilala Vanilla Products are Gluten Free. Heilala Vanilla Extract is made using only vanilla beans, water and alcohol. Heilala Vanilla Paste has a small amount of seaweed extract added, (0.5%) just enough to suspend the vanilla seeds.

Is Heilala Vanilla Kosher certified?

Heilala Vanilla beans have Kosher Certification from the Kosher Licensing Authority.

Do Heilala Vanilla products have Halal certification?

Heilala Vanilla Beans, Ground Vanilla Bean Powder and Alcohol Free Pure Vanilla are Halal compliant. Heilala Vanilla Extract, Paste and Syrup are created through a unique extraction method that uses alcohol.