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I opened the bottle of your vanilla extract last weekend to bake some cookies and the difference in taste is extraordinary." – Judy

The Value of the Tropics


Welcome to our newly renovated and expanded Vanilla Company site!  It has required a lot of dedicated effort on the part of my designer, Kat Long from Kat & Mouse Co., a web design/SEO/internet marketing company, my loyal assistant, Gina Tassone (aka The Contessa), and, of course, me.  One of the challenges of dreaming large is that there are only 24 hours in a day.  The gift is that our new site is the continuation of an ongoing conversation that began in 2001 with our initial Internet launch.

Many of you know me as the Vanilla Queen because of my tireless promotion of pure vanilla, my presence on the Internet as a purveyor of vanilla products, and for authoring three books on vanilla.  The assumption is that vanilla as a flavor and fragrance is my overwhelming passion and obsession. While this is partly true, my real passion is, and has always been, the people who cultivate vanilla and other tropical commodities.  In fact, vanilla has acted as a catalyst for the bigger picture, which includes the awareness of the communities, commodities, economies and environment of the tropical regions of the world.

Vanilla is unique as a tropical product, as it represents a very small piece of the tropical commodity trade.  Because it is a luxury crop that is not publicly traded, and because there are acceptable synthetic substitutes, there are no international boards or campaigns to promote pure vanilla or to support the producers. To give you a sense of the size of our three favorite tropical luxury crops:

  •  1600 -2000 metric tons of vanilla are sold annually.
  • 3 million tons of cocoa (cacao beans)
  • 7.4 million tons of coffee beans.

When I launched The Vanilla Company I became the de facto voice for the growers, promoting their product and expressing the challenges they face.   While the farmers might want to grow only vanilla,  a large percentage of  them also produce other crops in order to survive.  Whether it is vanilla or cinnamon or coffee or any other tropical commodity, only a relative handful of growers earn more than a bare survival by growing the crops we use daily and take for granted.

As we are faced with a rapidly changing climate, and as the tropical band around the world is so crucial to our collective survival, I have chosen to bring greater awareness to those of us in industrialized countries about the importance of the tropics and why we need to collectively work toward sustainable solutions to support this remarkable and fragile region, the communities who live there and the commodities they produce.

The tropical band that lies 23-1/2 degrees to the north and south of the equator is home to a remarkable and complex eco-system that, in many respects, is the heart and soul of our planet.

  • More than thirty percent of our water and oxygen come from the tropics.
  • Seventy-five percent of the world’s population lives there.
  • Many of our most important and popular food crops originated there and are still grown there today.
  • Drugs used to treat cancer, heart disease, malaria and other serious illnesses came from the tropics.
  • There are many more medicines waiting to be discovered.

But only if we slow down the rapid and unrelenting destruction occurring throughout the region.

We can all make a difference.

  • Support our advertisers and sponsors by purchasing their products.
  • find a program that speaks to you and get involved.
  • Spend a vacation working on a community project in a tropical country.
  • Support a child’s education through one of the groups in “Yes We Can!”
  • Tell your friends and family about us and spread the word on social networking sites.

John Trudell, founder of the American Indian Movement states poignantly that “Power comes from our relationship to life.”  Individually we certainly can be powerful; collectively we can be unstoppable.  And that’s what we need to be at this critical crossroads in our planetary evolution.


Patricia Rain
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I was given a small bottle of Rain’s Choice in a gift basket and I have been hooked ever since. The flavor makes all of my baking so much better! I will never use grocery store vanilla again!

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For an update on the 2016 vanilla shortage, please see “Why is Vanilla so Expensive?”