The Vanillerie Tour in Kona Ends With Ice Cream

The Vanillerie in Kona

My friends at the Kona Haven Coffee group mentioned The Vanillerie tour in Kona a few weeks back, and I had forgotten about it. They were a little vague about where the place was located, saying it was past the turnoff for Costco. But after I read the reviews online among the list of things to do in Kona, I thought my husband would enjoy it during his stay.

The Vanillerie in Kona

At the beginning of the tour, Steve began the narration. We learned he has lived in Kona for 14 years and came here from Washington. It seems everybody we meet in Kona, if they were not born here, count their years like rings on a tree, and some with great pride. It’s always an announcement or a question about how long one has lived in Kona.

The people we bought our house from said residents are slow to warm to newcomers, always concerned they will make a close friend and then that friend will go back to the Mainland. With people my age, the greater concern is your new friend will DIE from OLD age. Honestly!

The Vanillerie in Kona

The Vanillerie tour in Kona starts with an introduction to the vanilla bean, which is actually an orchid. Not many people know this. Or if they knew it at one time, it’s escaped their now mature memory banks, or got shoved behind a bunch of boxes in the attic as information that has no bearing on your life when you live in, say, Minneapolis.

The Vanillerie in Kona

We discovered during the Vanillerie tour that vanilla beans need filtered and shaded light in a warm, humid area. What kind of weather is better than Kona? They must also be pollinated, which at the Vanillerie is done by hand. After you pick the beans, which takes about 3 years to mature, they are still alive, and they must be killed. Which they do with heat.

Then the vanilla beans go through a curing process, which involves sweating and drying.

The Vanillerie in Kona

As you can see on these trays, the vanilla beans on top are drying. The pieces in the containers below the top row are cut up with plans to make them into a vanilla powder.

The Vanillerie in Kona

After the Vanillerie tour in Kona, we returned to the gift shop, the building we first entered, to enjoy vanilla ice cream. They also sell vanilla extract and kits to make your own vanilla extract from vanilla beans. Just add alcohol, how easy is that?

Or you can buy a variety of vanilla products like scented candles or vanilla hand lotion. A little goes a long way with the hand lotion. I dribbled a teaspoon on my hands and tried to wipe off the excess on my husband, but he was having none of my shenanigans.

The tour is only $15 and well worth the visit. The reception area with the picnic tables can be transformed into a place for group lunches, celebrations or weddings.

The Vanillerie, 73-4301 Laui St, Kailua-Kona, Island of Hawaii, HI 96740-9010. 808.331.8535. 10 AM to 4 PM, 3 tours a day.

Elizabeth Weintraub

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