Samoan vanilla initiative

It's no secret that we love vanilla. Since our company's founding over 15 years ago, those sweet, creamy, floral beans have been the cornerstone of our business. We're always on the lookout for opportunities to bring new vanilla products to our customers and work more closely with vanilla farmers around the world. That's why we are excited and proud to announce Beanilla’s Samoan Vanilla Initiative!

A Personal Connection

Spearheading our new Initiative is our COO, Tila’afe Merrick. Tila'afe was born in California but moved to Samoa with his parents when he was an infant. They moved back to the USA when Tila'afe reached school age. He spent his formative years here and built a strong background in the online retail industry. In 2013, Tila'afe visited Samoa for the first time since he was a child. His goal was to reconnect with his cultural roots and then get back to his office job in the States. However, life had different plans for him.

Tila'afe and his wife fell in love with Samoa and decided to upend their lives and move their family there. What started as a search for a deeper cultural identity soon became an opportunity to help the people of Samoa. They started a YouTube channel, JAMily TV, to document their adventures. They began to hear from an increasing number of people like Tila'afe, who had left the country to seek better job prospects, but who longed to reconnect with their native land. Tila'afe realized he had the chance to not only forge a deeper connection with the people of Samoa, but to help the local economy by driving tourism. This desire to help Samoa is a large part of what brought Tila'afe to Beanilla.

Our Samoan Vanilla Initiative

Thanks to Tila'afe, we discovered the beauty of Samoan vanilla. Samoan vanilla beans tend to be lighter, sweeter, and less earthy than vanilla from other origins. They also have a fig-like fruitiness. It was love at first sight (or should we say smell) for us!

Like most fledgling relationships, our newfound love presents us with some challenges, but also some amazing opportunities. While vanilla orchids can be found growing all across Samoa, the infrastructure to properly harvest, cure, and export the beans they produce is severely lacking. Our goal is to be able to step in and help correct this.

We plan to work directly with the government and people of Samoa to establish a thriving vanilla trade. Drawing on our years of expertise in the industry, we will provide resources and education to help Samoa become a major exporter of vanilla beans. By working directly with the farmers, we can ensure work is done under fair conditions and that they receive a fair price for their product. More money will also go directly to the people doing the work, rather than to a large network of exporters, importers, suppliers, resellers, etc., which most goods are subject to.

Our Initiative is certainly ambitious, and will be an ongoing effort over the next several years. As we work to help build up the country's vanilla infrastructure, we will also partner with the only currently-operating commercial vanilla farm in Samoa to help introduce their beautiful beans to a wider audience. More on that below.

Our First Partner: Vaoala Vanilla

Our first partner under our new Initiative is Vaoala Vanilla. Vaoala is the name of the village where the farm is located, but it also has a deeper meaning for proprietor Shelley Burich. The name Vaoala comes from Samoan words meaning “forest” and “awaken.” Shelley feels Vaoala symbolizes the way vanilla has awakened her passion for working in harmony with nature.

The only commercial vanilla farm currently operating in Samoa, Vaoala is a small, indigenous family-owned business. They use traditional, natural farming and processing techniques to produce only the finest organic vanilla beans. Shelley also sees Vaoala as a way to help give back to her community. She has begun working with other small farmers, training and assisting them with vanilla cultivation, as well as providing employment opportunities.

For these reasons and so many more, we are excited to be able to share Samoan Vanilla Beans from Vaoala with you. Stay tuned for more updates on our Samoan Vanilla Initiative!