A hidden gem in Paauilo

The vanilla and gran masala shrimp served at The Hawaiian Vanilla Company. (PHOTO BY KAREN ROSE |SPECIAL TO NHN)

Owner Jim Reddekopp tends to the vanilla grown on the only commercial vanilla farm in the United States. (PHOTO BY KAREN ROSE |SPECIAL TO NHN)

“When I die, this is what God will feed me at the Pearly Gates,” said my 18-year-old daughter, Kat Sullivan, after tasting her first bite of vanilla and gran masala shrimp at The Hawaiian Vanilla Company, the only commercial vanilla farm in the United States. We were on a memorable mother-daughter outing, exploring the island.

Nestled above the town of Paauilo, the Company proudly boasts unique lunches and afternoon teas, along with informative and entertaining tours. Weekday lunches are all prepared with their own vanilla and are tasty enough to delight even the most critical epicurean.

Founded in 1998 by the Reddekopp family, it has grown into a thriving endeavor. The parents, along with their children, all contribute to the success of the company. From growing, preparing, and serving, each family member pitches in to create a rewarding and distinctive family business.

“My biggest accomplishment in all of this hasn’t come without the support of my family,” company owner, Jim Reddekopp said. “To me, raising my children and building this business is the most difficult thing we’ve ever done. I can only look back in retrospect and realize that if it wasn’t for my kids and my wife who truly love me and support me, there’s no way we could have pulled this off.”

Derived from an orchid, it is believed that vanilla originated more than 1,000 years ago by tribal societies in Mexico who first unveiled the magical qualities of the vanilla bean. By the time Spaniards invaded South America, the vanilla bean was a revealed luxury of the Aztec society. It’s documented that the famous Aztec ruler, Montezuma, was an avid consumer of a drink called chocolati which was made from ground cocoa beans and maize, flavored with vanilla beans and honey. Vanilla beans were valuable and sometimes used as currency. In fact, vanilla is the world’s second most expensive legally grown commercial crop, after saffron.

Reddekopp teaches that vanilla enhances flavors and recommends adding vanilla to everything, demonstrated in the lunch served at The Hawaiian Vanilla Company. After lunch and the tour, a stroll through the quaint gift shop includes a plethora of products such as chutneys, salad dressings, lip gloss, and spice rubs that are all made with their own vanilla.

Reservations are required to visit for lunch or tea, as most days are sold out. After an afternoon at the farm, guests gain a new appreciation of this tasty spice and don’t look at vanilla the same way again.

For more information visit www.Hawaiianvanillacompany.com or call (877) 771-1771.

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