In Mexico pollination was achieved by a small stingless Melipona bee that had evolved to enter the inaccessible flower during the limited window of opportunity.
This bee did not exist in the Bourbon Islands or Madagascar the eventual home of the largest Vanilla producers in the world.
Charles Morren a Belgian botanist discovered the link and it was not until 1841 that Edmond Albius of Reunion was generally credited with developing a method of hand pollination that resulted in the successful scale of production required to assure supply of this ever increasingly popular flavor.
The long curing process the labor intensive pollination, tales of theft and volatile weather conditions all conspired to make true Vanilla the second most expensive spice after Saffron.
Obviously much of the world’s vanilla consumption is enabled by the vast production of synthetic vanillin however where a natural label is required and where discerning palates demand the best there exists no substitute for the natural extract.