The defining driver for the global expansion and proliferation of the vanilla industry from its origins in Mexico occurred around 1841 when Edmond Albius, on the French-controlled island of Reunion, conducted hand pollination of the vanilla flower in a practical way, thus opening up vanilla cultivation on a large scale.
Early reports of vanilla curing in the 15th century were recorded when the Aztecs conquered the Totonac people of Mexico and developed a liking for the vanilla bean— black flower—for flavoring chocolate drinks. The vanilla bean curing process, in essence, converts a ripe, green/yellow, unflavored vanilla bean into the readily recognized aromatic brown pod and its alcohol/water extract of commerce.
The main vanilla growing areas in the world occupy a belt essentially bounded by the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, north and south of the equator, respectively. Major producing countries are Madagascar and the Comoros Islands, India, Uganda, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Mexico. Madagascar is by far the principal producer of cured vanilla beans.