Sometimes you will notice an abnormality on the skin of a vanilla pod that looks like a brand...and that is exactly what it is. Farmers will "tattoo" their vanilla beans to mitigate theft. Given the high price of vanilla, theft is an unfortunate reality that farmers in these small countries must deal with. Here is an image of a tattoo:
Tattoo's are designed to be the shape of the initials or a symbol representing the farms or farmers where the beans are grown. They are similar to a lot code and function as an identifier of the bean. Of course, not every bean can have a tattoo so beans in bundles will be randomly selected and given a tattoo.
Check your beans when they arrive to see if they have a vanilla bean tattoo. It has become a symbol of good luck and those who have found tattoos on their beans have claimed that their homemade vanilla extracts are especially sweet!
Learn more about vanilla beans and extract making in our comprehensive extract making guide center.