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Bonao Cacao - Real organic in the DR
Despite its reputation for good cacao beans, the Dominican Republic only has a few organic growers. Jorge Hernandez is one of the first ones, if not in size in chronology. On his 18 acres, Jorge grows mostly the Trinidad variety found in most plantations here, plus some of the historic Criollo's and a few Forasteros. The result is a balanced and fruit mix that turns-out into a great chocolate.
Jorge makes his handcrafted flavorful chocolate bars and nibs and cacao by-products using exclusively the pods and beans from his land in Bonao (Dominican Republic). He then processes them himself to ensure a clean and careful handling. This also allows him to adapt the fermentation stage to the season and to the beans. Grinding the nibs manually on his own mortar, he produces wonderful chocolate bars and many healthy products. For example, his cacao nibs are considered excellent energy boosters by active people and sports fans.
He has managed to instill an atmosphere of healthyness and natural good food in his products. He also shares his enthusiasm and passion for everything natural and everything cacao on his web site at www.bonaocacao.com where his fabulous treats are available for sale and delivered in the Miami area and beyond.
Ortinola Estate - Trinidad
The wonderful island of Trinidad has many small growers of quality beans, the famous Trinatarios of course with many variances and "terroirs" in each of the many charming valleys that criss cross the green hills.
The Ortinola Estate is both, a charming, restful and festive oasis in a green Valley half hour East of Port of Spain. Once the historic charming wooden building was fully restore and operating as a seminar and wedding party center, the owner launched a new cacao plantation. The plantation is close to a river within walking distance of the building. The goal for Ortinola is to produce its own high flavor chocolate onsite. The challenges are many and sometimes daunting. There is a persistent shortage of motivated and qualified workers, there are logistical challenges to bring equipments and a constant concern for the cacao pods. The will to reach Ortinola’s goals is Nikita, a young Trinidadian who left her promising studies in Scotland to throw all her seemingly limitless energy to reach these goals.
The first phase of running the Hospitality side of the Estate being now completed, she focuses on the cacao and the future chocolate production. Now 2 years in the making and therefore without any significant harvest, the cacao trees need care and protection. Nikita is planning the restoration of old existing buildings to turn them into adequate production facilities. Next will come the acquisition of equipment and a commercialisation plan. All this needs to be completed intime for the forthcoming full harvest. This creates opportunities to make mistakes but also opportunities to forge a new path to onsite high quality chocolate manufacturing. In this Mecca of cacao that is Trinidad is, there are many support. Nikita attended classes at the renowned Cacao Research Center at the UWI and her skills, determination and energy are plentiful. It is obvious that the odds are on Nikita’s favor.
A large and very disparate crowd
Although it is estimated that 5 million households in the world farm cocoa for money, there are about 45 to 50 million people involved in the global chocolate trade. About two third of cocoa beans are produced by small farmers earning less than $1000 a year from it. Because of their small size, most of them lack access to essential resources and knowledge, such as bean characteristics, investment and marketing expertise. This results in poor quality beans, low prices and limited expansion in the production of a good chocolate. This is very damaging to everyone at a time when high quality chocolate is enjoying a constant growth in demand.
There are approximately 750 chocolate companies in the U.S. and more than 2000 in the EU. This is reflected in the consumption levels of these respective markets.
The coming bomb of climate change
Over 50% of the world cocoa production comes from the West African countries of Ivory Coast and Ghana, another 17% come from Indonesia. In a recent release of its study on the impact of climate change, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture concludes that those two countries alone will have a vastly different topography in thirty years than now. The rise in temperature and a different pattern of rainfall will require cocoa fields to be moved higher in regions that are not currently available for agriculture because they are already used for habitation or other purposes. With cocoa beans generating close to 8% of Ivory Coast’ GDP, a reduction in revenue will likely have a deep social and political impact on the country. At the same time, it is estimated that the demand for cocoa bean will double by 2050. This mismatch will result in price increases but could also destroy the livelihood of millions of farmers.
A glimpse of hope
Who reaped-off the Cacao growers?
According the ICCO cacao price archives and the Amercian Bureau of Labor and statistics on inflation, cacao is 60% cheaper today than 40 years ago. If price of cacao had only kept-up with inflation since 1974, cacao would now sell for US$ 7.3 per Kg, whereas it currently is at US$ 2.9 per Kg!
This slow strangulation of the cacao growers has resulted in the relative diminution of their numbers as well as in a quasi absence of investment in the maintenance and improvement of cacao plantations. Moreover, many small growers have stopped growing cacao in favor of sugar cane, coffee, bananas or other more rewarding crops. After loosing 60% of their revenues, how can growers be expected to pay for the investments needed to maintain and increase, both quantity and quality?
The large explotations in West Africa, South America or Asia, have also seen theri revenues decline forcing them to drastically reduced their investments. The various negative consequences include child labor, aging trees with diminihsing yeild and reduced research efforts.
During that 40 year period the average price of a chocolate bar has come up by 38 %. It came from 10 cents per ounce in 1974 (equivalant to 48 Cents of today) to 65 Cents today. Add to these facts the various productivity gains at the chocolate production end that have reduced production costs and you have a huge increase of the financial returns of the large chocolate and candy producers.
Why most humans like Chocolate?
"98% of people love chocolate and the remaining 2% is most probably lying", such was the answer from a famous Chocolatier when asked if the chocolate attraction was Universal. Wine has alcool and yes, a lot of interesting flavors that stick on our taste buds and mix well with food. Meat has the softness on the tongue mixed with a gentle texture. Cheescakes have this mouthful feeling of freshness mixed with fruity flavors.
What is it with chocolate?
Chocolate has the complexity of wine, the softness of meat, the many flavors of sweets, the filling feeling of cream and provides a long lasting flavor on our tongue. Cacao has a a high content of fatty components that melt at slightly different temperatures releasing a succession of flavors that integrate with the next one.
The Tastes of chocolate
Due to the Cacao beans'characteristics derived from a mix of their genetics, the soil that fed them, the weather during the tree's life and the processes they went through, each bar is unique.
It may have just a few flavors but strong and very satisfaying ones, or it may have a multitude of aromas and scents that develop gradually while you taste the product. It is the Chocolate maker's talent to identify the beans and to process them according to their particular flavors and to the aromatic goal s/he thinks is best for that bean.
At Cacao Authrority we use six main markers to rank chocolates:
- Sugar : The more sugar added means less cacao. Also, sugar is often used to sweeten low quality beans which tend to be acidic and flavorless. Sugar should not be identifiable.
- Cacao: There should be a clear presence of cacao. However, some beans are so fruity that the prevalent aroma may not be strong Cacao.
- Acidity: Acidity may be unpleasant, but in reasonable quantity, it may enhance other sensations.
- Roasted Nuts: Depending on its strength, this is a pleasant aroma that is often present in chocolate bars.
- Bitterness: Specific to some beans and regions, bitterness can be good, up to a point.
- Fruitiness: A very sought after characteristic which is typical of some bean varieties.
To summarize and rank the products, we try to assess four characteristics:
- Aromas: Does the chocolate product smells, feels, tastes something good?
- Texture: Is it pleasant in the mouth? Not too grainy, not too greasy and mixing well with the aromas.
- Presentation: Is it presented in an appetizing way? Pleasure starts with the yes. Is it good looking?
- Uniqueness: How commonly are those characteristics found?
Finally, we select the adjective that best describes the chocolate, either Sublime,Excellent,Very Good,Eatable or Unpleasant.
And of course, there is this fight for objecivity in the taster's mind. A fight that is endless..
The ultimate Tasting Kit
Canadian chocolate judge and expert, Eagranie Yuh offers the
Marrying the best of Japan with the best cacao beans
Japan's ethos of perfection and its culture based on rituals made it an ideal environment for creating chocolate excellence and surprising aromas. Koyama Susumu, the founder of this incredible food and earth empire is pasionate about all aspects nutrition and the pleasures it may imply. From the selection the beans to the creativity of the ganaches and including