The world of cocoa and bean-to-bar chocolate
Bean-to-Bar chocolate is created with respect for cocoa quality and sustainable practices. A chocolate maker called “Bean-to-Bar” (from the bean to the bar) works directly with selected cocoa beans to transform them. A virtuous approach that offers us natural chocolates guaranteeing:
- Transparency on the origin of the beans
- Respect for the diversity of cocoa and terroirs
- Selection of farms with sustainable development
- Better remuneration for cocoa farmers
- Unique aromas
Bean-to-Bar chocolate also gives us the health benefits of cocoa, including theobromine and antioxidants through flavonoids.
By selecting Bean-to-Bar chocolates, it is above all to choose quality and unique recipes. Not only do you have more variety to choose from, but you can also know exactly where the best beans selected for your bars come from. You will thus find the true taste of cocoa and a free expression of the creativity of chocolate artisans.
The Bean-to-Bar Movement
The Bean-to-Bar movement was born in the 2000s in the United States. It aims to reclaim the art of chocolate by opposing industry practices. Also outside the usual standards and labels, the Bean-to-Bar is a virtuous model presenting the highest level of transparency (partnership cocoa farmers - chocolatiers). A so-called “Bean-to-Bar” chocolate maker works directly with the cocoa beans, thus reclaiming the entire production chain from when the beans leave the farm. The chocolatier takes care to select the most exclusive and rich varieties of cocoa and terroirs. He also remains aware of the social and environmental impact of the farms from which he sources his beans. A know-how difficult to acquire, because there is little or no training. From the selection of the best beans, to the choice of the texture of the bar, passing by the degree of roasting, the chocolate producer can play with a lot of elements. Thus, it imprints its character on the chocolate. More intense, more textured, more fruity, more melting, etc.
The Bean-to-Bar also includes a model of virtuous commerce and agriculture. By reducing intermediaries, the chocolatier promotes direct exchange with cocoa farmers and better remuneration for their work. In addition, chocolatiers can choose responsible production systems that promote biodiversity, ethical work and non-deforestation such as agroforestry or dynamic agroforestry.
At the top of the process of reclaiming the chocolate production chain is the Tree-to-Bar movement (from the tree to the bar). This movement seeks to reverse the North-South trend, by bringing chocolate production to the producing countries of the tropics. Thus, a transformation laboratory is added to the farm and allows cocoa farmers to directly transform the cocoa harvested into chocolate. Thus, cocoa farmers can fully benefit from the fruits of their labor and support the local economy.
The designations “Bean-to-Bar” and “Tree-to-Bar” are not attached to any certification or organic labels (Leaf, BioSuisse, etc.). These certifications do not define the degree to which the chocolate maker reclaims the processing of chocolate and compliance with ethical and environmental standards. Our mission at Chocolats du Monde is to overcome this lack of clarity by selecting the most rigorous craftsmen and by displaying complete transparency of their work on our site.
The Swiss bean-to-bar
In Switzerland, the share of small producers who work the cocoa beans themselves is still low, mainly due to economic constraints and competition from the well-established industrial sector. Chocolats du Monde presents you with the best from elsewhere, but don't forget to support artisans here (Switzerland) and work for the local growth of more ethical chocolate.
Swiss event around Bean-to-Bar
The “Schoggifestival” chocolate festival is in its second edition. It introduces a new generation of cocoa and chocolate producers, NGOs and research institutes, while combining pleasure and responsible commerce. At the market's 30 stands, you can get to know the people behind the Swiss Bean-to-Bar initiative. During the various workshops, you will learn where chocolate comes from, why chocolate is still associated with human rights violations and deforestation, but also what are the extraordinary and delicate aromas that can be found in a well-produced chocolate.
THE Chocolate Rally is a fun and gourmet walk in town to meet chocolatiers. Equipped with a “shock passport” , the public must go to the Rallye chocolatiers to taste a chocolate creation .
Here's your chance to make a great first impression
Types of chocolates
Dark chocolate : To benefit from the designation of "dark chocolate", it must contain a cocoa content of 50% to 100%. It is mainly composed of cocoa mass, cocoa butter and sugar. Dark chocolate is divided into three types:
- Assembly (mixture of several beans),
- Origin (beans from a single country)
- Grand cru (beans from a single region).
- From domain (beans from a single farm).
100% chocolate contains no sugar, only cocoa paste and butter, the percentage represents the amount of material from the cocoa beans (cocoa powder and cocoa butter combined). The higher its cocoa content, the lower the sugar content, the stronger its intensity.
Raw or unroasted chocolate : Cocoa follows the same transformation processes as for classic chocolate: fermentation, drying, etc. with the exception of roasting or alkalinization. This production method was popularized by the Bean-to-Bar movement. It allows the chocolate maker to reveal softer and more delicate notes, often supplanted by the aromas produced by roasting.
Milk chocolate : In addition to cocoa mass, cocoa butter and sugar, milk chocolate contains powdered milk. Milk fats give chocolate its softness. Depending on its more or less pronounced taste, the milk also impacts the final flavor of the bar. Married with sugar and depending on the working temperature of the chocolate, the milk will give a more or less caramelized taste. Invented in Switzerland, in Vevey, it greatly contributed to the reputation of Swiss chocolate, see the history of chocolate.
“Dark Milk” chocolate : It remains a “dark chocolate” but represents an evolution of classic milk chocolate. It contains a cocoa content between 35% to 99% to which powdered milk has been added. It is less sweet than its milk chocolate counterpart, which allows it to offer deep aromas with very little bitterness.
Unfermented chocolate : This type of chocolate is very rare. The bars are designed with unfermented beans to create a more rustic chocolate. This technique promotes the search for the natural flavors of the unprocessed bean and the preservation of antioxidants.
White chocolate: Without cocoa mass – hence its color – and composed only of cocoa butter, powdered milk and sugar, white chocolate is particularly sweet. Quality white chocolates reveal a much richer texture and notes than we imagine. It is also an extraordinary chocolate for creating unexpected pairings.
Blond chocolate : Discovered by chance after a vat remained too long on the fire, it is caramelized white chocolate. The taste qualities and texture of blond chocolate are also closely linked to the quality of the ingredients, including the quantity of cocoa butter. Very sweet and with a pronounced caramelized flavor, it represents the ultimate indulgence.
Ruby chocolate: The latest invention in the world of chocolate, it seems to be white chocolate to which special cocoa powder has been added. Without flavorings or artificial colorings, its color and its tangy notes come only from cocoa. A sweet and easily accessible chocolate to discover the richness of the world of cocoa.
Origin of beans
Knowing the origin of the beans that make up the chocolate is the key to traceability. As with wine, the smaller the scale of agricultural cultivation, the greater the expression of terroir.
Here is a small glossary to guide you:
- Blend - Blend of beans from several origins.
- Origin - Beans from one country.
- Grand cru - Beans from a single region.
- Estate - Beans from a single farm.
How to taste chocolate
In a temperate and odorless place, take your time and enjoy the pleasure of breaking a square. Then let it melt between the tongue and the palate to release its aromas and discover its flavors.
In order not to saturate your taste buds too much, we recommend starting with dark chocolates, from the lightest to the strongest, in order to detect the most subtle notes. Then, more and more sweet, then move on to those with milk, whites, rubies and finish with the blondes. When the chocolate is mixed with other ingredients (hazelnuts, coffee, etc.), follow the same progression.
Do not hesitate to alternate with a little water or bread to rinse your taste buds if necessary. Also enjoy comparing different chocolates with each other.
It is by tasting and comparing different chocolates that it is easier to describe them. The good news is that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to how a tablet tastes. Everyone has their own sensitivities and personal taste memory. To guide you, it is possible to observe the following elements:
- appearance: color, gloss.
- breakage: clean, hard, tapered.
- the smell on the nose: scented notes (see the different notes below).
- the texture in the mouth: silky, grainy.
- the impressions in the mouth: head, heart and base flavours.
- length in the mouth: persistence of aromas.
Having the ability to recognize the great taste sensations of chocolate can help to better detect the subtlety of aromas. There are three types of taste sensations important to chocolate: acidity, bitterness, and astringency.
- Acidity: a taste coming from micro-organisms (spontaneous yeasts and bacteria) present during the fermentation of chocolate (eg lactoacethic). The physiological consequence is an increase in saliva and ease of swallowing.
- Bitterness: One of the five tastes (along with sweet, sour, salty and umami), which originates from the alkaloids (of natural origin) present in cocoa. The sensation felt is a pungent and harsh flavor in the mouth. Our tolerance for bitterness often increases with age.
- Astringency: Causes a feeling of dryness, roughness, in the mouth. Having as its source the "tannins" of chocolate, similar to wine. It is felt throughout the tasting, especially in the final touch. The physiological consequence is a tightening by contraction of the taste buds.
Each of the three sensations will influence the taste of the chocolate. Distinguishing between them will allow you to determine your preferred assembly. A few more examples of notes that can be present in a chocolate that can help you identify how you feel.
Plants: woody, hay, mushrooms, etc.
Fruity: blackcurrant, plums, strawberry, banana, lemon, apricot, passion fruit, dried fruit, etc.
Floral: lavender, rose, jasmine, etc.
Toasted: coffee, nuts, caramel, etc.
Spicy: pepper, vanilla, peanut, liquorice, cinnamon, etc.
Others: tobacco, smoked, milk, honey, tea, marzipan, etc.
Pairings with chocolate
Chocolate goes with almost everything. It's up to you to try with a glass of wine, a tea, a cheese, an artisan bread, a fruit, a whiskey… A successful pairing consists of a good balance of the flavors of chocolate and its complement. You can let yourself be guided by taste similarities, comparable intensities or even opposite but complementary flavors such as chilli with the sweetness of milk chocolate. After a few tries, the right combination is generally obvious. The two complement each other without competing, even revealing notes that were not present in either of the two before. The game quickly becomes addictive...
How to store chocolate
Over a long period, the tablets are best stored between 15 and 18°C in a dry place away from light. If you plan to taste them in the days or weeks that follow, the temperature can rise to 22°C. The important thing is to avoid sudden variations, especially in an airtight container where condensation can then occur. Like heat, humidity is the enemy of chocolate.
Dark chocolate generally keeps between 12 and 24 months. The other varieties – made with milk, with other ingredients such as fruit – have a shorter shelf life.
Do not keep the chocolate in the fridge! It is too cold and too humid.
The best is of course to eat your tablets as you go and to recommend them!
The production of chocolate
Cocoa is a complex and mysterious fruit that requires several steps to transform it. This transformation requires great know-how from all the players in its production chain around the world.
- Cultivating the cocoa tree : the producing countries are located between the Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn, the ecological zone of the cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao L.), 20°N - 15°N and 15°S - 20°S. The tree begins to produce fruit around the third or fifth year. From there, the pods can be harvested twice a year, for 20 to 75 years depending on the variety.
- Shelling: Still on the farm, after being harvested, the pods are opened to release the beans, which are rich in lipids and covered with a white, sweet pulp. a pod contains 20 to 40 beans.
- Fermentation : The beans are initially removed from the pods, then gathered and covered. The combination of tropical climate, darkness and sugar (the pulp) triggers chemical reactions favored by spontaneous yeasts and bacteria. This process releases ethanol from the glucose present in the pulp and transforms it into acetic acid. As soon as the beans are coated with acetic acids, the final stage of fermentation can begin. They then absorb the acids, which has the result of triggering enzymatic reactions, allowing the release of the first cocoa aromas that are so much sought after. This transformation generally takes between 5 to 7 days. Fermentation techniques vary enormously depending on the country and the financial means of the producers: in the form of a simple pile of beans covered with banana leaves or even closed wooden vats allowing the fermentation to be monitored continuously.
Drying : after fermentation, the beans must be dried in order to reduce the humidity of the beans to avoid any mold during transport, which is often long to the processing countries. For this, farmers spread the beans over large areas to let them dry for several days. Once dry, they will be packed in bags for shipment. Depending on the country, humidity levels, season, drying can take a week. If the farmer has more means or participates in a cooperative, he can also be mechanized.
- Roasting : Once at the factory, the chocolate producer sorts the beans before processing them. Roasting is the last step that will modify the aroma of the bean. It consists of exposing the beans to a temperature varying between 100°C and 140°C for a period varying from half an hour to an hour. This continuous exposure will allow the final enzymatic reactions to take place, giving the beans their popular aromas. Depending on the duration, temperature and size of the bean chosen by the chocolate maker, the roasting will have an influence on the intensity of the cocoa and will reveal more or less toasted notes. It also removes the last traces of moisture present in the beans. Some beans are not roasted but pressed to extract their fat, the cocoa butter.
Shelling and crushing : The cocoa beans are coated with a thin film, called shell, which must be removed. Once shelled, the bean is crushed until the nibs are obtained (the roasted cocoa bean shard then crushed into 2 to 3 millimeter fragments). This step makes it possible to obtain granules of equal size and to get rid of any impurity (germ and embryo) contained in the sap.
- Grinding and Adding Ingredients : The roasted, shelled and crushed beans are then ground to produce cocoa paste which is half butter and half cocoa powder. The dough is then kneaded and gradually the ingredients are added: cocoa butter and sugar. The cocoa butter acts as a binder and influences the texture of the chocolate. Sugar is used to reveal the aromas of chocolate, its dosage is therefore crucial depending on the desired result. At this point, the cocoa mass is a thick, imperfect mass, which requires several iterations of grinding to dehydrate it before conching.
- Conching : This last crucial step consists of heating and stirring the liquid chocolate mass for several hours or days, using a circular basin equipped with two rotating stones. Thanks to the incorporation of air and mechanical heat, this stirring reveals all the aromatic potential of the chocolate, forming a homogeneous and creamy paste. Once this process is complete, the chocolate is cooled to solidify. Conching can take several days depending on the desired result. The result then becomes a matte chocolate, known as “coverage”. It is this chocolate that non-Bean-to-Bar artisans buy to create their products. Tempering and molding: From the “cover” chocolate to molding a bar, it is still necessary to go through the step of tempering the chocolate. To achieve this, the chocolate must be heated and then slightly cooled before reheating it so that it can then be poured into the mould. This last manipulation makes it possible to avoid the presence of crystals in the mixture and ensures the shine of the chocolate once solidified in the desired shape. This step is often performed automatically by a machine called a tempering machine. Old-fashioned tempering on a marble table “le tablage” is a know-how that is being lost and is not suitable for molding larger quantities of chocolate.
The chocolate industry
Today the world of chocolate is represented internationally by a few major players, each having a monopoly on stages of cocoa processing. This distribution of activities has resulted in an industrialization of transformation processes. In fact, in order to benefit from an economy of scale, the companies in charge of processing bring together all the beans without differentiating between their terroir, qualities and varieties by aggregating them during roasting to create a uniform taste. Currently, the vast majority of chocolate produced worldwide responds to this dynamic. This model has three main consequences:
First, an exploitation of cocoa producing countries with large environmental and social externalities. Cocoa producers face extremely low purchase prices per tonne. Currently, a farmer recovers about 6% of the income from a sold tablet. These meager incomes prevent farmers from securing the subsistence minimum, so they are often pushed into deforestation to increase their yield by accessing more fertile land.
Second, a strong concentration of power in the multinationals which makes tracking the beans difficult. By bringing together the beans during the different stages of processing, multinationals make the traceability of products impossible, both for their human and environmental impacts.
Third, the so-called "artisanal" chocolate makers do not transform the beans into chocolate themselves. They use ready-made, so-called couverture chocolate supplied by the same companies that supply industrial chocolate. This limits the diversity of aromas that originate in each terroir and bean.
It is essentially to counter this industrial system and the problems described that the Bean-to-Bar movement was born.
Theobroma cacao, L.
The cocoa tree
In 1753, the cocoa tree entered the European Botanical Herbarium, previously mentioned by other botanists, it has never been fully described (1605 - C. de l'Ecluse, 1700 - JP Tournfort, etc.). The official nomenclature will have to wait for the intervention of C. Von Linné (Linnaeus), the father of modern taxonomy. The Swedish botanist named the tree Theobroma cacao L., meaning "Food for the God" for its religious use in Mesoamerica. It is today described as a small evergreen tree, ranging from 4 to 15 meters in the family Malvaceae and genus Theobroma , and bearing a considerable number of modest white flowers directly on its trunk (cauliflory). Once pollinated, the ovaries produce large, colorful pods, containing between 20 and 40 fat-rich beans covered in a sweet, edible pulp. The gestation period is on average between 3 to 5 years, and the tree reaches its maximum production during its first decade. The cocoa tree is a tree native to South America (Amazon Basin). Today, it is present in many tropical countries (Africa, Asia and Oceania). It naturally needs shade from other trees and a moist environment to grow well. The production per cocoa tree varies from 20 to 60 pods per year and certain varieties of cocoa tree can produce for 75 years. However, productivity tends to decline with aging. The optimum latitude for growing trees is the equatorial belt often referred to as the "cocoa belt", where moist, warm rainforests thrive. The ecological domain extends from 10 to 20°N and from 20 to 10°S, at an optimum altitude of 0 to 700 meters. It grows under the forest canopy, with the exception of some hybrid varieties, which are designed for full sun production. By taste, it is very difficult to distinguish the variety or varieties that make up a chocolate. The terroir, the year of harvest, the manufacturing process and the other ingredients play an essential role in the taste proposition of cocoa. Currently there are 4 varieties of cocoa known to the general public:
- The criollo (the creole), domesticated more than 3000-1500 BC by the Olmecs in the Maracaibo region of Venezuela. It is reserved for aromatic beans which represent 3 to 5% of world production. The pods are pointed and warty in red-violet tones with white, round beans. the beans have sweet, slightly astringent and fruity aromas.
- The Forastero (the foreigner or non-Creole) was domesticated in 1639 by the Spanish Jesuits in the region of Bahia in Brazil. It is used for so-called "Raw" cocoa, which represents 80 to 90% of world production. The pods are round and smooth green or yellow in color with purple, flat beans. the beans have strongly bitter, astringent and tart aromas
- The Nacional where “arriva de babahoyo” (from above) has been domesticated since 1635 in Ecuador. Similar to Forastero, the pods are round and smooth green or yellow in color with purple beans but have a very distinct aroma (jasmine, floral, and orange blossom). It is rare and represents only 1 to 3% of world production. The beans have sweet and floral aromas, not very astringent and bitter.
- the Trinitario , a hybrid of criollo and forastero, which represents 10 to 15% of world production and overlaps the main characteristics of both varieties.
Over the past ten years, the classification of cocoa tree varieties has been completely called into question by the introduction of new genetic techniques. The latter make it possible to trace the DNA of cocoa trees and their geographical origin and not on the simple distinction by physical and taste differences. Thanks to this innovation, a large number of varieties have been identified and some such as Forastero, having too great a genetic diversity, have been fragmented into sub-categories. Today more than 10 groups can be cited: Amelonado, Contamana, Criollo, Curaray, Guiana, Iquitos, Maranon, Nacional, Nanay and Purus. This new diversity is all the more interesting because it offers a wide field of exploration and could be the source of new taste and biological discoveries as described in the article “ The use and domestication of Theobroma cacao during the mid-Holocene in the upper Amazon” (the exploitation and domestication of Theobroma Cacao during the Holocene era in the Upper Amazon). Below is a graph showing the movement of different varieties of cocoa trees.
Cocoa farming systems
Cocoa is a demanding plant, requiring fertile, nutrient-rich soil for pod production. This environment is naturally offered in the humid forests of the tropics, the ecological zone of predilection for the small tree, growing in the shelter of the large trees. When cultivated, it should be installed on old forests or fallow land (agricultural land not used for several years) offering suitable soil. The agricultural practices for growing the cocoa tree vary enormously according to the continents, the countries and the relationship established with the plant. Today, there are two dominant systems with a plurality of variations separating them: the first is monoculture, which is preferred in continents where cocoa is not endemic (Africa and Asia). The second is agroforestry, mainly present in South and Central America where the plant is closely linked to man.
The practice of monoculture (or single crop) is well known in continental latitudes, spreading its fields of wheat or corn as far as the eye can see. For cocoa, the logic is the same, reducing forest areas to the single species of cocoa tree. To do this, farmers often use so-called slash and burn techniques: first, the trees are cut down, then they are burned to be reduced to ashes and used as fertilizer. Finally, the cocoa beans are scattered randomly over the plot. Farmers should plant hybrid varieties, bred for their ability to grow in full sun and without the shade of tall trees, which provides fast and high yields. Monoculture farms are characterized by a large number of cocoa trees per hectare. Pesticides and fertilizers are common, and must often be applied to sustain a high yield of cocoa despite the progressive depletion of nutrients from the humus (top layer of soil) caused directly by this excessive consumption of cocoa trees. In addition, the application of pesticides is often the cause of health and environmental problems, mainly due to the lack of protective equipment and awareness of farmers. Finally, monoculture leads to considerable externalities such as soil degradation and erosion, the prevalence of diseases and pests (harmful insects) in cocoa trees and the loss of biodiversity. It is also the first factor of deforestation for countries such as Ghana and Ivory Coast (world leaders in cocoa), because it requires new fertile land every 15 to 30 years to continue the production of the precious beans.
Agroforestry (or food forest) encompasses a large number of farming systems ranging from simple to complex structure. Researchers Lundgren and Raintree proposed as a definition: "a system, practice or technology of land use, where woody perennial plants (trees and shrubs) are integrated with agricultural crops with animals in the same unit, according to a some form of spatial arrangement or temporal sequence". In general, cocoa agroforestry is characterized by low farmer intervention compared to monoculture. Thus, cocoa is introduced into a pre-existing forest using selective cutting and reproducing its natural ecological niche.As the cocoa tree grows, the cocoa farmer will continue to cut them allowing access to nutrients and light while maintaining the other forest plants.This type of agricultural structure has an immense potential through its ability to diversify farmers' incomes (harvests of secondary products) and food sources while maintaining forest ecosystem services (nutrient recycling, water filtration, carbon capture, etc.). In addition, this agricultural system solves many of the challenges caused by monoculture: A cocoa introduced into a mature system that does not degrade the soil; The bean tree benefits directly from the exchange and recycling of nutrients by other species; Creating perennial plantations that can thrive for centuries. The richness of its food forests lies in the biodiversity it shelters, which allows these forests to resist pests and diseases and therefore reduce or even stop the use of pesticides and fertilizers.
The new classification of cocoa varieties
Forastero Amelonado stands out for its characteristic dark purple beans. It has a fairly high fat content and has a slight bitterness, accompanied by aromas of coffee, wood and spices, especially cinnamon and vanilla. Its name is inspired by its pod which has the shape of a round melon. It is mainly found in Guyana, suggesting an eastern Amazonian origin. Although it has also been present in West Africa, it tends to gradually disappear due to the predominance of hybrid cocoa trees in the region. However, the Amelonado stands out for its great prolificacy. More information on the Terroir.
Trinitario is a variety appreciated for its unique combination of characteristics inherited from Criollo and Forastero cocoa trees. Native mainly to the regions of Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela and some Central American countries, the Trinitario is known for its medium to large sized cocoa beans and its diversity of flavors. The Trinitario is distinguished by the color of its its pods, ranging from dark purple to bright red, as well as by their slightly elongated shape. They are often appreciated for their complex aroma and varied taste notes. The Trinitario offers a palette of flavors that can include notes of tropical fruits, berries, flowers, spices and even nuts. This cocoa is appreciated by chocolatiers around the world because of its versatility and its potential to create high quality chocolates. Cultivation of Trinitario requires special attention, as it requires specific growing conditions to fully express its unique characteristics. The Trinitario is a cross between the Criollo and Forastero, offering better disease resistance while retaining some. More information on the Terroir.
The Criollo - Predominantly present in Venezuela, the Criollo cocoa tree is distinguished by its single vertical branch. Its pods are warty, which means that they are not smooth, but have growths. They are yellow and often turn green or red. Its seeds are large, but rarely exceed 50 per pod, reducing its chances of reproduction. Criollo requires a short fermentation time and rapid low-temperature roasting. Not very bitter, it offers a delicate flavor. Its culture is very old, dating back to pre-Columbian times. It was very popular with Mesoamericans, who appreciated its taste so fine that it could be savored pure. The Criollo has survived for centuries, but its cultivation is complicated, which has made it somewhat obsolete. Its yields are low, but also fluctuating, which makes farmers who choose it take risks. Its constitution is fragile, in particular because of the thin skin of its pods. Its fragility leads to its rarity, but the finesse of its aromas means that it remains a highly coveted cocoa. More information on the Terroir.
The Nacional is renowned for its finesse and its purple-red beans, as well as a pale white which darkens during fermentation. The tree is medium in size and produces yellow-orange colored oval pods when ripe. Naturally sweet and not very bitter, the Nacional has a relatively low fat content. It offers a unique aromatic bouquet blending floral notes of violet, lilac, jasmine and orange blossom. According to its DNA, the Nacional is a distinct subspecies of the Amazonian varieties and is unrelated to the Criollo. It probably originated in the foothills of the Andes along the tributaries of the upper Rio Marañon where it still thrives today. Nacional is considered the traditional Ecuadorian cocoa, although it is also present in Peru. However, its vulnerability to diseases makes its cultivation difficult and it tends to be replaced by more resistant varieties. Attempts to cultivate it in other regions have met with only limited success. Trees grown outside Ecuador rarely produce the same aromatic finesse as in its native territory. More information on the Terroir.
Contamana - is related to Cacao Nacional, but it is distinguished by its increased robustness and its small purple seeds which offer a slight bitterness. Its flavor evokes a complex mixture of dried brown fruits and flowers. Discovered by FJ Pound in 1937 in the Ucayali River Valley in Peru, Contamana was sought after by Trinidad Department of Agriculture agronomist Pound for its ability to resist witches' broom disease. This disease, caused by the fungus Crinipellis perniciosa, particularly affects cacao Nacional, which is very susceptible to it. This disease can occur at any time and persist for years, stimulating uncontrolled growth of axillary buds. Pound was delighted to discover that the Contamana indeed possessed the ability to control this witches' broom disease. More information on the Terroir.
Curaray takes its name from the eponymous river located in Peru. It has similarities with other varieties from the same Amazon region, such as Nacional, Contamana and Iquitos. Its genetic structure shares similarities with those of Nacional and Criollo. However, Curaray is specific to a limited area in the Amazon region of Ecuador, unlike its counterparts which span larger regions. The precise characteristics of Curaray have not yet been sufficiently studied, and its production remains limited. Research could be considered to explore the possibilities of genetic manipulations and hybridizations in order to maximize its potential. More information on the Terroir.
Guiana has a striking particularity: it has a large number of small seeds, which is often considered a defect by producers, because it makes it difficult to exploit it on a large scale. However, despite this, the Guiana offers a taste of great finesse, with a slight bitterness. Its potent aromatic intensity is attributed to its high purine content, an organic aromatic compound found in cocoa that imparts delicious flavors. Guiana cocoa is mainly found around the basins of the Camopi, Oyapok and Tanpok rivers in the south-east of French Guiana. It is known for its genetic singularity and its exceptional robustness. Indeed, it has a remarkable resistance to many diseases, including the dreaded witches' broom disease. More information on the Terroir. More information on the Terroir.
The Iquitos and Nanay - Cocoa Iquitos and Nanay both have their origins in a common region of Peru. Iquitos is located in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest, while the Nanay is a river that flows into the Peruvian Amazon. These regions are characterized by their extreme density, providing an ideal environment for cocoa cultivation. Iquitos and Nanay cocoa are distinguished by their rather bitter character. Their beans, flat and purple or violet in color, contain tannins that give structure and depth to the chocolate made from them. However, these cocoas require particularly careful treatment, including prolonged fermentation and a higher roasting temperature, in order to temper their natural bitterness, acidity and astringency. The result is exceptional finesse. When they do not benefit from these additional treatments, these Amazonian cocoas fail to produce quality confectionery, but are destined instead for low-end products. They are renowned for their vigor and their resistance to disease. These cocoa trees can grow wild or be cultivated on a large scale. Thus, two types of producers cultivate them: those who favor quantity and those who prefer to restrict their production to guarantee quality. The difference lies mainly in fermentation and roasting, crucial processes to fully reveal their aromatic potential. More information on the Terroir.
Marañón comes from the Marañón Canyon, a region where the exploitation of cocoa trees is widespread, giving rise to a cocoa renowned for its high quality. The Marañón has long been home to wild cacao trees that have thrived in this valley. The first mentions of bean harvesting date back to the beginning of the 20th century. Over time, these cocoa trees have been cultivated and selected to obtain the best results. The highest quality trees are isolated and serve as the basis for creating new plantations. Operators are extremely vigilant to detect any appearance of diseases, which they eliminate immediately in order to prevent any spread. They favor treatments that are as natural as possible, which leads to very productive farms offering excellent quality products. The traditional exploitation of the Marañón requires a large workforce. When the protocols are respected, the pods are harvested manually and carefully selected. Nearly half of the beans are white in color (at least 40%). The entire harvest is then processed in the most natural way possible. The beans are laid out on tables dedicated to fermentation and are regularly turned over by hand before being dried in the sun, under tarpaulins. When these steps are followed, we obtain beans of exceptional quality, which are distinguished by their fruity and floral taste once transformed into chocolate. More information on the Terroir.
The Puru Puru originates from Brazil, near the Rio Purús, in the region of the cities of Maracaju and Boca do Acre, as well as the Arapixi reserve. It mainly grows wild in these lands, which are among the most fertile in all of the Amazon, characterized by alluvial and clayey soil. However, the scattering of trees makes picking extremely complex. Pickers must travel by canoe on the Rio Purús. They dock to harvest the beans from a few trees, then get back on board their boat and paddle to reach other strategic places where other cocoa trees grow. Due to this laborious harvesting method, the productivity of its operation is very low. Puru Puru cocoa is renowned for its intense color. Its pods are relatively small and have a dominant yellow color. It offers fairly pronounced and above all extremely rich spicy flavors. It is used to produce chocolates of exceptional quality, although often expensive due to the intensive labor required to harvest it. More information on the Terroir.
CCN51 Cacao is a hybrid cocoa variety developed in the 1960s in Ecuador from the Theobroma cacao L Trinitario genetic group. Its name refers to its colección castro naranjal identification number 51, and it became popular due to its high productivity. CCN51 cocoa beans are medium to large in size and have a dark brown color. This variety stands out for its high yield, making it an attractive choice for farmers looking to increase their production. However, CCN51 cocoa has a few characteristics that differentiate it from traditional varieties. It is often described as having a more astringent, acidic, and less complex flavor, with more pronounced cocoa notes and fewer aromatic undertones. More information on the Terroir.
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Geographical and genetic differentiation of populations of the Amazonian chocolate tree (Theobroma cacao L)
Juan C. Motamayor, Philippe Lachenaud, Jay Wallace da Silva e Mota, Rey Loor, David N. Kuhn, J. Steven Brown, Raymond J. Schnell
Today more than 10 groups can be cited: Amelonado, Contamana, Criollo, Curaray, Guiana, Iquitos, Maranon, Nacional, Nanay and Purus. This new diversity is all the more interesting because it offers a wide field of exploration and could be the source of new taste and biological discoveries as described in the article “ The use and domestication of Theobroma cacao during the mid-Holocene in the upper Amazon” (the exploitation and domestication of Theobroma Cacao during the Holocene era in the Upper Amazon). Below is a graph showing the movement of different varieties of cocoa trees.
Photo, Forastero taken in Ghana in the NW district
The shapes & colors of cocoa
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Cupuaçu ( theobroma grandiflorum. sp ) Porto Seguro, Bahia, Brazil.
Trinitario taken in Ghana
Trinitario taken in São Tomé
Forastero taken in Ghana
Forastero Amelonado taken in Ghana
The History of Cocoa
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A brief history of chocolate
The domestication of cocoa
Cocoa beans have many names: "Kakaw(a)" (Tzeltal dialect), from "Kagaw" (Sayula populca dialect). Yet all describe the fruits of a plant native to the Amazon basin. The history of cocoa has been closely linked to man for more than three millennia, several testimonies and artefacts demonstrate this relationship throughout the history of the American Indian peoples (Olmec, Maya, Toltecs and Aztecs). Indeed, the consumption of products derived from pods by man can be traced back to more than 1500 BC in Mesoamerica. For example, in the Ulua Valley (Honduras), residues in clay pots revealed that the Olmecs fermented cocoa pulp to produce alcohol and would have introduced the plant themselves to Central America.
The encounter between cocoa and the old continent
At the beginning of the 16th century, crossing the Atlantic, the precious beans found themselves on the old continent. They are presented by the conquistador H. Cortés to the Spanish court as a rare and exotic delicacy. The initial recipe remained close to the preparation of the Aztecs; the beans were ground and mixed with spices except for the addition of sweeteners. The divine drink was served only in certain European courts and in wealthy families and remained a rare privilege. It was not until the 19th century that a series of innovations and mechanization made it possible to offer beans to a larger part of the population. In 1828, the chemist C. Van Houten, aided by the invention of the steam engine, developed the hydraulic press to separate cocoa butter from the solid mass. The process was refined by the chemical introduction of alkaline salts, intended to cancel out the natural bitterness of cocoa. The end product of this transformation was later called " Dutch cocoa ". The powder was soluble and digestible, opening the doors to new applications outside of beverages. In 1847, in England, Fry's marketed the first solid bar under the name " Delicious Chocolate ", followed two years later by the Cadbury brothers. This new popularity seems timid compared to the demand it triggered when P. Daniel, in Switzerland (Vevey) mixed cocoa paste, sweeteners and condensed milk (Farine Lacté) invented by H. Nestlé, thus creating the now famous milk chocolate in 1875 and offered by his company Peter-Cailler. The quality was further improved when in 1879 the conching process was introduced by R. Lindt, providing superior consistency of cocoa butter in chocolate, for a melt-in-the-mouth result. In addition, it allowed the manufacture of the second most popular form: Dark Chocolate. The invention of chocolate, as we know it, cannot be attributed to a single inventor, but to the aggregation of several ingenious processes. Each innovation has thus contributed to the growing appetite of Westerners for beans.
Chocolate brands were often marketed with little or no information about the tropical provenance of the beans, highlighting imagery such as the dairy cow (Cadbury's), the Swiss mountains (Nestlé), the golden rabbit (Lindt) , etc. However, behind these Western images hides an industry that extends over the equatorial belt. It is important to emphasize that "Dutch cocoa", "Guandjua", or even milk and dark chocolate are all products derived from the exploitation of the land and the labor that cultivates cocoa.
Colonial expansion and cocoa
At the beginning of the 19th century, the demand for chocolate increased considerably. In South America and the Caribbean, the offer was dominated by Portugal and Spain, whose culture came from the American colonies (Venezuela, Brazil and Ecuador, etc.). Nevertheless, their production suffered significant losses due to labor shortages, disease and transatlantic transport. In 1822, after Brazilian independence, the Portuguese introduced the Forastero Amelonado cocoa variety from Bahia (Brazil) to São Tomé and Principe (West Africa) and later to the Fernando Po Islands (Bioko - Gulf of Guinea ) to maintain the production level. This attempt to introduce cocoa to the African continent was accelerated by the Portuguese system of " Rocças ", a slave plantation already in place on the islands, dating from the sugar cane industry. Moreover, the hardiness of the Forastero Amelonado variety made it a better candidate for expansion in Africa compared to Criollo. Later, the descendants of this tree will be the first to germinate in mainland Africa, starting with Ghana.
Following this logic, the propagation of the tree continued in the colonial space and on all the continents. Cocoa found a cradle, where the land touched the tropics, and where the colonial powers had dropped anchor: in America (Trinidad, Antilles, Guadeloupe, Martinique, etc.), in Asia (Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and India), Oceania (Java, New Caledonia, Samoa, etc.) and Africa (Gold coast (Ghana and Nigeria), Ivory Coast, Congo, Gabon, Madagascar, Cameroon, etc.). During this period, the structure of the plantations was mainly divided into two systems: on the one hand, a structure characterized by heavy industrial operations carried out by private or public Western companies. It is found in Ecuador, Brazil and São Tomé. These structures often involve slaves or forced labor (eg " Rocças "). On the other side, a structure characterized by small local and independent farmers, often landowners, found on the Gold Coast, Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire.
In 1900, the intensification of the cocoa industry is illustrated by the growth of Portuguese and British production, led by the African territories of São Tomé and Principe and the Gold Coast, which produced 17,000 tons each. Fourteen years later (1914), the island reached 35,000 tons (peak production), and the Gold Coast exceeded 45,000 tons. In the 1920s, the world production of beans reached 357,000 tons, of which 56% was attributed to Africa, led by the Gold Coast, which alone produced 150,000 tons. Around the 1940s, the West African region became the largest producer with 60% of total production, with South America retaining only 30% of this production.
The modern era of cocoa, Africa a new cradle
In 1960, the West African region observed its first contraction in the production of dried cocoa beans. This event is concomitant with the wave of accession to independence of African nations. Even if the reconquest of their autonomy took place in different forms, in all cases, it marked the spring of a telluric transformation of the social, political and economic fabric of the country. Waves of nationalization, land redistribution and restructuring of international relations took place. In this turmoil, the cocoa industry too is changing considerably. Since the 21st century, it has taken three decades for West Africa to recover and exceed its production capacity of the 1960s. The region has seen its production flourish from 1.37 million tonnes to 3.4 million tons annually in 2018, providing more than 70% of global production. In 2011, cocoa beans were the number one agricultural export from Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Sierra Leone. Today, the market structure has been redefined. Nevertheless, the asymmetry of the past can still be observed on the distribution of the value chain. Low-value activities, such as production, are still carried out by Southern nations, while more profitable activities, such as processing (Cargill, Olam, etc.), manufacturing (Nestlé, Mars, etc.) and retail sales (Walmart, Carrefour, etc.) are carried out by companies from the North. In addition, more than 50% of African production is based on monoculture, which ravages forests and remains the cause of great disruption in food production on a local scale. The cocoa from its regions is generally destined for large manufacturers with little attention to its quality, its terroir and the producing hands. Consequently, despite the phenomenal large quantity of beans produced by West Africa, it is unfortunately underrepresented in the world of Bean-to-Bar. In parallel with this African expansion, South and Central America have lost the leading role in industrial cocoa, maintaining with difficulty between 10 and 15% of world production. However, benefiting from an ancestral cocoa culture and a fabulous genetic biodiversity, these regions have become the epicenter of aromatic cocoa, now coveted by many chocolate makers, especially since the emergence of the Bean-to-Bar. In addition, the deep knowledge of Theobroma cacao has encouraged the development of perennial plantations through practices such as agroforestry, already used long before the modern era. We are also witnessing the emergence of the Asian continent. Similar to Africa, cocoa was introduced by the colonial powers (British and Dutch) to its former colonies in South Asia (Indonesia, India, Papua New Guinea) between 1820 and 1890. These countries saw their production is growing slowly, but some are displaying global ambitions such as Indonesia declaring that it wants to be the leader in the next decade. q
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Abdulai, I. et al. (2018) 'Characterization of cocoa production, income diversification and shade tree management along a climate gradient in Ghana', PLOS ONE . Edited by C. Quinn, 13(4), p. e0195777. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0195777.
Acheampong, EO et al. (2019) 'Deforestation is driven by agricultural expansion in Ghana's forest reserves', Scientific African , 5, p. e00146. doi:10.1016/j.sciaf.2019.e00146.
Andres, C. et al. (2016) 'Cocoa in Monoculture and Dynamic Agroforestry', in Lichtfouse, E. (ed.) Sustainable Agriculture Reviews . Cham: Springer International Publishing (Sustainable Agriculture Reviews), p. 121–153. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-26777-7_3.
Arhin, AA et al. (2020) 'Prospects of Agroforestry as Climate-smart Agricultural Strategy in Cocoa Landscapes: Perspectives of Farmers in Ghana', Sustainable Agriculture Research , 10(1), p. 20. doi:10.5539/sar.v10n1p20.
Armengot, L. et al. (2016) 'Cacao agroforestry systems have higher return on labor compared to full-sun monocultures', Agronomy for Sustainable Development , 36(4), p. 70. doi:10.1007/s13593-016-0406-6.
Fontaine, CA and Huetz-Adams, F. (2020) Cocoa Barometer . International Cocoa Initiative.
Higgs, C. (2013) Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa. Athens; Chicago: Ohio University Press Chicago Distribution Center [distributor. Available at: http://public.ebookcentral.proquest.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=1743602 (Accessed: 1 February 2022).
Jacobi, J. et al. (2014) 'Carbon stocks, tree diversity, and the role of organic certification in different cocoa production systems in Alto Beni, Bolivia', Agroforestry Systems , 88(6), pp. 1117–1132. doi:10.1007/s10457-013-9643-8.
Kongor, JE et al. (2018a) 'Constraints for future cocoa production in Ghana', Agroforestry Systems , 92(5), pp. 1373–1385. doi:10.1007/s10457-017-0082-9.
Kroeger, A. et al. (2017) Eliminating Deforestation from the Cocoa Supply Chain . Washington: World Bank. Available at: https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/26549.
Lundgren, BO and Raintree, JB (1983) 'Sustained Agroforestry', ICRAF . ICRAF and Senior Research Scientist (Ecclogical Anthropology).
Nair, PKR (1985) 'Classification of agroforestry systems', Agroforestry Systems , 3(2), pp. 97–128. doi:10.1007/BF00122638.
Neither, W. et al. (2020a) 'Cocoa agroforestry systems versus monocultures: a multi-dimensional meta-analysis', Environmental Research Letters , 15(10), p. 104085. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/abb053.
Schroth, G. et al. (2016) 'Vulnerability to climate change of cocoa in West Africa: Patterns, opportunities and limits to adaptation', Science of The Total Environment , 556, pp. 231–241. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.03.024.
Wessel, M. and Quist-Wessel, PMF (2015) 'Cocoa production in West Africa, a review and analysis of recent developments', NJAS - Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences , 74–75, pp. 1–7. doi:10.1016/j.njas.2015.09.001.
the Chocolate Portal by the Navelina Company web "All about the cocoa tree" https://www.portail-du-chocolat.fr/guides/les-cacaoyers
Illustrations of cocoa pods and information: Cirad.fr
National and international institutes, organizations and key players in the world of Bean-to-Bar chocolates
Institutes, organizations and key national and international players in the world of cocoa