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Posts Tagged ‘Cacao’

The Many Different Faces of Cacao

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008
A Ripe Cacao Pod

A Ripe Cacao Pod

Anyone who has sampled cacao from different producers is often surprised at just how different one cacao bean can taste from another. Many people are even more surprised to learn that there are at least three different types of cacao beans grown worldwide: the Criollo, the Forastero, and the Trinitario. To even further complicate things, any number of factors can also create huge taste (and nutritional) differences between one crop and another: soil, water, climate, cultivation method, whether or not fertilizers are used, etc.

I was browsing some news articles this morning and came across an interesting story about some of these taste differences and particularly how the different varieties of cacao affect their taste.

  • Criollo. The Criollo variety of cacao bean is considered by many to be the most prized of all cacao beans, if not the most rare and difficult to come by (only about 10% of cacao worldwide is Criollo).
  • Forastero. The Forastero cacao bean is by far the most commonly grown bean in the world (about 80%) due to its hardiness and high yield. In many areas of the world, particularly west Africa, this is the only variety of cacao that is grown.
  • Trinitario. The Trinitario cacao bean is actually a hybrid of the Criollo and Forastero, and accounts for about 10% of the worldwide cacao crop. It is valued by farmers and cacao connoisseurs as having the delicate, not overly bitter flavor and aroma of the Criollo bean, while still being hardy enough for large-scale cultivation and disease resistance. Much of the world’s finest chocolate is Criollo, Trinitario, or a combination of the two.

The cacao beans sold on are all bought from a single, organic-only coop in the Dominican Republic. About 80% of their cacao crop is Trinitario beans and the other 20% is Criollo. Our beans are 100% raw, organic and fair trade certified. So, the next time you bite into a piece of chocolate, take a moment to consider just how complicated and amazing that little piece of candy really is!

Chocolate: Some Definitions

Friday, October 10th, 2008

So we often get a lot of questions asking to define some of the common terminology when dealing with cocoa. “What’s a cacao nib?”, “What’s the difference between cacao and cocoa?”. Well, it just so happens the International Herald Tribune published a brief but informative article today that we just found that accurately answers a few of these questions. Take a look at that article here.

  • What is cocoa? Made by pulverizing material left after part of the cacao fat has been removed from ground nibs. Cacao fat content is between 10 percent and 22 percent by weight.
  • Cacao Nibs. Made by removing the shell from cacao beans. May be processed by heating or adding other ingredients, such as sodium bicarbonate or citric acid.
  • Cocoa Liquor. An ingredient in many types of chocolate. Prepared by finely grinding cacao nibs. Contains between 50 percent and 60 percent by weight of cacao fat. Can be adjusted using cacao fat and cocoas, such as breakfast cocoa, regular cocoa or lowfat cocoa.
  • Lowfat Cocoa. Same as cocoa but cacao fat is less than 10 percent.
  • Milk Chocolate. Made by mixing and grinding chocolate liquor with at least one dairy ingredient, such as milk, and one type of sweetener. Contains not less than 10 percent by weight of chocolate liquor and not less than 3.39 percent by weight of milkfat.
  • Cacao or Cocoa? Generally speaking, cacao is used to describe the whole, intact bean while cocoa generally is used to refer to the powder, liquor, and butter. However, both terms can be used interchangeably since they are technically both the same plant.

Welcome to Chocolate Country

Monday, October 6th, 2008
Chocolate Country DVD

Chocolate Country DVD


It’s time to talk about movies again, but not just any old movie.  Chocolate Country, a documentary short by Namshub Films, follows the struggles and succeses of our organic cacao cooperative La Red Guaconejo in it’s fight to outdo savvy businessmen and bring its product directly to the shelves of stores like ours for a fair price and the absolute highest quality.  This is a huge accomplishment for the cooperative, as I’ve never seen a film so successfully illuminate not only the struggles of cacao farmers to break the “old boys network” status quo, but also demonstrating the natural beauty of the landscapes and lifestyle inherent to organic farming in the Dominican Republic.

I found out about the film several months back while talking about our store’s cacao project with a fellow Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, and after talking with the film’s producer Robin, I saw a screening and couldn’t wait for the October due date for the release of the film.  DVD copies are available now through their website, but currently only for non-profits looking to show the film publicly.  Hopefully copies will be available soon for us foodies to buy, as it really creates that terroir connection so important in preparing the highest quality foods containing cocoa powder and cacao beans.

You can watch a 2 minute-long trailer of the film by clicking here.