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Cocoa cultivar research - Reexploring a heritage of fine chocolate

 
Amedean Messan
pollinator
Posts: 928
Location: Melbourne FL, USA - Pine and Palmetto Flatland, Sandy and Acidic
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I have to admit that as an American my chocolate flavor experience has been greatly limited to Hersey's candy bars sadly enough. Lately I have been fascinated with the idea of growing my own chocolate after having toured a bio-dome green house near by growing cocao which is definitely unique here (zone 7). I know this is a wild and impractical idea but I don't care really because this stimulates my inner curiosity for natures novelties.



Anyways, for any people interested I stumbled on some interesting summarized tidbits regarding some chocolate history. If you have access to academic databases you can get more information. A good place to start examining the wide flavor profiles is in Trinidad. Because of the decline in market value of chocolate, many of the old farming families who maintained their strains are selling off their farms or moving away from the industry. This along with other factors does put the invaluable collections of genetics at risk. Recently in the region there has been a push to revive the islands declining fine chocolate industry but this program is still early in place. If my sources are correct Trinidad is a hotbed of fine chocolates thanks to the diligent work of Dr. F.J. Pound who in the mid 20th century collected a variety of flavor profiles from regional exploration of cocoa genetics and established gene-bank plantations. I imagine before the Spanish invasion there were all sorts of cultivars but today we are generally limited to three main groups (Criollo, Forastero, Trinitario).

I have found a very nice searchable database of Trinidadian chocolate characteristics by farm here:
http://www.trinitario-cacao.org/

A really amazing cocoa discovery of a rare plant recently found in Peru hidden near a mine in the mountains:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/12/dining/12chocolate.html

University of the West Indies (Trinidad) Cocoa Research Unit - Possibly the best in the world
http://sta.uwi.edu/cru/index.asp
 
Fred Morgan
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Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
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Interesting stuff - I actually have both cultivated and wild cacao on our properties. There is a big push in our area to start making cacao a market crop again, since they have developed strains that resist fungus, which was the problem before.

Most of the locals still remember how to make their own chocolate from the beans.
 
Amedean Messan
pollinator
Posts: 928
Location: Melbourne FL, USA - Pine and Palmetto Flatland, Sandy and Acidic
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It seems corporations have done a fantastic job at limiting marketability of small farm sustainable chocolate processing. Its amazing you share this initiative for reestablishing cocoa as a cash crop for small farms because I was looking into small scale processing earlier and found a couple interesting videos that explain some of the processing required. One problem I looked into is that the market value for cocoa bean (unprocessed) is little over 2 thousand U.S. dollars PER METRIC TON (link on bottom of page) with the majority of cocoa coming from farms that facilitate child labor and other cruel cheap labor.

It does not take much math to understand how the middlemen (corporations) are making a killing with chocolate bars selling for 1 dollar per pound in comparison to cocoa powder which is roughly 8 dollars per pound. With 2204 pounds metric per ton, the middlemen are potentially making 6 times the return investment (roughly more or less). Because sugar is much cheaper, chocolate bars (40 percent sugar) use less cocoa and so the revenue for chocolate bars are higher.




Cocoa price index:
http://www.indexmundi.com/commodities/?commodity=cocoa-beans
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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