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Part 2 - Come See Special Cacao

Part 2 - Come See Special Cacao


Hello and good day!

Most cacao seeds are purple on the inside. After you ferment and dry them, the purple interior becomes brown.

In its raw state, cacao is very bitter and acidic and is essentially inedible.

During fermentation you begin to perceive familiar chocolate aromas, but the nice smells are interspersed with the pungent odors of vinegar and alcohol.

Cacao only becomes truly recognizable as the base ingredient for chocolate after fermentation, drying, and roasting are complete.

The purple in cacao is caused by tannins. Tannins create a dry, sour, puckering sensation in your mouth.

Red wine grapes are very tannic as well. Similar to wine grapes, cacao can be classified into genetic varieties.

Merlot is made from Merlot grapes.

Zinfandel is made from Zinfandel grapes, etc.

The fundamental flavor profiles of cacao and grapes are coded in their genomes.

Additional influencing factors on flavor are terroir, weather, crop maintenance, post-harvest processing, and the wine or chocolate making process.

For many years, the paradigm for understanding cacao genetics was very simple.

There were three main varieties.

Criollo (the double L is pronounced as a Y) was considered a pure, fine flavored cacao that was delicate, finnicky, and could only grow under certain very specific conditions.

  Forastero was a hardy work horse cacao that was disease resistant and produced high yields but made generic and uninspiring chocolate.

The third variety was a mix of the two and was referred to as Trinitario.

Prior to the turn of the 20th century, there was a fourth genetic variety in the paradigm called Nacional, but it was thought to have been completely decimated by a disease called Witch's Broom.

Nacional was also a delicate and fine flavored cacao, similar to Criollo.

Venezuela is famous in industry circles for Criollo cacao and Ecuador was traditionally famous for Nacional.

Over the last twenty-five years, as computers have become efficient tools for mapping genomes, the paradigm for classifying cacao genetics has become much more complex.

Cacao geneticists now specify somewhere between twenty and thirty unique varieties, and new varieties are discovered every year.

Nacional and Criollo are still counted as uniquely identifiable strains.

Forastero is being used less and less as the catch all name for everything that isn't fine flavored.

This is especially the case because many of the work horse cacao plants grown in large quantities are industrially bred hybrid plants.

Many of these varieties have names straight out of a laboratory, CCN-51 for example.

Industrially bred plants tend to be chosen for disease resistance, high yields, short tree height that makes harvesting easier, and briefer times from planting to maturation.

They're almost never bred for flavor.


One of the very interesting and charming characteristics of Criollo cacao in Venezuela is that its seeds are white on the inside.

The white signifies an absence of tannins.

It also signifies an absence of other flavor notes such as fruit and floral. White seed Criollo cacao is cherished for its extreme delicateness.

Nacional was a fine flavored purple seed cacao prized for its intensity and exoticness.

Here is what is so interesting about white seeded cacao. Inbreeding causes it. It is a genetic defect, like albinism, that occurs when family members mate with each other generation after generation after generation for hundreds or thousands of years.

It is a delicious defect, but a defect none the less.

Geneticists now understand that white seeds appear in populations of cacao trees when they have grown in isolation for long periods of time.

Picking up where I left off yesterday, my dad, Dan, and my brother Brian, followed Noe out onto his farm.

See the first photo above. That is Noe walking from his house out to his cacao orchards.

My dad and brother followed behind him.

The humid heat immediately pulled sweat from their skin. Mosquitos swarmed all over.

It was quiet except for farm animals, the buzz of insects, and the sound of footsteps crunching over decomposing leaves and husks that had been left to rot into the soil.

Noe shares land with his parents and his brothers. Altogether, they own around 30 acres of property.

Along the way, Noe stopped to point out his trout pond. He cut fresh coconuts down from coconut trees so that Dan and Brian could taste the water.

The group came across Noe's brother cutting down banana bunches.

Noe waved for his brother to follow along. They crossed an open plane where cows were at pasture. On the other side of the grass field, they entered into a shadowy, densely thicketed section of the farm.

Noe barked off orders to his younger brother Juan to cut down cacao that was not quite ripe yet.Juan followed orders as younger brothers usually do. He pulled the machete out of his belt holster and began hacking.

Dan and Brian heard the crack of the stem and the plop of the pod hitting the ground after falling from the tree. They saw the puff of black and orange leaves floating up from the ground when the pod struck.

"Over here," said Noe. He motioned for Dan and Brian to squat down next to a thick tree trunk with a flat top.

Juan walked towards the group with an armful of green cacao pods. Noe pulled out a long switch blade from the front pocket of his button up shirt.

He set one of the cacao pods on the trunk and ran his blade fast from the top of the pod through the bottom, slicing the pod and the seeds inside cleanly in half.

He set the two sides next to each other on top of the trunk and then looked at Dan and Brian.

"Do you notice anything interesting about this?" asked Noe.

"Some of it is white," said Dan. Brian translated.

Noe smiled, showing his crooked and missing teeth. He put his hand on Dan's shoulder and shook the shoulder firmly as a congratulation.

"Very good Dan. Our cacao in the district of Huarango has white seeds. This is uncommon," said Noe.

''What does it mean?" asked Dan. Brian translated.

"I don't know exactly. It has always been like this. This is the native cacao of the canyon. It is a jewel of nature. We don't know why it's like this, but we believe that it is special," said Noe.

I am running out of space for today and will continue on with this story tomorrow.

But before signing off, I'd like to say one or two sentences about adventures.

I am a fan and proponent of going on adventures.

You never know what you might find and that is a big part of what makes life so much fun.

Thank you so much for time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!


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