A big thank you to Susie Wyshak of FoodStarter for this great review of her experience in tasting our new HCP Heirlooms.
February 5, 2017 by Susie
What if all wine, coffee or beer tasted the same?Oh yes, there’s a time and place for the kind of predictability you get from a familiar taste (and / or buzz) experience.
But just as wine and coffee and beer have evolved to be all about taste and terroir, so is chocolate—thanks to the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund (HCP).
A group of chocolate industry veterans started the HCP in a quest to save interestingly flavored cacao varieties from going extinct, much as Slow Food’s Ark of Taste does the same for other foods around the world. Like many of these efforts to save heirloom foods, this project has some great side effects not only for craft chocolate lovers but for farmers in cacao-growing regions.
Heirloom designation rewards cacao farmers for cultivating rare and interesting strains of cacao for which they could make a much higher price vs. growing the opposite: “generic” tasting beans designed for the commodity market.
And, making cacao a more lucrative crop increases the chance younger generations will want to stay local and make a living as growers.
Heirloom cacao designation is for the creme de la creme.Growers who believe their cocoa beans offer a flavor profile beyond the usual can apply for evaluation for possible heirloom cacao designation.
They put their beans into the hands of experts from the likes of Guittard Chocolate (family-owned chocolate makers since the 1800s)……..READ MORE on FOODSTARTER!
Excerpt from The Guardian Jan 30, 2017:
An international team of scientists claims finally to have cracked one of the most common consumer conundrums: why don’t tomatoes taste like they used to? Professor Antonio Granell, a research professor at the Spanish National Research Council who co-authored the report, said the aim of the project had been simple.
“This study came out of the general complaint that modern tomato varieties – the kind that you find in supermarkets – have lost that typical tomato taste,” he said. “We decided to look at the basis for this loss of flavour in modern commercial varieties; you can still find that flavour in traditional varieties that are grown on a small scale locally.”
Over various years and sessions, researchers then isolated the 13 volatile compounds responsible for flavour and found that they were present at good levels in tomatoes judged favourably by the panel.
The compounds’ absence from modern varieties suggests flavour was inadvertently sacrificed as the industry sought to maximise yields and resistance to pests and disease. The team also found the 100 genes necessary to ensuring the high levels of the taste compounds that occur in traditional tomato varieties.
“We were trying to see what had happened in programs to ‘improve’ tomatoes,” said Granell. “After the second world war, seed companies started to worry about producing more to feed people. The principal aim was to increase production, and it’s very difficult to control flavour character in an ‘improvement’ program.
“The flavour got lost because people didn’t know what the molecular and genetic bases were, so they couldn’t apply them. It was because they focused on quantity, productivity and resistance. What we’ve discovered is that they basically lost these volatile compounds that we’ve identified in this study.”
How does this apply to chocolate? The same exact thing is happening to cacao varieties – the emphasis has been on productivity and disease resistance not flavor. At the HCP, we want to make sure that traditional types of cacao trees (whose beans are the ingredient from which chocolate is made) do not disappear to be replaced with high producing but no flavor hybrids.
JOIN US in the battle for cacao bio diversity and flavor before its too late and all chocolate tastes like cardboard.
February 1 2017 – The Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund (HCP) is delighted to announce that the cacao trees of BFREE Demonstration Cacao Farm, Belize; San Jose de Bocay, Nicaragua and Pham Thanh Cong, Mekong Delta, Vietnam have been designated HEIRLOOM. They become, respectively, the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth HCP Heirloom designations made since the 2014 inaugural Heirlooms.
The HCP’s International Tasting Panel loves the Belize heirloom’s smooth, mild chocolate flavor with a lightly roasted nut base reminding them of macadamia nuts. The flavor of the Nicaragua heirloom cacao is an immediate burst of a fresh fruit salad – beginning with a evanescent brown fruit (dates, figs) then shifting to a red fruit and mixed tropical fruit character with ripe plums, berries, red currant accompanied by a fruit bowl of mango, apricot and pineapple. For the Vietnam heirloom there is a coconut note accompanied by a dried fruit and spice character that is cinnamon and cardamom—its spice character combined with the dried and browned fruit is reminiscent of tonka beans with additional saffron and bitter almond. Specific notes can be found on each of the Heirlooms’ pages.
“Flavorless high-yielding trees are not the only option in the fight against the global degradation of cacao,” says Gary Guittard, President of the Guittard Chocolate Company. “Numerous specialty chocolate manufacturers and chocolatiers whose livelihood depends on fine-flavored cocoa have come together to work with local farmers on every continent to preserve heirloom cacao. That’s what the HCP supports.”
About the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund (HCP)
The best chocolate in the world starts with the finest cacao but that cacao is poised for extinction. As the industry continues to replace fine flavor cacao trees with bland hybrids and clones, a world of boring monochromatic chocolate dominates. The HCP seeks to protect, preserve, and propagate the finest, richest, most complex forms in the chocolate universe for future generations. Launched by the Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA) in 2012, the HCP offers a new way to find these diamonds of cacao by connecting their flavor traits to their genetics, rewarding their growers, and working with world’s foremost flavor experts and geneticists to save Heirloom cacao from extinction.
A completely self-funded 501c3 non-profit, the HCP is not another certification or awards program. HCP is a not-for-profit collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA/ARS). The HCP’s Heirloom designations are the first steps to realizing its mission:
Throughout its process, the HCP follows a strict set of protocols, all of which are publicly available in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. The HCP Lab at Guittard Chocolate Company, the oldest continuously family-owned and operated chocolate company in the US, blind-processes all submissions for an international Tasting Panel of acclaimed chocolate specialists. A detailed report is then provided to the applicant and the USDA/ARS performs a site visit and genetic analysis to both map the DNA of the trees and preserve them in the database for the future. Everything is provided to the growers who, with the support of the HCP, can use the designation to achieve better prices than they would growing ordinary or bulk cacao.
Taken together, the HCP is about three P’s in Pod: People, Planet, and Prosperity. It goes from gene-to-bar and unwraps the possibilities for the millions worldwide who believe that life without the very best chocolate is no life at all.