COLOMBIAN FINE COCOA
BROUGHT OUT INTO THE LIGTH
Cacaitos is eager to introduce Colombian cacaos internationally farming and sourcing cocoa beans with outstanding fine flavor cultivated in the most representative regions of the Country.
The raw material…
A broad classification of cacao, or cocoa before seeds are fermented and dried, imposed by the industry upon its intended use is “bulk cocoa” and “fine cocoa”. Globally, 98% of the cocoa is considered bulk and it is basically produced in West Africa. The remaining 2% is fine cocoa produced primarily in South America.
To date, fine cacao has been cultivated to make delicatessen chocolate products with three or less ingredients. Similar to fine wine, specialty coffee or single malt whiskey, fine cocoa flavor is related to the soil and environment where the plantation is established, also known as “terroir”.
In a later step, those natural flavors are enhanced or developed throughout the after-harvest processes of fermentation and dry. Chocolate made from fine cocoa is a rare and unique luxury known by a minority of the market.
From the conservation of biodiversity perspective, the varieties of fine cocoa have not been modified agriculturally to develop any flavor, it is rather a natural feature of the “terroir” but they also yield less than bulk cocoa and are more susceptible to phytosanitary attacks.
On the other hand, bulk cacao has been agriculturally developed to extract its 50 % butter content. Once extracted, the byproduct left from the cocoa bean is known as cocoa powder.
Because of the cocoa butter industrial versatility, it is a pricey and highly demanded ingredient to several sectors like food manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics among others. In contrast, cocoa powder, a bitter solid generally mixed with artificial flavors, stabilizers, and a lot of sugar, has been vulgarized in a sugary low cost grocery product introduced to us as “candy chocolate”.
In conclusion, fine cocoa has a small place in the market mainly for people interested in a healthy, natural and specialty product obtained while caring about the conservation of biodiversity. Meanwhile, the large industry has targeted bulk cocoa mainly to produce butter and “get rid” of the byproduct as candy chocolate.
The assortment of cacao fine flavor varieties are inherent to the diversity of the ecosystem. From the South, in the Amazon Basin to the North in the Atlantic Coast and from the West in the Pacific Coast to the East in the Orinoco Basin, crossing the Andes, the most diverse natural ecosystems are the environments where cocoa trees grow.
Although Colombia is ranked top four in the world among the most Ecologically Diverse countries, higher than all its neighbors except Brazil, the Colombian fine cocoa has remained unveiled; hopefully not for so long.
The main actors…
Responding to the local industry, traditionally Colombian cacao farmers are used to delivering cocoa beans to be pressed by the local industry to obtain cocoa butter and all the agricultural practices involved with that business model goes against cocoa flavor.
For instance, breeding selection, agricultural practices and after-harvest processes, and cocoa bean packaging, the core aspects of a cacao plantation, all of them, are completely opposite to the standards required to obtain fine flavor cocoa beans.
As a consequence, it is necessary to work cooperatively with them to achieve cocoa flavor production in the country. To make this possible, Cacaitos is giving them additional benefits besides paying premium prices for quality cocoa. Technical support on after harvest processes and guidance on transition to organic production are some of those.
The End product…
Until the early 2,000s’, the worldwide population was used to candy chocolate which is a sugary eatable. Two decades later, with the world rise of the “bean to bar” movement and the global concern on healthy food, the consumption of cocoa end-products has shifted and consumers can find in specialty stores dark chocolate, craft chocolate or fine flavor chocolate.
All those are names given to a superfood that foodies perceive as “real chocolate bars”, usually made with no more than three or two ingredients. Commonly 70% content of cocoa mass, cocoa butter and a natural sweetener.
The health benefits of including “real chocolate” on a daily basis intake, had been largely researched and documented arguing several among others, improve blood flow and lower blood pressure, lower the risk of heart diseases, a powerful source of antioxidants, immune booster, a supply of energy, raises HDL and protects LDL from oxidation, protect skin from the sun, improve brain function, help after-training recovery, and many more.
To me, embracing entrepreneurship in the cocoa industry was a no-brainer easy move for many reasons. My childhood memories of eating cacao pods or drinking its juice at my grandfather’s farm and at my school. That relationship with cacao lasted until my first full-time job after university, as a biologist and researcher, in the Amazon and Orinoco basins.
Until then, the only available products were candy chocolate and hot chocolate, both of them made with cocoa powder but I did not fall for them, instead I kept “loyal” to fresh cacao.
In 2013, I was working full time in Canada as Environmental Manager for a large California based Engineering Corporation. It was my fourth formal full-time job achieving an accomplished and successful career in the field. The employment conditions and salary were good but the entrepreneurial spirit was stronger.
I decided to start this project after thoughtfully considering different alternatives, all of them involving agriculture, social development, and international trade between Colombia and North America.
Another thing that facilitated the move to the cacao business was that also around 2013, the internal conflict in Colombia was getting to an end and one of the after-conflict strategies to recover areas formerly cultivated with illicit crops, implemented by the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture, was to replace those crops with cocoa plantations. Therefore, growing cocoa became a big initiative nationwide.
There was not a clear picture of what exactly in the cocoa industry I wanted to do when I started and, I have to say that I’m still today in 2020, I’m working on it but, the baseline was to recover Colombian fine cocoa and make it visibly appreciated in the global scenario as the Colombian Coffee is around the world.
Nevertheless, knowing that flavors are there and that bringing into the light is something good for farmers, transformers, chocolate makers and chocolate eaters, and so on, it is impossible to remain quiet about it.
This project is motivating me everyday with activities like learning about farming, after harvest techniques, biodiversity conservation, social development, after-conflict kick up, business and healthy food advocacy, testing and tasting, helping people to improve quality standards.
Thanks for your interest in Cacaitos!!