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August 1, 2006
Well, there are many exceptions and variables that play huge factors. For example, when considering a blend, you have to choose how many different types of varietals, or beans, you want to blend. A two-bean blend, for instance, will produce a more characterized and changing flavor, whereas a four-bean blend will yield a much more consistent flavor. So, if you have a bad bean, then yes, it is almost axiomatic for a manufacturer to incorporate it into a blend, especially from an economical standpoint.
Due to cross-hybridization, many of the beans from a plantation will not be the same type of bean unless specified otherwise. Also, nearby plantations will blend beans with each other, so when a chocolate is labeled “Venezuela,” it’s possible to assume that its constituents are comprised from a variety of plantations, such as Cuyagua, Choroni, etc. After all, the packaging never claimed the specific source of the beans, just the country.
The beauty and appeal of varietals, imo, is its variability. It’s interesting to taste the differences in batches throughout the years. The same principle applies to wine and no one has complained [;)] But some will argue that this is the problem. Batches of varietals are often too small and mercurial in their quality year to year, so producing varietal chocolate from these beans each year doesn’t produce consistent results. So I say, if you want a consistent product, then blend. However, if you still want to produce varietal chocolate, then I think it needs to be labeled with some sort of indicator to inform the consumer of the varying nature of batches.
April 29, 2004
August 1, 2006
Yeah, most people associate “varietal” with single plantation, single country, and single bean type. It’s rather vague and loose, and I can certainly understand the confusion that it might cause. I usually use the term “varietal” to denote single bean (e.g. Porcelana, Ocumare 61, and all other genotypes) as well, and then I use other terms appropriately, such as “single plantation” when referring to a bar such as Los Ancones, Gran Couva, et al; and “single origin” when referring to a broader location when the bar is sourced from a country such as Venezuela, Ecuador, et al. To me, this avoids confusion and narrows down the definitions with their respective meanings.