In another thread titled [url="http://www.seventypercent.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=1016"]Countryfile Report – chocolate maker[/url], aguynamedrobert wrote:
“If you can find a bar that is a sinlge origin 100% made from criollo or trinitario it might have a chance for tasting somewhat ok…but most companies make a blend of flavorfull beans and “filler” beans to bring price down.”
I’d like to respond in detail to what Robert has implied in that statement.
First of all, Robert says that a 100% Criollo or Trinitario bar “might have a chance for tasting somewhat ok” — the implication being that a 100% Forestero bar has absolutely no chance of tasting even remotely OK.
I beg to differ.
My very small chocolate factory in Australia has recently released just such a bar — that is, a 100% Forastero bar. Our chocolate is coarsely refined, and not tempered at all, so it is not (yet) a “fine” chocolate by anyone’s standards. But its flavour is dynamite.
(Note to everybody: what follows could be regarded as shameless self-promotion. I apologise if this offends anyone, but I will go ahead anyway, because I think there are some very important points that need to be made about what makes “ok tasting” and “flavorfull” cocoa).
So, does our Forastero chocolate bar taste “OK”? Well, frankly, that depends entirely on who you ask, and under what circumstances.
When used for its intended purpose (which is cooking), our chocolate has received responses that range from simple pleasure, to rapturous delight. By far the most common word used by our customers to describe the aroma of our chocolate is “divine”.
For most of our customers (who have never tasted a 100% chocolate bar of any description), the flavour of our chocolate by itself is unpalatable, and too bitter. But about one in 20 people who know nothing about chocolate taste our bar and discover that they love eating it straight — in fact, prefer to eat it by itself than to cook with it. Obviously, this illustrates that people have different palates. In other words, what is pleasant to some, is unpleasant to others (welcome to “Chocolate Tasting 101″ :-)
Generally speaking, the more educated and well-informed a person is about chocolate, the more they enjoy our 100% Forastero bar.
Indeed, two fantastic fellow-members of seventypercent who are interested in our ethical-chocolate project have tasted our Forastero bar: one said that our bar is “more palatable than other 99% chocolate I’ve tried”; the other declared our bar “delicious”, and said that “The bar itself is among the best 3 100% I have ever tasted (I tasted 12 types of 100% from different producers up to now.)”
Frankly, I think these educated responses blow the idea that Forastero beans are inherently poor quality out of the water.
There are many factors that contribute to a chocolate’s palatability and flavour, and the genetics of the raw material is but one of them.
I have travelled across three continents tasting cocoa beans. By far the worst beans I ever tasted were Arriba beans in one part of Ecuador. They tasted so bad, and so incredibly astringent, that my automatic response was to spit. Why did they taste so bad? Simply because they’d been very poorly fermented and dried.
Finally, Robert refers to two types of cocoa beans. In his words, there are “flavorfull” beans, and “filler” beans. I have a real problem with this particular terminology, because it represents an insidious creep away from the accepted industry terms, which are: “fine” or “flavor” beans (for Criollo and Trinitario), and “bulk” beans (for Forastero).
Let me state explicitly: Forastero beans that have been skillfully grown, fermented, dried, and roasted, are full of wonderful flavours, most notably the inimitable flavour called “chocolate”. Such beans are undeniably “flavorfull”.
In the industry, Forasteros are known as “bulk” beans, and, indeed, they represent well over 90% of the world’s cocoa supply, so that term is entirely reasonable.
However, if some chocolate makers use Forastero beans as “fillers” for the sole reason of “bringing the price down”, then I would suggest that those people lack skill, imagination, and/or perseverance in sourcing and handling cocoa beans. It’s not fair to blame the entire Forastero genotype for these very human shortcomings.