Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Understanding the genetics of cacao

A central part of Xoco's mission is to educate the consumer that Fine Cocoa is dependent on Fine Genetics. Just as with tomatoes and wine, you cannot expect to harvest a fine product without a fine plant. We now understand how an heirloom tomato has changed the landscape of tomatoes. Over time, the tomato seed was modified to amplify production. Quality suffered. Similarly, the fine winemaker will not accept grapes from just any old source, trusting that the production process will cure any fault intrinsic to the fruit. The fine winemaker depends on the best plant grown in best environment.

The world of cacao is no different. Most consumers do not yet understand the difference between a fine criollo or trinitario tree and the run-of-the-mill forastero tree. To the fine chocolatier, this means a world of difference. It means the difference between using process (refined winnowing, roasting, and conching) to embrace and uplift the flavor of the criollo/trinitario cacao bean OR using process (over-roasting and manipulating fats and sugars) to conceal the lack of flavor inherent to the inferior forastero bean.

This is the basic introduction to the world of cacao genetics, which is the religion of Xoco Gourmet: isolate and clone the oldest and finest species of cacao in order to produce large quantities of the best beans in the world.

After sucking the mango-flavored pulp from the exterior of the seeds, slicing them in half reveals their coloration and genetics. [Banana leaf is for effect only.]

The interior of the seeds ranges from white to dark purple, with many shades of pink in between. The pods with a higher proportion of lighter shaded seeds are genetically superior and offer a sweeter, more complex aroma and flavor. On the other hand, the purple seeds are astringent and acidic and are less likely to create the complex flavors craved by the chocolate connoisseur.

The exterior of the pods can range in color, but this will not validate the genetics of the interior.

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