Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Organic cacao from the Philippines that makes delicious chocolate

Have you tasted chocolate made from cocoa beans that are grown in the Philippines? I hadn't, until recently when I received some samples of both organic, and non-organic single origin cocoa beans of Philippine origin. I also received fresh coconut oil and a sample of coconut sugar also grown in the same region of the Philippines.

The organic Philippine cocoa beans, nibs and liquor comes from Davao del Norte, a province in the Davao region of the country. The cacao was planted by cooperative members and individual farmers organized into a corporation, which processes the beans by fermenting, drying and in some cases grinding them. The beans are Trinitario type and are certified organic by Control Union, with USDA, EU and JAS certification. Also, the corporation is a member of the Rainforest Alliance.

The organic cocoa beans were some of the largest beans I've seen. The picture to the right shows just how much bigger the organic cocoa beans from the Philippines were (they are the bottom beans in the picture on the right) compared to some fine quality Brazil beans (on top in the picture) that I had on hand.  They were so large, in fact, that I was able to hand-shell the beans myself in no time at all.

When I tasted the Philippine organic beans against several other cocoa beans of different origins, I found them mild, less acidic, and less citrus fruity. Overall, the flavour was nice and the beans easy to palate on their own.

Once made into chocolate, the Philippine beans produced a lovely chocolate with a sweetness that was surprising. It was the sweetness of light cream and yet tasted of aged butter all at the same time. The chocolate also had hints of coconut and banana, and some animal/farm-life character, with some dried fruit, prune and raisin taste. The chocolate also made me think of coffee - although a mild cup with milk (not bold and black espresso). There was a mild roast flavour (that had everything to do with my roast - fairly light at 25 minutes at 325º F).  And overall, I found very little acidity in the beans and the resulting chocolate had no astringency.

It would be a great base to pair with anything - perhaps coffee, and with salt for a 'sweet and salty' combination. I also think, because of the low acidity, it would have made a lovely 85% dark chocolate and perhaps a good 100% dark chocolate (although this is just speculation since I didn't test it) because of the low acidity and mild flavour profile.

If a chocolate maker wanted to have single-estate grown beans, that is a possibility. Use the contact information at the end of this post to make this request.

The non-organic cocoa nibs (broken and shelled raw cocoa bean pieces) that I tried were also of Trinitario-type (with a few stray Criollo beans) from Davao del Sur, which is directly South-West of Davao del Norte where the organic beans were grown. These beans also had low acidity and were quite nice. They tasted wonderfully when roughly ground with no sugar added.

I did make chocolate from the nibs, but used the coconut sugar sample that I also received with the cocoa beans, instead of cane sugar (as I did with the organic beans), so it is a bit harder to speak to the flavour, since the coconut sugar was the predominant flavour. But overall, I found the flavour powerful (in a good way) and also had flavour tones of coffee and cocoa (see pic right of the chocolate).

I also received organic coconut sugar from the Philippines, as I mentioned above, which came from Panabo, Davao del Norte.  It was great because it was dry enough to use in the chocolate refiner. It has a slightly bitter taste (compared to cane sugar), which contributed to the boldness of the dark chocolate flavour.

Since I use a lot of coconut sugar on a regular basis, I could compare this sample to others. I found this to have a fairly strong coconut flavour compared to some store-bought coconut sugars, but certainly a wonderful sugar to use in a coconut-flavoured chocolate bar, and in a chocolate bar where a slight brown-sugar/molasses flavour is desired. In truth, if I made chocolate with this sugar again, I might make a 60% to 65% dark chocolate, or perhaps a bean-to-bar milk chocolate with a caramel crunch or cinnamon-cookie flavour. Also, this coconut sugar would be wonderful for baking in oatmeal cookies, banana bread or coffee cake as a healthier replacement for regular cane sugar or commercial brown sugar.

The virgin coconut oil came from Padada, Davao del Sur and is considered 'fresh' since the oil is packaged within 48 hours of harvesting the fruit. It is fair trade certified as well as Control-Union certified with USDA, EU, Japan and Korea. It certainly has a strong coconut flavour, but a lovely appearance and worked well with chocolate.  I'd recommend using it for a meltaway milk chocolate truffle, or in chocolate bark with intended coconut flavour, such as coconut bark or coconut truffles, bars, icy squares, etc. That way, you won't need to add coconut flavour, just the oil will be enough flavouring and topped with shredded coconut. 

I'd also recommend combining the oil with a semi-sweet chocolate for a less-potent combination. I made meltaway truffles with the 70% dark chocolate that I had made from the coconut sugar and Philippine Davao del Sur beans (see pics on right). But realized the combination was a bit too bitter, so I would increase the sugar in the chocolate next time to make a semi-sweet for a meltaway truffle combination that everyone would love.

Overall, my experience with the Philippine cocoa beans and cocoa nibs from Davao del Norte and Davao del Sur was very positive. I am really enjoying the chocolate bars I made from these beans (not all by myself, of course)! The organic bars are excellent to include in a tasting line-up, to show a mild-flavoured chocolate (compared to more acidic, fruity chocolates or nutty-flavoured ones). If you are a chocolate maker, and interested in buying these cacao beans and/or the coconut sugar and virgin coconut oil, contact:

JT SocEnt Ventures, Inc. 
297-B M. A. Reyes St.
Little Baguio, San Juan City 1500
E-mail:  jowelllt at (@) gmail.com


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