Friday, February 24, 2017

Four Venezuelan Cocoa Beans: A Review of the Beans and the Resulting Chocolate


I was recently sent samples of Venezuelan cocoa beans by a supplier: Casa Franceschi. The company is dedicated to the production and commercialization of cacao beans from Venezuela since 1830. They pay careful attention to harvesting and post-harvesting methods in order to "seize the best flavors from the best genetics." Casa Franceschi exports cocoa beans from several regions in Venezuela, and other countries. They sent me four featured origins all from Venezuela, including: Ocumare, Patanemo, Piaora and Sur del Lago.

In order to review these beans, I had to make chocolate! I hand shelled all four batches (I have a winnower now to remove the shells, but hand shelling teaches a lot about the beans), and then I made four different single origin 70% dark chocolate bar batches out of all the beans. The chocolate has now aged by a few weeks and been moulded into bars. So I can spend a little time reflecting on these beans and sharing the results with you and my fellow chocolate makers who are interested in offering Venezuelan origin chocolate, or selling cacao beans for eating or brewing.


Admittedly, I refined for only 24 hours, until the chocolate was smooth and very palatable. I did not conche or extend refining time because I had four origins to deal with, and needed to focus my time on my current line-up of products, but I found little acidity to worry about in all four origins, and thus 24 hours seemed to be enough to get a good idea of how these beans taste in chocolate form.

Overall, I quite liked the results of all four origins. I couldn't pick a favourite, although at first I was leaning towards the Patanemo chocolate for its fruitiness, but then I became quite attached to the bold and complex flavour of the resulting Ocumare origin chocolate, even though the beans were slightly troublesome to sort. I loved the Piaora beans - they were very big, easy to shell (by hand and with the winnower) and quite tasty.  The beans were all similar in some ways, meaning there is a nice low acidity level, some fruitiness to each bean (Ocumare falling more on the nutty side, and having slightly more balance in acidity). There was only slight colour variations with Patanemo having the lightest and most unique colour. Any one would be a good addition to a product line and a great representation of Venezuelan chocolate.

My review on each bean, how it was to work with, and the resulting chocolate that I made from each type of bean is organized into the chart below. I've included some of the information provided to me as well, including bean type, fermentation, etc.

Origin
Bean type + fermentation
Review of beans
Review of Taste
Ocumare de la Costa, North Central Region
Trinitario with “light Criollo blood”, Fine Premium F1, Controlled Fermentation
 
Tough to shell (slightly sticky shells), quite a bit of sorting required.
Makes a very complex and lovely chocolate, but the bean can be a little harsh on the palate to consume directly, compared to the others. Ideal when made into chocolate, but perhaps not ideal to sell as an eating bean.
Balanced-if-slightly-high acidity, unique and interesting flavour, boldest of the four origins in such a good way. Perhaps a little nutty and earthy, a dark caramel taste, and definitely some fruit taste, citrus and orange with some berry - the fruit shows up especially after tasting the Piaora.
Patanemo, North Coastal Region
Trinitario with “light Criollo blood”,  Fine Premium F1, Controlled Fermentation
Easy to work with, most palatable bean if packaging for consumption as is, in whole bean or nib form (for sprinkling on food, etc.). Would also be good as a brewing bean.
Strongest fruit flavour of all four origins. Bright, full of berry and red fruit, while a little astringent. Reminds me a little of that fruity-yet-astringent Guatemala bean that has been making the rounds in craft chocolate recently, but this is much more pleasant on the palate. It is quite enjoyable.


Piaora, Amazonas, North Southern Region, isolated community, can only harvest 6 mo’s a year.
‘Wild Cacao’, Trinitario, F1, Natural Fermentation
Beautiful beans. Large, easy to shell. Palatable, but just a little harsh at first - makes an interesting chocolate though. So perhaps not ideal for selling as nibs or for brewing.
Possibly the most neutral flavour, yet some citrus and cocoa powder flavour, but all creamy in texture. Other than a general citrus/lemon taste from the mild acidity, no other fruit flavours, just earthy, woody and wonderfully powerful.
Sur del Lago, Merida – South Western Region
Trinitario Cacao with “high Criollo blood”, Natural Fermentation, Fine Premium F1 type
Very easy to shell (shells released easily), many large beans, but careful sorting was required.  The remaining beans were quite tasty on their own, very palatable for eating as is.
Bold flavour, perhaps some astringency at first taste, but certainly interesting with lingering fruit and acidity. Creamy chocolate taste on the finish.

If you are interested in any of the Venezuelan cacao beans reviewed above, contact Pedro E. Rojas R. at projas (at) casafranceschi.com or visit www.casafranceschi.com for more information.  Casa Franceschi also supplies beans of other origins, including Ecuador, Peru and Costa Rica.
 
You can also taste chocolate made from some of these beans (Sur del Lago and Ocumare) made by award-winning chocolate makers, Franceschi Chocolate (http://www.franceschichocolate.com/en/).  They make a range of delicate and delicious 60% dark chocolates from a variety of Venezuelan origin beans.
 
Any questions or comments? Please feel free to add to the Comments below this post.  

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