Heirloom Cacao Preservation

at The Institute Of Culinary Education, NYC

The best chocolate in the world starts with the fruit of the finest Theobroma cacao trees. How can we all support the world’s foremost geneticists & flavor specialists to save heirloom cacáo from extinction?

The Heirloom Cacao Preservation (HCP) Initiative is the first & only initiative to categorize, designate & promote the genetic flavor profiles of heirloom cacao.

Join the HCP at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) in NYC on February 11 at 6:00pm for the unveiling of the first-ever cacaos to be designated Heirloom. Meet & mingle with the chocolate makers & scientists, & be among the first in the world to sample designated, heirloom chocolate.

The pioneering work of the HCP is an important tool in the global effort to promote sustainability as we are identifying the fine flavor cacaos around the world before they are lost to high production varieties that lack fine flavor characteristics — Gary Guittard, President of the Guittard Chocolate Company

Event Location: ICE, 50 West 23rd Street, Suite 601, NYC
RSVP to hcp@finechocolateindustry.org (seating & heirloom samples are limited so RSVP is first-come / first-serve)

The HCP is a non-profit collaboration between the Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA) & the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The HCP is funded by a worldwide group of small, medium, & large chocolate makers / manufacturers. For more information visit the HCP.org

HCP thanks ICE & Dessert Professional magazine for their support of this event

As Intended?

Excerpt of Intentional Chocolate’s Dark Bar originally posted March 8, 2012 in The Chocolate Census (for the full review, click here).

For an in-depth investigative report on Intentional Chocolate’s operations, partnerships & purported research, see Carla Martin’s trenchant account on her Bittersweet Notes site.

IMPACT STATEMENT

Jim Walsh… resurfaces.

The ex-ad exec, & the man largely repsonsible for reviving cacáo’s fortunes in Hawai’I back in the 1980s, has been quietly plumbing the chocolate depths ever since leaving the Big Island.

His latest project lands him in Yucatán, Mexico – a place of some considerable historical lore for chocolate culture. There, Walsh & his daughters & their partners have teamed up with local governemental officials to re-develop the area’s once-sacred cacáo groves.

The group plans to cultivate 2 primary genotypes, both labeled Criollo. When asked if these 2 have any local trade-name(s), Walsh says ‘no’. As to what he refers to them as, he replies “Adam & Eve” (this gives a flavor of the man & a bit of where the conversation veers… hey, it all reverts to the basics, doesn’t it?).

During a long & ranging chat (almost 2 hours in length), Walsh is engaging, very knowledgeable, & forward-looking, even a bit esoteric at times. Which affords an opportnity to enter into his adjunct project: until those seedlings in the Yucatán mature in a couple years, he’s much about Intentional Chocolate.

An electic mix between ancient healing & New Age marketing, Intentional Chocolate massages & vibes the seeds, the ferment pile, the cocoa liquor, & the finished bar with good intentions. Basically Kosher with a shaman instead of a rabbi; producing FXs well beyond even “raw chocolate“… for those who ‘get the drift’. Possibly in league with those who believe that plants do better if spoken to in a soothing & encouraging way. Whether this demotes him, as Christopher Hitchens said of Prince Charles, from “an advocate of harmless nonsense to positively sinister nonsense” would hammer the notion way too harshly. For cacáo & chocolate have fulfilled a mystic role ever since the god Quetzacoatl bestowed it to humanity in ancient Mesoamerica for transforming the earth. To this day, Mayans in Guatemala say prayers & incantations over seeds of cacáo & maize to infuse them with human desires.Indeed, the conversational flow with Walsh often drifts in the tradition of Antonio Levedan whose treatise on the Uses, Abuses, & Virtues of Tobacco, Coffee, Tea & Chocolate in 1796 prescribed “therapeutic chocolate” as a “universal medicine”, a panacea that vivifies a “spirituous blood”. Walsh likewise fills with phrases like ‘nectar of the gods’, ‘sensual communion’, ‘consciousness raising’ + other esoterica which almost seamlessly dovetails into & around & back to the aforementioned ‘Adam & Eve’ comment … all supported, mind you, in an at-times incongruous field-science framework.

Usually this kind of PR can be dismissed by laughing it off. And, granted, very little technical detail & data by way of empirical research studies have investigated the efficacy of “intentional” chocolate. Walsh mentions a tangential Stanford University paper which he believes has bearing on Intentional Chocolate but is not directly related to it. And talk of experienced meditators who personally trained with the Dalai Lama & infuse this chocolate with spiritual energy might raise a skeptical eyebrow or two since his Holiness reportedly does not consume the “food of the gods”.

Supposing it a mere placebo, however, should give pause to everyone; placebos after all often work. Well enough to attract the attention of a guy like Nicholas Humphrey who conducts cultural / psychological experiments. If Walsh & his minions “feel it”, then who can say otherwise?

Again, just ask the “raw” chocolate tribe about their reaction to what approximates eating stewed sawdust. They swear it honest-to-God tastes great. Termites would agree with them.

It could all be genuinely earnest from their perspective.

Just as progressive rock developed the concept album, this too is a concept bar & Walsh the latest conceptual artist.

SUMMATION:
Terribly generic taste… except for… the hidden X-factor “ingredient”.

Intentional Chocolate’s promotional materials cite Hawai’i chocolate “accented by notes of plum & a hint of ecstasy”. But this bar tastes quite un-Hawaiian on several fronts.

Maybe distant shades of El Rey from the late 1990s Venezuela. Or, closer to home, Blommer.

Then, again, so overly-treated with vanilla to effectively mask any origin. The volatiles so abrasive they act like clove nearly irritating the throat.

And whether those plum notes, for instance, are additives or spiritually-infused is hard to tell since their apparition seems rather phantom-like anyhow.

By superpostioning itself toward a higher realm & consciousness leaves Intentional Chocolate suceptible to unintended consequences by overlooking the basics of the lower order (such as the fundamentals associated with artisan chocolate processing techniques).

Above all, a vexing question persists: why only a “hint of ecstasy”? Sounds modest given how this claims to provide a statistically-precise increased lift in vigor… by up to “67%”.

That’s enough to lose the train of thought here… the ability to critique & the power of speech… the very motor coordination skills, such that the act of writing becomes laborious, then pointless; ergo impossible to continue this review.

What a reaction. This chocolate must be working. (Psychosomatic or otherwise.)

It’s having its intended FX. The thematic execution undeniable.

Way off-the-charts.

INGREDIENTS: cocoa beans, cocoa butter, cane sugar, lecithin, vanilla

Is Chocolate Gay?

 (Excerpt from Willie’s El Blanco White Chocolate bar review)

Other than God & sex, chocolate is the most powerful force on Earth. Its connections to the other 2 are indisputable:

  1. Theobroma cacao named by Linneaus is Greek for God-food;
  2. Cacáo earns its reputation as notoriously promiscuous by rampant cross-breeding.

But what about gay? To paraphrase Curt Cobain: it could be. Certain homogenous cacáo populations are self-compatible (capable of fertilizing by its own pollen / reproducing without cross-breeding).

Then again, we all could be.

Mayan iconography & cosmology associated cacáo with the feminine, but today both men & women enjoy chocolate along a diverse continuum (Milk, DarkSemi-Sweet, et. al.)  So it might be better characterized as bi- or poly-.

In a deeply personal & intensely emotional open letter to subscribers, a contributing editor of the C-spot confides that he had been harboring a secret life. After years of therapy & counseling, he comes out about how chocolate, a specific type of chocolate, helped him come to terms with his orientation & at the same time reciprocates profoundly about chocolate’s own proclivities. In a nib, it’s about being inclusive.

Read his touching & heartfelt account.  Read More »

Chocolate Awards: Feast or Famine... or Fraud? Part II

(Excerpt from Amedei’s Blanco de Criollo bar review & a sequel to Chocolate Awards: Feast or Famine… or Fraud? Part I)

As the British Empire continues its retreat to the “emerald isle” as Shakespeare put it, England itself has paradoxically become cosmopolitan rather than provincial because of it. The empire coming home to roost in the best sense. That it straddles the North Atlantic with one foot leaning toward Europe & the other America translates into a side porch view of history which sometimes visits its own doorstep.

A couple chocolate awards shows emanating from there reflect this split stance.

And likewise their respective gold medal winners – one show awarded Pacari’s 70% Cacao Raw & another crowned this Blanco de Criollo by Amedei – divide the 2 distinct camps of chocolate flavor profiles & styles.

Since neither of these entered the competitive field of the other (professional courtesy?), somebody had to break the tie & who better than the C-spot®?

And the winner is…

Read More »

Chocolate Awards: Feast or Famine... or Fraud? Part I

A chocolate with more labels on the packaging than a NASCAR driver has endorsements. But this is no ordinary vanity bar.

Naturally it sports the Demeter Biodynamic sticker at a remove above & beyond organic, shown symbolically by its seal way on top of the USDA Organic patch at the bottom .

It also affixes EC Bio from Euro certifiers, BSC ÖKO Garantie (how many time does this have to pass organic filters to be deemed so?), & Kosher to boot. Since Pacari sources locally in Ecuador from small stakeholders who practice inter-cropping &, reportedly, pays them a premium, Fair-Trade + Rainforest Alliance are de facto if unofficial.

One stamp missing but shall undoubtedly be included if they can find space: a medal from an awards show for the best Dark Chocolate – a category generally reserved as the gold standard for chocolate.

Huh? Wha’? Pacari 70% Raw?

Wipe those smiles off the face, suppress the laughter & banish those thoughts at the mere mention of it. Let’s analyze the situation. Read More »

Who is Mark Xian, anyways?

Brady Brelinski, editor of The Flavors of Cacao, caught up with the C-spot’s® elusive figurehead. This far- & wide-ranging interview covers lots of ground & dives to considerable depth. Is it really, as Brady said, a “chocolate magnum opus”? Take a nibble, chocolatarians, & judge for yourselves. Read More »

THE NEW NACIONAL GUARDSMEN

A multi-part series on the rescue & recovery of a rare & vanishing cacáo strain in Marañón Canyon, Peru

(Based on a true story; some names & circumstances have been altered to protect sources)

Prologue

PART I — Everybody, Headfirst into the Gene Pool: Sex, Drugs & Opera

PART II – Plotting a Convolution

PART III — Jungle M&Ms

IV. — Contrabandoleros

V. — Southbound with the Hammers Down

VI. — Chocolate Roasting on an Open Fire

VII. – Terroirism: If You Taste Something, Say Something… & Then DO Something

VIII. – Dateline June 2009 Bagua Province, Peru  

IX. — Whoa, What Sexy Genes Ya Got On 

X. – High Upon Fortunato’s Farm

XI. – The Mother ‘F’ Tree

XII. – Int’l Chocolate Diplomacy

XIII. – All In The Family & The Family All In

XIV. – Auctionable & Collectible 

XV. — Damn Fortune

XVI. — Pearson & Sons: The New Nacional Guardsmen

XVII. — Belly-Slammed Back to Reality

Postscript: Chocolypse Now

 

Postscript: Chocolypse Now

Back in San Diego, CA the Pearsons ‘break ‘n bite’ together with their new favorite bar: Fortunato No. 4.

One too hot for The Smithsonian to handle.

They asked a friend to approach The Smithsonian with a proposal for an unveiling of Fortunato No. 4 after it hosted an all-day symposium, Chocolate: From Mayan Worship to Modern Wonder, in October 2010.

The institution’s phenomenal archives & research history, as well as the fact that Marañón presents an America story that – considering chocolate’s reach – effects the Western Hemisphere both in its front & back yards, seemed a perfect & proper fit. They felt it truly belongs there & it’d be a coup for the Smithsonian too (political pun unintended, of course).

That was precisely the problem.

The Smithsonian declined on the grounds that it’s too political! The Pearsons keep this memo in their office as both proof & as a trophy to hang on the wall.

Outside their picture window, they can see & hear the Pacific waves roll in at a steady cadence to the chocolate meltdown known as their Fortunato No. 4.

Chocolypse Now. Gringo always could surf. He sailed to the New World on tides of hope & possibility in the first place. The smell of victory was, is & forever will be chocolate. Pakal, Ahuitzotl, Nezahualcoyotl, Cortés, Blackbeard, Washington & Patton all savored that.

Every time an appreciator around the world rips open their wrapper & snaps off a piece, they can make out that the sound of ‘bite me’ has a brand new ring.

It re-affirms that chocolate is the elixir of human ingenuity.

RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS 

XVII. Belly-Slammed Back to Reality

Before chasing utopian dreams riding in on a unicorn, let’s take stock. It’s business after all & people have multiple motives.

Money can’t buy love but it does buy sex, an antidote to life’s pain, overcoming it with pleasure. For some, so will chocolate, so will God, or any combination of the 3.

And that’s what it’s all about. Power, money, art, fashion… every step in evolution… at the beck & call of nature to reproduce so other life forms can feed. The maggots, for example, that’ll have us for dinner surely as cacáo seduced us to have it for dessert. The grand cycle of biology. None of us would be here except for it; human consciousness as we know it ends without it. Read More »

XVI. Pearson & Sons: The New Nacional Guardsmen

Those best-practices that Marañon Canyon Cacao cultivates to produce cocoa could serve as a template for reviving cacáo in its natural habitat in the 21st century… at least for the premium segment. And perhaps even ramify the larger commodity markets + the wider industry.

Trees are husbanded by local villagers whose families, unbeknownst to the outside world, have tended to them traditionally for generations; they are supreme stewards of the land; have acted in concert with partners from the global North in technology transfers for advanced post-harvesting techniques; & are paid a super premium for their care which then gets plowed back into land management & infrastructure. In the long term, these premiums can be utilized for improvements in water systems, schools, community centers, etc., instead of the typical under-investments & deferred costs found on most cacáo plantations today… all the while with full traceability of produce that raise consumer confidence.

For an industry overrun by a terrible custodial chain / tracking, flawed logistics & mediocre product, this literally blows a breath & scent of fresh air.

Pearson sits in a cockpit at the controls yet he’s unafraid to step out himself & dirty his own hands. That combination of the Minuteman ready to drop his day job / comforts of home to answer the call at a moment’s notice, & the ‘Nacional Guard’ risking to preserve & protect the ‘Nacional interest’. A first-among-equals of the budding ‘Cocoa Party’ revolting against low-paying / big-spending candy giants that trod on cacáo fields around the world to feed its insatiable appetite for profits derived from candy bars.

Revealing & reveling his closet hippie side, Pearson sticking it to The Man.

Now almost in his 60s, two types of hippies existed back in the 60s. One never brought amenities to the party, always bogarting off everybody whom they expected to pass the favors. The other brought both the amenities & the musical instruments for all-night jams. Pearson belongs to the latter group though he might’ve forgotten since it was the best time in his life he can’t remember. Read More »