Togo

FLAVOR PROFILE: pending larger sample size; preliminary limited releases show core stalwart chocolate

CHARACTERISTICS: rooted in Amelonado with a smattering of modern introductions

Several thousand metric tons annually amounts to just a bean in the bucket next to its neighboring countries, which produce more than half of the world’s 4 million metric tons of total production.

Squeezed between Ghana and Nigeria (with Benin thrown in as a buffer), Togo presumably shares their joint cocoa foundation, which traces provenance to São Tomé. A distant memory now since 1945 & the post-WW II years mark a fundamental change in breeding programs for West African cacáo. What largely constituted a rather homogeneous expanse of Amelonado genotype cacáo trees took on significant hybridization. 

200+ progenies of T clones developed at the CRIG research center in Tafo started making their way onto farms. The Fhybrids (F stands for hybrid & 2 for second generation), deployed to combat disease, most notably CSSV (Cocao Swollen Shoot Virus), crossed into Africa’s Amelonado population with consequent results on its traditional flavor profile characterized by strong basal cocoa — a taste the world came to associate as synonymous with “chocolate” (as opposed to some cacáos that are anything but).

Eventually F3 & then later the so-called Mercedes super-seeds, the latter all the rage nowadays to boost yield & keep growers on their plot lest they flee to better jobs in the cities, dominate to the point where Ghana, for instance, has rapidly vanishing original genetic material crowded out by ”new & improved” varieties. Those tally ~60% of its total stock which still experience, nonetheless, crippling diseases. And form a black hole to boot in terms of organoleptics (re: quite insipid).

Contrast that with Togo where, field specialist Dr. Robert Lockwood surveys, the countryside retains ~90% of its more traditional cacáo. 

The flavor of chocolate utilizing cocoa sourced from there tells as much. Of course, the breeders, candy giants, govs, NGOs, et.al. wield plans to alter its landscape too, to bring Togo into line with the rest of West Africa so that the once proud and strong chocolate will taste innocuous as baby coconuts because, hey, with enough sugar & vanillin people will eat anything.

The rare chocolate bars recently from Togo harkens back to the era when cacáo from this Gold Coast stood for power & might.

Togo’s the new Ghana or Côte d’Ivoire of that classic Earthen chocolate-chocolate force. Which means hope abounds that the region may yet salvage the vestiges of vanishing varietals. 

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