The Spirit of Chocolate
The prequel to the story of chocolate in all likelihood begins millennia ago when the fruit of Theobroma cacao trees – from which all chocolate derives – was fermented for the very first time into a draft akin to a beer. Called chicha, it probably measured alcoholic content of around 8% or so, give or take… who knows exactly.
The tradition continues to this day in Central and South America.
But other than moonshiners mashing up some stump juice, no one has commercially distilled cacáo before. That is, until now.
Introducing Solbeso… literal translation from Spanish: Sun Kiss.
By fermenting then distilling the pulp of cacáo, Solbeso stakes a claim to being the world’s first new cacáo spirit of any kind in 200 years. Swig that around for awhile or, if still teething on bonbons, ruminate on it.
Historical standing aside, simply put, nothing else quite like it exists.
So unique, one might say, that the Singularity Moment, with apologies to Eliezer Yudkowsky, Ray Kurzweil, & the entire ilk, has arrived well ahead of schedule.
Five years in the making, after innumerable experiments & testing, Solbeso founder Tom Higbee & chocolate ombudsman Clay Gordon (the firm’s Culinary Ambassador) are ready for launch.
Clearly a lot of forethought & logistics have gone into the whole arrangement of bringing it to market, like forging relationships with Bromans / cacaoteros / growers, building a central fermentary, transportation (sometimes on a jiggly ride thru the rainforest to the port) & etc. Enough to induce pre-hangover headaches.
Just to give a flavor of how involved, 1 metric tonne of wet cacáo seeds en baba (or with mucilaginous pulp surrounding them) yields 100 to 250 liters, depending on varietal, sugar level of the pulp, & the time of year, which can affect water levels in the pulp. From there, careful distillation to achieve quality & consistency skews the math further downward… by 10 fold.
The results: ABV 40%: 80 proof.
A creation of true “pod-strength” (a term coined by the C-spot® years ago, referring to pure 100% unadulterated & unsweetened chocolate with no added sugar, crafted from cacáo & nothing else, the equivalent of scotch’s cask-strength or elements naturally found in the cacáo pod).
Solbeso stresses that no chocolate ever gets discarded or harmed in the process; that the seeds responsible for the key ingredient in every bar happily go thru their entire fermentation cycle. They merely capture the excess run-off, rather than robbing the cacáo of its much-needed sugars & juices to attain a proper ferment — a crucial step in developing flavor precursors for premium chocolate.
Timing is of critical importance to avoid any unwanted / undesirable microbes which would ruin & render it contaminated / unfit for human consumption. Therefore, at the moment the pod gets split open, Solbeso expedites the handling of the contents the very same day, then later pasteurized for good measure.
Added bonus: the upside impact on the environment:
Due to the sweatings’ or drippings’ low pH of 3.5, local water-tables can turn acidic – a potential public health hazard. In transforming the pulp into liquor, the human liver effectively filters this otherwise waste product (of course urinating it into sewage treatment systems causes… well, skip that for another discussion).
Other than the modern temperance movement, who can possibly object?
Sip more to find out how it tastes.
In response to our piece in the last newsletter on reclassifying the cocoa bean as a cacáo nut, we received several letters. Here are a couple of the more elucidating notes from esteemed chocolate specialists:
Steve De Vries concurs that cacáo is an indehiscent pepo while correctly pointing out that unlike, say, some squash, cacáo does not release its seeds upon decay. Once pods are mature, seeds start growing but will not open the pod. Further, cacao doesn’t truly germinate, as it has no germ since no part is dormant. The part often mistaken for a germ is a radicle, which becomes the first root.
Madre Chocolate’s chief flavorist Nat Bletter commented that botanically a nut has the involucre surrounding a hardened pericarp, neither of which exist in cacao (at least not as hard as, for example, a walnut shell). But he agrees that the common name ‘bean’ for cacao is terrible & advocates ‘seed’.
In the greater sense, very little in the world of classification is 100% technically accurate. This applies to cacáo (there’s no “pure this” or “pure that”, be it Criollo, Nacional, et. al.) or the wider reified world (because linguistics itself is generally a poor reflection of a thing in & of itself).
So, yeah, in a flip kind of way, it’s ALL nuts.
But we at the C-spot strive nonetheless to at least reduce if not eliminate the outright and outrageous fallacies.
Mott Green’s Last Chocolate Will & Testament
Commercially-available Heirloom V – Mindo 67%
Valrhona Andoa…reviving a lost language by “speaking in chocolate”
Pump Street’s 2 Madagascars: a) a Dark that brings out autogynephilia in macho chocophiles & b) forget the details, the devil’s in the Milk chocolate + 1 Grenada — the James Bond of bars… licensed to fulfill
Q: How do you jam raspberries into a coconut? A: Taza Coco Besos
Franceschi’s Choroní… get there by donkey or via this bar
A couple bars from Coppeneur: a) Carretera Panamericana (Pan-American Hwy)… paved with raw cocoa but thank Jésus for the roadside pina colada stand & b) Chontalpa, Mexico… bug spray for Quinametli (bones of ancient people)
Mānoa detonates a torpedo beneath Maunawili, Hawai’i utilizing Heirloom IV cacáo
Orquidea… true Peru