If the chocolate industry doesn’t evolve, we might run out of chocolate one day…
In addition to being a whimsical tree, Theobroma Cacao is vulnerable to diseases, pests, climate change and production processes.
Today, the industry’s focus is on rapid and low cost production rather than fine flavor; meaning we are pursuing profit at the expense of chocolate’s great diversity.
The present system is unsustainable and understanding the reasons behind the flaws is the first step towards a better tomorrow.
Cocoa holds many secrets we have yet to discover.
The initial genetic differentiation was revised in 2008 and we’re not sure we have identified every variety of cocoa that exists.
The Heirloom Cacao Preservation is an initiative that seeks to discover, identify and preserve fine flavor Heirloom cacao varieties for the conservation of biological diversity and the empowerment of farming communities. This kind of initiative is essential, but not sufficient.
To guarantee the propagation of a cocoa tree’s DNA, you must clone or graft from the tree itself because their flowers are too promiscuous and their seeds’ genetics will be different from the tree’s.
To match the world’s demand, breeders often disregard flavor in favor of disease resistance and high production properties. Unfortunately, these clones (the most popular one being CCN-51) deplete the soil of nutrients and require more labor, water, maintenance, chemicals and fertilizer.
Fermentation is a process we are still working on understanding.
Just like wine grapes, every year’s harvest is different from the previous and the next one. Understanding fermentation and drying is education-intensive.
“For too long, most farmers who are fermenting and drying have been taught a “process”: this is what you do, not this is what you’re creating,” says Art Pollard of Amano Chocolate.
Since the industry champions quantity over quality, post harvest processes essential to good flavor development are sloppy. Many farmers lack incentives to care for their beans.
Farmers are part of cocoa’s ecosystem and empowering them is essential to the industry’s well being. By empowering, we certainly imply paying them better for their hard work, but also educating them around the processes that impact their beans’ flavor, involving them in the creation of climate change mitigation strategies as well as supporting their communities.
Sharing knowledge can feel counterintuitive in the business world. It can feel as if you are losing a competitive advantage. But this is not the way to grow sustainably as an industry.
Luckily, the chocolate industry is filled with well intentioned, passionate people who are seeing above this archaic way of thinking. As old as cacao production is, we have such a limited grasp of what we are working with, and learning together throughout the supply chain is mutually beneficial. We create a bigger market for fine chocolate, which encourages the farmers to produce quality over quantity, and chocolate makers have a wider range of flavors to choose from, which in turn creates more value to the consumers.
It all starts with the consumer.
It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages. – Henry Ford
Chocolate is perceived as a commodity rather than a food. However, chocolate is actually a fruit; cocoa. Unfortunately, years of marketing chocolate as a cheap candy does not reflect the hard work necessary to make fine flavor chocolate. But if we want this industry to evolve, cheap chocolate must become a thing of the past.
Consumers must understand the amount of work that goes into producing quality cocoa if it is to survive in the future.
Today is the “Endangered Species Awareness” day. We hope this article inspired you to learn more about chocolate and how to appreciate it so that we never have to consider Theobroma Cacao as an endangered species.
Because a world without chocolate… simply doesn’t sound appealing.
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