Does chocolate come from fruit? Yes!
Cacao Trees grow on Plantation Farms in countries located 20 degrees above and 20 degrees below the Equator in a region affectionately called the “Cocoa Belt”. The Cacao Pods are about the size of a football when they are freshly harvested from the trees and come in an array of colours – green, yellow, gold, burgundy and red. The seeds, or beans, inside the Cacao Fruit are encased in a sweet, white gooey pulp. Up until now, the only part of the fruit used to make chocolate were the nibs that are inside of the beans. The rest is not used.
In a past blog post, I discussed how chocolate is made from “Bean to Bar”. The cacao beans are fermented, dried, roasted, and winnowed. Then the cacao nibs are ground and conched with vanilla, sugar, milk (for milk chocolate), soy lecithin (an emulsifier) and sometimes other ingredients are added. Some small-batch artisan chocolate makers forgo the soy lecithin, but generally speaking, this is how most chocolate is made.
As part of my Ecole Chocolat Bean to Bar Master Chocolatier course in Ecuador, our group along with the Plantation owner, gathered under the Cacao trees – my first encounter with a live Cacao Tree. I had the opportunity to taste the Cacao beans from a freshly harvested pod that was cut open with a Machete knife! The beans inside were coated in a sticky white pulp. I tried a few and the flavour was like nothing I had ever tasted before – reminiscent of tropical fruits like Mango and Papaya with hints of Cantaloupe and Honey Dew Melon. No flavour of chocolate at all (the flavour is developed though fermenting and roasting). While the cacao nibs themselves are quite bitter after they have been fermented, dried and roasted…the Cacao Fruit Pulp is sweet and delicate.
The folks at Cacao Barry have developed an entirely new approach to making chocolate – using the whole cacao fruit. The revolutionary Evocao Wholefruit Chocolate is made from one ingredient only…..Cacao.
The Wholefruit Cacao beans come from farming communities in countries like Ecuador who are part of the Cocoa Horizons sustainability program. Cacao Barry has developed a method of “upcycling” the previously discarded Cacao Fruit pulp, drying it and then adding it back into the ground cacao nibs to create the sweetness and interesting flavour of the finished chocolate. Time is of the essence, they need to start processing the Cacao pulp within 5 hours of the harvest. By harvesting the 100% sustainably sourced Cacao fruit pulp as well as the beans, there is the added benefit of increasing farmers’ revenues and incomes. How do they do it? Sorry, this 2-year creative journey is a trade secret!
How does using the whole cacao fruit affect the flavour of the finished chocolate? Using cane sugar to make chocolate only adds the sweetness. Using Cacao pulp to sweeten the chocolate adds additional flavour notes, aromas, fiber and additional nutrients to the end product.
How does the new Evocao Whole Fruit Chocolate taste?
Here is my own tasting experience using what I like to call the “All 5 Senses” approach.
SIGHT: I notice the shiny chocolate sample has a nice burgundy colour tone to it.
TOUCH: The chocolate is quite solid and firm. Not as soft as a white or milk chocolate would normally be.
SOUND: When I break the chocolate piece in half, I hear a clear, crisp “snap”. This tells me the chocolate has been perfectly crystalized or tempered. If it was not done correctly, then there would be no sound when the piece breaks. The cocoa butter crystals are either not present or they are not in their correct formation. (stay tuned for a future blog post on Tempering Chocolate to learn about the science behind this process).
AROMA: I rub the chocolate piece gently between my two fingers, this helps to release more aroma. I cup my hand around the chocolate and breath in deeply. It has pleasant red berry, and plum scents. Did you know that 90% of taste comes from aroma? Smelling the chocolate is a critical step in detecting the various flavour notes when the piece is eaten.
TASTE: I take a bite of the chocolate and chew it up slightly, letting the small pieces melt for a few seconds then I start spreading it over my tongue using the roof of my mouth. This will distribute the chocolate to all my taste buds. The initial notes that come to me are definitely the red berries and plum. As the piece melts, I detect the tropical notes of the mango, mandarin orange, is that a bit of floral?... and a deep cacao flavour but without the bitterness. The finish is very long lasting – maybe 15 minutes or more have passed and the taste still lingers on my pallet. The end notes are a bit sour, like a lemon. Slightly astringent on the pallet and tangy. I feel like I am back on the Cacao Plantation in the Cloud Forests of Mindo, Ecuador. Sigh.
Pro Tip: Try this the next time you taste fine chocolate. Close your eyes and plug your ears. By eliminating two of your senses, your brain can focus more on your sense of taste. I find I can concentrate more on detecting those flavour notes. It is important to note that not everyone tastes food the same way. Some will get these notes, others will not. Some will detect a few flavours that I didn’t. Some are even called “supertasters” as they have more taste buds on their tongue than others.
Our work with this new chocolate here in the shop has only just begun. Our first products have been kept simple to allow you to taste the flavours of Wholefruit Chocolate on its own. We have a hand molded flat that is simply the chocolate on its own and a small hand molded cacao pod with a few added cacao nibs for a crunchy texture.
We will continue to experiment with other recipes once we learn what ingredients will pair nicely with these strong flavour notes. It can be a challenge to make a perfect flavour pairing when adding inclusions to chocolate but it gets our creative juices flowing and we love experimenting in the kitchen!
We have already had a few questions from customers about the new chocolate.
Is Wholefruit Chocolate Vegan? The chocolate is plant based and contains no other ingredient other than the cacao pod itself, but it may have been in contact with dairy in the manufacturing process. We refer to it as “Vegan Friendly”.
Is Wholefruit Chocolate Healthier? Since the Cacao pulp is being added back into the Cacao nibs to make the chocolate, it becomes very nutrient rich and naturally high in fiber. Chocolate is a source of Potassium as well as many other minerals and micronutrients. Personally, I love when taste and health can come together in a balanced way. The clean, natural, plant-based chocolate is a healthy way for me to indulge in a treat now and then….or daily!
What does the new Wholefruit Chocolate pair well with? Evocao Wholefruit Chocolate has a strong cacao and tropical fruit flavour. While we are still experimenting with various nut, spice and fruit inclusions for the new chocolate, Cacao Barry has given us some recommendations. Try to pair with Pink Pepper, Cannabis, Nutmeg, Thyme, Sage, Mango, Guava, even Green Pepper and Tomato! Looking to pair with a lovely beverage? They suggest Gewurztraminer Wine, Sake Daiginjo and Stone Pine Arolla Liqueur. Looks like I have some weekend experimenting to do!
Why did Cacao Barry bring this product to consumers? Their answer is, “We must collectively offer products that are tasty, good for them, good for the planet and its people.” I concur!
We are excited to bring this revolutionary new chocolate to our customers and hope they enjoy it as much as we do. I am happy to answer any questions you may have – please email me at email@example.com
Lori Eisenberger, Owner & Master Chocolatier