Chocolate Maker's Journal
A Bean Unlike Any We Have Ever Tasted
Posted on 2/23/2009 by Ray Major
I'd like to tell you about a new bar we are making for the store. It is a 68% bittersweet, but what I am really excited about is that it is a single origin from the Brazilian Amazon and the beans are just superb. I found this cacao about a year ago while I was visiting a cooperative of farmers in the Brazilian State of Pará, about 150 miles south of Belém in the municipality of Tome Acu. These farmers are just incredible. They are all descendents of Japanese immigrants who came to the area in the 1920's.
They started out growing black pepper in a huge monoculture and were successful until disease hit and destroyed everything. Fortunately they were smart enough to learn from the experience and when they replanted they chose cacao and cupuaçu and other rainforest friendly crops. Today, along with cacao and black pepper, they have a thriving fruit pulp business. I was so awed by what they have accomplished that I had to buy some of their cacao and what a surprise it was. We have just now started to make chocolate with it and I have never tasted anything like it in more than thirty years of chocolate making. It has a good basic chocolate flavor, but on top of that are these wild notes of apple and pear—almost like a white wine. Brad described it like a sauterne mixed into chocolate. It is splendid. We had a magazine publisher in the office the other day and he could not believe what he tasted.
The other thing that has me excited about it is where it comes from—Pará. No one has a bar from there. Think of it—the Brazilian Amazon! The ancestors of this cacao grew wild on the banks of the Amazon and its tributaries. The Jesuits in the 1600's were the first to realize the high quality of this cacao and they hired the Tupi Indians to go out and collect it wild from the forest. Imagine a small fleet of canoes paddling along the banks of these tropical rivers and plucking cacao pods from the overhanging branches. It was the first Brazilian cacao to be exported to Europe and remained the principal producing region until the 1880's when cacao began to take off in Bahia. Now it seems to be an almost forgotten origin, but after people taste this bar I think there will be chocolate makers standing in line to buy it.
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