The Importance Of Properly Fermenting Cacao Beans

To fully develop the flavor of a cacao bean, it must be fermented correctly. This is a crucial step in the processing of high quality cacao. Attention to detail and proper equipment are a must. Yet, the cacao used in almost all commercially available chocolate, has been fermented in a careless, haphazard way. When cacao is poorly fermented, chocolate makers must resort to adding artificial flavors and massive amounts of sugar to their blends. This is the only way to cover up the bitter and sour notes of the cacao.

The vast majority of fermentation is actually done on cacao farms. Poor farmers who are already working tremendously hard harvesting their cacao crop, are also expected to manage the complex fermentation process. In most cases they don’t have the money necessary to build a proper fermentation set up. As a result, primitive methods are used, such as throwing fresh cacao beans in a plastic bag and letting the cacao ferment under the sun. Nothing is more sure to produce a bad tasting chocolate.

Living with cacao farmers has taught us a very valuable lesson. Farmers should be left to do what they know how to do best and enjoy doing most. That is caring for the cacao plants. In the Marañón Canyon, where we operate, the farmers are agricultural geniuses. They can grow anything.

On a recent trip to the Canyon, we brought dates and sunflower seeds, luxuries not available in the jungle where the cacao grows. By the time we left, many farmers had little date trees and sunflowers growing on their land. On the same farm with cacao they grow bananas, apples, oranges, papaya, coconut, coffee, and many other edible crops. They are aggro-forestry specialists.

We work with one farmer, Noe, who is a cacao savant. He can walk through the countryside and using his “cacao sixth sense”, pick out cacao trees that are rare and special. He lead us to the discovery of the Fortuanto No. 4 “mother tree”, the purest expression of Nacional cacao anywhere on the planet.

The point is this: for the sake of quality, it makes much more sense to let the farmers worry about farming.

We’ve made it our own responsibility to master fermentation. All of the pure Nacional cacao that goes into our Fortunato No. 4 chocolate is processed in our centralized cacao processing facility. We have a 8 person staff that scrutinizes every single cacao bean to make sure that each bean is being done correctly.

Traditionally, artisan cacao is only fermented to 80% of its potential fermentation. While the fermentation process is what brings out the flavor in cacao, it also creates a lot of vinegar. A 100% fermentation allows you to develop all of the flavors of the cacao bean. It can also give cacao a vinegar or acid taste.

Because we leave farming to farmers, we’re able to devote all of our time to mastering cacao processing. The result has been the discovery of a proprietary step that, as far as we know, is not used by any other company. This step lets do a 100% ferment; extract and develop the full flavor potential of the pure Nacional bean; and then remove any vinegar flavor that would negatively affect the chocolate.

The result of our partnership with the farmers and attention to detail is a chocolate unlike you’ve ever tasted before. I encourage you to contact one of our select chocolatiers today. Fortunato No. 4 is the rarest, most cared for chocolate in the world.

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