Cocoa Beans: Where It All Starts

Cocoa Beans: Where It All Starts
Cacao beans are the building block of great chocolate. They come in a big, leathery pod.
(Photo courtesty of allybally4b on Pixabay)

The best chefs all know that great food starts with great ingredients. It makes them uncomfortable to admit it, because supposedly “a great chef can build an amazing meal out of lawn trimmings and gravel.”

The truth is that chefs build trusted relationships with their vendors, to make sure that they get the freshest fish, creamiest cheeses, and crispest veggies. Remember the scene in “Ratatouille” where the little rat spots the chef’s assistant slipping a few folded bank notes to the vendors to make sure they get first pick of the ingredients?

The pods full of cacao beans grow on trees in tropical climates. These trees are increasingly at risk from climate change, monocultures, and lax farming techniques. (Photo courtesy Pixabay)

Alas, we don’t have a talking rodent who could wow the legendary French chefs of the Cordon Bleu in our kitchen, but we do pay close attention to every little bit that goes into our chocolates.

The building block, of course, is cocoa. True chocolate connoisseurs talk about how they can detect the slightest flavors, the “terroir” of the plantation where the cocoa trees grow.

They look like coffee beans at this stage of the process, but they smell so much better!

It takes some concentration, but the real chocolate experts say that they can tell not just the country of origin of certain kinds of chocolate, but the very region where the cocoa beans were grown. It involves carefully taking tiny nibbles of the chocolate, rolling it around in your mouth until it melts, and then inhaling sharply to draw the scents of the chocolate both in your mouth, and being held under your nose, into your sinus cavities.

Our noses are so much more accurate and sensitive than the taste buds in our mouths. It’s why wine sommeliers wave the cork under your nose as the first test as to whether a bottle is worth drinking or not.

Check out our listings of “Estate Chocolates” for more on “single-source chocolates” where you can find custom flavor combinations.