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Jun 6, 2023 9:57:43 AM8 min read

The Bedrock of Premium Chocolate: Shared Value at Origin

"The equation is simple: good crop management coupled with better materials and production processes translates into higher demand and greater consumer satisfaction. By obtaining high-quality cocoa beans, we will obtain exceptional chocolate products, and the farmer will have a higher income and, therefore, a better quality of life”:  

Rildo Castillo Araujo. R+D Director at Luker Chocolate

Choosing the right cocoa source comes into the checklist of exceptional chocolate production in confectionery and among high-end chocolatiers.  

Few pleasures compare with the taste and aroma of exquisite chocolate melting on the palate. To achieve the best possible outcome, it's crucial to maintain the quality of cocoa used in premium chocolate products. Each step in the process, from harvesting to conching, is executed with precision to create a final product that is truly delightful to the senses.

FACT: The global premium chocolate market size was valued at USD 12036.51 million in 2022 and is expected to expand at a CAGR of 8.54% during the forecast period, reaching USD 19684.04 million by 2028, according to Market Watch.

Dive into the delicious world of cocoa by browsing this menu!

When it comes to cocoa, there's no shortage of options to explore and refine. Among the many choices available, one standout cocoa category is Cacao Fino de Aroma chocolate, lauded for its unparalleled taste and intricate flavor profile.

This article will look closely at the factors and practices behind an excellent cocoa bean and its importance in fine chocolate making. Keep reading to know more.

high quality cacao

Crafted at Origin, our Secret to High-Quality Cocoa & Exceptional Chocolate Tasting

A combination of factors determines the quality of the bean. The geographical origin of the cocoa, climate, soil, tree variety, the growing conditions, and the fermentation process are crucial elements that influence the final quality of the bean. These factors have a direct impact on the flavor profile and characteristics of cocoa.

One of the main factors is the origin. The characteristics of the growing region's soil, climate, and altitude directly impact cocoa's flavor and aroma profile. Some areas recognized for producing high-quality cocoa include countries such as Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Ghana, among others. Each location offers unique conditions that result in distinctive flavors and aromas.

At Luker, we produce our chocolate products with Cacao Fino de Aroma, distinguished by its exceptional taste, aroma, and texture, from meticulous processes from planting to harvesting and processing. This type of cocoa becomes the soul of premium chocolate, providing unique characteristics that elevate it to higher levels. Its complex flavor balances fruity, floral, earthy, and spicy notes, offering an unparalleled sensory experience. In addition, its silky texture and smooth melt-in-the-mouth mouthfeel add a sense of indulgence and refinement.

For Rildo Castillo, Research and Development Director at Luker Chocolate, "High-quality cocoa is a bean that has gone through a proper cultivation and post-harvest process, resulting in an excellent level of fermentation and drying. It is also a clean bean free of impurities, infestation, or defects. These variables ultimately contribute to chocolate with an excellent flavor profile”.

Choosing the best beans from privileged regions guarantees excellence at every stage of premium chocolate making. From grinding to conching and tempering, high-quality cocoa becomes the basis for a perfect texture, exceptional gloss, and melting consistency.

Cocoa & Chocolate supply chain: safeguarding quality at every step

The entire cocoa value chain has a role to play in ensuring the quality of a good bean, and traceability also has a notable impact. Controlling the origin of cocoa and its journey from cultivation to processing allows us to know the source of cocoa and provide valuable information on the agricultural practices used, ensuring that quality standards are met and establishing a relationship of trust with cocoa producers.

The best quality beans are produced by dedicated farmers who have perfected the art of cocoa cultivation. Luker's experts support them by sharing research-based knowledge on the best agricultural practices to achieve exceptional beans with unique aromas and flavor profiles. 

Growing and post-harvesting cocoa plays a fundamental role. Careful attention to every stage, from pruning the trees to fermenting and drying the beans, is essential to develop optimal flavors and aromas. Expert farmers use traditional and modern techniques to ensure that cocoa reaches its full potential.

Controlled fermentation and proper drying are crucial, as they form flavor compounds and eliminate undesirable flavors. "Fermentation is a crucial stage, as this is where the chocolate flavor and aroma precursors are generated. This process should take between 6 and 8 days, depending on the region. If the bean is not treated with careful and controlled post-harvesting criteria, it cannot be corrected in the process no matter how much technology we put in," says Castillo.

A cocoa bean with too much moisture is susceptible to fungus, mold, and other diseases, so after fermentation, beans should be dried to reduce moisture from 60% to 7.5%. This step ensures the stability and longevity of the beans while locking in their distinctive flavors. Proper drying techniques, including appropriate airflow, temperature, and duration, are employed to avoid off-flavors or spoilage.

Additionally, storing the beans in a cool, dark place is crucial to prevent deterioration of flavor and aroma. If this process isn't correct, it can result in a bitter and astringent taste and slaty beans.

Although cultivating and processing cocoa beans are crucial for great-tasting chocolate, transportation also plays an essential role. The journey of cocoa beans to our chocolate plant requires careful shipping to maintain their quality and preserve their flavors. However, it is often in this overlooked stage that flavor can be at risk.

One essential but underestimated aspect of this process is the cleanliness of the trucks used for transport. Ensuring these vehicles are thoroughly cleaned and free of any dirt, gasoline residues, or lingering smells that could affect the cocoa beans is critical. Even the slightest contamination can affect the beans' flavor profile and compromise the final product.

"At Luker Chocolate, we make sure that we control our entire value chain so that the cocoa beans do not contain critical defects such as those associated with pests, bad fermentation, contamination, or impurities. In this process, we separate defective beans before they reach the manufacturing process to ensure the sensory profile of our chocolates. Our Cocoa Sourcing Team is adequately trained to recognize a quality bean. They know when a bean is slaty, infested, or insufficiently fermented and have special equipment and technology to perform this check", says Rildo.

According to Rildo, obtaining cocoa of excellent standards results in higher demand and trade. "The equation is simple: good crop management coupled with better materials and production processes translates into higher demand and greater consumer satisfaction. By obtaining high-quality cocoa beans, we will obtain exceptional chocolate products, and the farmer will have a higher income and, therefore, a better quality of life.”

How to recognize the quality of cocoa beans?

Identifying a high-quality cocoa bean involves paying attention to several vital aspects. Visually, premium cocoa beans have a uniform, shiny appearance, the shell is intact, with no breaks or blemishes, and the beans should not be flattened. Their deep, dark color indicates good ripeness. When brought to the nose, they have an intense and distinctive aroma, with notes of fruit, spices, nuts, or flowers.

Well Fermented Cocoa

Harvest ripe pods, handle beans gently, maintain warm, moist fermentation conditions, regularly turn beans, and monitor temperature and fermentation time to ensure well-fermented cocoa.

The texture is also important. A high-quality bean should feel dry and crisp, breaking easily without leaving a greasy residue. A uniform, crisp texture indicates good fermentation and proper drying. However, the accurate indicator of quality is found in the taste. Premium cocoa offers a complex and balanced experience, with notes of fruit, nuts, spices, and a subtle bitterness, leaving a harmonious and long-lasting taste on the palate.

Germinated: unsuitable for chocolate production

A germinated cocoa bean triggers the breakdown of stored proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, altering the flavor potential and ruining the bean's ability to be processed into chocolate.

For more professional recognition, experts and professional tasters perform sensory analysis and laboratory tests to evaluate the flavor profile, acidity, fat content, and other parameters that determine the quality of the cocoa bean.

Foreign material in cocoa

Impurities in cocoa, such as stones, shell fragments, dust, or other foreign materials, compromise the quality and safety of the final chocolate product. They can introduce off-flavors, affect the texture, and interfere with processing equipment.

Chocolate lovers, renowned chefs, and chocolatiers seek the highest quality ingredients to create gastronomic masterpieces that delight and surprise. Contact us, and let's embark on a chocolate journey like no other. The world of premium chocolates awaits, and we are excited to be your partner in this delectable adventure!

Spoiled Cocoa

Spoiled cocoa beans are unsuitable for chocolate production because spoilage significantly impacts the beans' flavor, aroma, and safety. Spoiled beans can harbor mold or bacteria, introducing harmful toxins and off-flavors that render the beans unfit for consumption and compromise the quality of any chocolate made from them.

Fully Purpled Cocoa

Fully purpled cocoa beans are generally considered under-fermented. Proper fermentation is critical to developing complex flavors in chocolate. Under-fermentation leaves the beans with a raw, astringent, and often bitter flavor, making them unsuitable for producing quality chocolate.

Mouldy Cocoa

Mouldy cocoa beans are unsuitable for chocolate production because mould introduces harmful toxins and unpleasant flavors that compromise the quality and safety of the final product. Mould growth can also negatively affect the fermentation and drying processes, further impacting flavor development and rendering the beans unfit for consumption.