Last week, at a program held at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) in New York City, the Fine Chocolate Industry Association's Heirloom Cacao Preservation (HCP) announced their first four designees.
And the Heirloom Cacao Designees Are ...
** Alto Beni, Bolivia provided by Volker Lehmann of Frontier Ventures Bolivia
** Tranquilidad Estate, Beni, Bolivia provided by Volker Lehmann of Frontier Ventures Bolivia
** Hacienda Limon, Los Rios/Cotopaxi, Ecuador provided by Samuel Von Rutte, ORECAO SA
** Hawaii Agriculture Research Center, Maunawili Experiment Station provided by Daniel O’Doherty, Cacao Services Agricultural & Scientific Consulting
What is Heirloom Cacao?
[From the FCIA web site:] Heirloom does not mean the beans are present or preserved in collections, old, or wild. Antiquity is welcome but not conditional -- just because a bean is from a tree that has been grown for generations does not mean that it tastes good.
Heirloom cacao are the diamonds of cacao -- cacao trees and beans endowed with a combination of historic, cultural, botanical, geographical, and most importantly, flavor value.
Heirloom beans have terrific overall balance -- complex and intense, long and pleasant -- and unique flavor worthy of preservation, protection, and propagation. While no specific flavor characteristics are required, Heirloom beans must be distinctive in their characteristics and present special/unusual but well-balanced flavors produced through the beans’ genetics, terroir, and post-harvest processing.
While the HCP is committed to understanding the genetics of Heirloom cacao, genetics do not drive the process.
Instead, bean samples are submitted for evaluation. At this point they may be rejected for obvious post-harvest processing and other defects (and many, if not most, are, from what I could infer).
Once the beans have passed this initial screening, they are roasted, ground into liquor, and turned into chocolate. There are agreed-upon standards for roasting profiles and chocolate recipe (percentage, ingredients).
Before the Heirloom designation is awarded, the site where the beans were grown must be visited and inspected.
I've uploaded the Tasting Panel's notes for each chocolate as an attachment to this comment.