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If it's not explicitly labeled with the type of cacao used, how often does a single origin (such as Ghana, Madagascar, etc) utilize only one type of cacao? In other words, if I buy single origin cocoa beans or a single origin bar, am I likely to be buying chocolate from several different types of trees?

Could one make the analogy, if you were to buy a single origin Ghana, it would be like buying a Napa wine and if you were to buy single origin Ghana forastero, it would be like buying a Napa white wine, but there is no way to buy a Napa Chardonnay type of chocolate, yet? Or am I thinking about this all wrong?

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James:

I don't think you're thinking wrong, but the analogy with wine goes only so far as the distinctions between bean varietals is not as well differentiated as grape varietals. Vineyards are, for the most part, monocultures of single grape varietals, so it's easy to differentiate between Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc (for example).

However, because most chocolate for the past 100 years has been undifferentiated blends, and the route from farm to manufacturer is often very convoluted and blending is the norm not the exception, the value of origin chocolate is not as well established. In the wine world, a boutique vintage of 500 cases is a common occurrence, in part because there is no ceiling on the price. An established winemaker in a good year could easily charge hundreds of dollars per bottle (at the winery) for a special limited edition. Half-bottles of a good Chateau d'Yquem can cost $600. On the other hand, if there are only 1000kg (1 tonne) of rare Porcelana beans harvested from a specific farm and the bar ends up costs $21 at retail - then that's too expensive for most people, even those who don't think twice about paying $200 for a bottle of wine.

I don't like to use "single-origin" because I think it is confusing. A "single origin" Ghana doesn't make much sense as it's likely a blend of beans from several places in Ghana. I prefer the word "origin" with the idea that the origin can be very broad (e.g., an entire country; Ghana) or very specific (a single plantation; Hacienda Elvesia), or somewhere in between (e.g., a growing region; Sambirano Valley, Madagascar).

There are some instances where an origin and a bean type come together. One example is the Porcelana bars from Bonnat. Not only is the bean type given (the Porcelana-type criollo) but the origin of the beans is also given - Apotequil in Peru and Marfil de Blanco in Mexico. There is a third Porcelana bar whose bean origin is given only as Venezuela without mentioning a specific plantation or area within Venezuela.
Clay, color me impressed. Chateau d'Yquem? $600 a half bottle?! I know where I'm going if I've got a wine question. :) Oh, and I think I'm actually on the flipside of the chocolate-wine debate -- $200 is a little out of my range for wine, but I didn't think twice about purchasing the Amedei Porcelana bar (in Italy.. when the dollar was weak!) :)

Good idea to drop the 'single' part of the phrase and just go with 'origin.' I think that's where I was getting hung up, too.

So as a chocolate consumer, it would be best when comparing chocolate from different chocolatiers to ensure that the origin and year match? And the origin must also match in its specificity (both must be general region, or both must be more specific region, or both must be specific plantation) in order to be fair. Oh and the chocolatiers must also match in their honesty in the representation of their chocolate origin (either both honest or both dishonest) ;) But, more hopefully through more consumer awareness, those dishonest chocolatiers are forced to change their ways or put out of business.

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