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Hello!  I am seeking reliable sources of South American Single Origin chocolate.  I have been using a Colombian and a Venezualan chocolate that claim to be single origin.  As I continue my research I am questioning what does it mean, are their standards to claiming Single origin on the labels OR by the distributor?  My question is does anyone know where I can get reliable information about this?  or what do you know about the 'Single-Origin' chocolate world?  Thank you!

M

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Kalibri Anne,

The answer depends on how you frame your question. Single Origin is another advertising "buzz word" that tries to imply a special status for the beans that are used to make chocolate. I am a bean producer and have the ability to produce single origin beans which are Estate Single Origin, single origin beans which are Regional Single Origin, single origin beans which are Country Single Origin, etc. In our situation, since we produce several varieties within our farm, we could produce Variety Singe Origin.  The term simply has no meaning when you fail to define "Single Origin What". It becomes more complicated when you try to impose the term when referencing "chocolate". Most commercial or mass chocolate producers do not acquire and process beans from a single farmstead and therefore simply are unable to attest to the origin other than that of the location of their plant. Few bean producers have ample capacity to provide feed stock required to create the imaginary "Single Origin Chocolate". There are cooperative processors that collect beans from various producers and advertise "Single Origin", however, the methodology of post harvest processing of beans differ with each farm taking away the "Single Origin" myth.

Until one controls farm production, post harvest process, warehousing logistics and the ultimate steps of producing chocolate....."Single Origin" can only be described as two words used to promote retail sales.

Jim Lucas

Floresta Azul Brazil

Jim, would you be willing to post some photographs of your trees and fermentation and drying areas? I'd love to see them...

Sebastian,

I'll put together a few shots and post as requested. I'll try to get it done by weeks end.

Jim Lucas

Thanks Jim - looking forward to it!

Sebastian,

You should be able to see photos of some of the process we use in Fazenda Venturosa

Jim Lucas

Wow, great conversation.  Opens a lot of spots for exploring.    

It seems on the note of 'single origin' - with there being no standards - it is in the best interest of the chocolate maker/chocolatier to explore these details of the cacao they are sourcing themselves.  This may take more rigourous research depending on how specific we want 'single origin' to mean for us.  And for us to define/be transparent about what is does mean for us if we use that label on our product.   To continue educating and encourage 'consumers' to question  when the 'label' is used vaguely.  

Thought?

From what I've read (which admittedly is limited) there doesn't appear to be a "standard". Ie., you don't need to have a certain % of single origin beans in your chocolate to claim the whole bar is single origin. I guess this goes to what Jim is saying - if you source some of your beans from Madagascar, then you can probably claim single origin Madagascar chocolate - but who knows if it is 10% Madagascar beans, 50% or 100%????

Anyone heard/know different?

Correct, no legal requirements.

There are a few who can tell if it's true or not; it's certainly possible 8-)

My understanding is this is the same issue with bars marked, for example, as Criollo strain. There might be 10% criollo or 100% but who knows - there is no standard to say what it should be. And often the farms the beans comes from might have more than one type of tree on the plantation anyway, so criollo stock could actually have other beans mixed in with them.

Again it's possible to determine definitively.  There's not a great deal of value in doing so however.

The biggest problem is - how do you define criollo? It's been done, there is an answer - but almost no one knows what it is or how to do it.  99.99% of folks use a very loose, ballpark-ish gut feel based on visuals, yield, disease resistance, or flavor - which is a very good way to get it wrong 8-)  plus, your pod has 40(ish) seeds in it - are they all the same?  If it tastes wonderful and is differentiated - does it matter? 8-)

Sebastian, is it possible for seeds in one pod to be different types, like cross-pollination?

Interesting question Ruth. I think I have read that it is possible but I am not even close to being an expert on this topic . . . . hopefully Sebastian can chime in with a more definite answer.

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