The Chocolate Life

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Growing and Marketing "new" cacao species?

Hello Friends,

Thirty years ago I planted 1200 cacao trees on our small farm near the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica (bought before the ridiculous present land prices!).  That was 1984, but some 10 years later the Monilia fungus moved in and we were losing most of the crop.  Before the monilia we were producing about 1000 kilos per year.   I was back in the US working and trying to save some money, and my "caretaker/thief" abondoned it.

Returning permanently to my farm 6 years ago, I cut the vast majority of the trees and left only those resistant to the fungus.  They grew back excellently from the cut trunks and are now pruned correctly.  However last I checked the market value for dried beans is about $1.20 a kilo, not very profitable.  Clearly the best business model is to make our own chocolate, which we hope to do eventually via a cooperative.  Meanwhile I sell my ripe pods to a local gringo for 20 cents apiece.  He processes them and sells at a huge markup to other "raw food" foreigners, but I make more money with less work than processing it myself.

My main question though is on other cacao species.  I have the following on our farm:

Herrania purpurea                  Cacao de ardilla, Chocolatillo  (local)        

Theobroma angustifolia         Cacao de Indio    (local)

Theobroma cacao                   Cacao  (Trinidad varieties apparently)

Theobroma bicolor                 Pataste, Macambo  (regional)

Theobroma grandiflorum       Cupuazu  (Brazil)

Theobroma ??                         ??   northern Atlantic zone, said not to be good chocolate, might have good fruit. 

All but the normal cacao are still small trees, only the cupuassu has fruited, blooming at three years and producing last year at five, of which I planted all the seeds. The pulp cut from the seeds with scissors makes an excellent thick and fruity milk shake.  All the cacaos have edible fruit pulp.

We are interested in the commercial possibilities of these other species to know if we should plant them in quantity.  The herrania seeds are so small I doubt it could be commercialized.  All others are large.   I have read that cupuassu has been made into chocolate, but preferred to plant all my seeds last year, and that Pataste is the true "white chocolate" consumed by native americans, with a much milder taste than dark chocolate.  I expect 2-3 years before production of pataste seeds.  Can anyone give us any advice?  Are there any other species I should be looking for?   With the coop, we could become a large and reliable supplier if a market exists.  Please respond to jesseblenn@gmail.com.

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Comment by Jesse Blenn on March 3, 2014 at 9:11pm

Hi Tao,  We are in Las Tumbas, half way between San Isidro and Dominical, then 4 km south.  If you want to talk my phone is 8372 4113.  Jesse

Comment by Tao Watts on February 28, 2014 at 7:00pm

I would like to talk to you.  I use only organic beans from the Southern Zone, and would pay $2/k if you have a fine quality, properly fermented bean.  Please contact me.  Perhaps we can meet?  Where are you located?  I am in Perez Zeledon, in the mountains.  samaritanxocolata@gmail.com

Comment by Sebastian on January 26, 2014 at 7:14am

I considered buying land there during that same time actually - however the squatters rights made it too risky a proposition - i can't visit it every 6 months just to verify no one's now living there!

It's going to be a tough road to travel to try to market single clones, i think, unless you identify a direct trade partner to work with.  I'd select for flavor, bean size, and yield. The folks up at CATIE can help i imagine.  You also are, of course, going to need to work out the details of fermentation and drying - as by manipulating both of those things you can create a wide variety of very different chocolates with the same clonal material.

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