Over the past several days I've been tasting 16 samples of liquor and chocolate per day for an exciting project - the expansion of the Latin American Cocoa Flavor map. It's an honor to have been invited to join the tasting panel on behalf of the Fine Chocolate Industry Association and Grocer's Daughter Chocolate.
The Cocoa Flavor map is an international development project of MOCCA (Maximizing Opportunities for Coffee and Cacao in the Americas) implemented by Lutheran World Relief and funded by several partners, including the United States Department of Agriculture. The objective of the map is to illustrate the broad flavor diversity from these renowned cocoa origins and assist buyers in identifying the cocoa that fits their exact needs.
Similar to wine grapes and coffee, cacao can vary wildly in flavor depending on where it's grown in the world, the soil quality, the terrior, microclimate, etc. Further, the chocolate made from this cacao can be expressed in lots of different ways depending on the flavors inherent in the cacao beans (technically seeds) but also the care taken during the post-harvest production, roasting, grinding, etc.
Over ten days each person on our international tasting panel is blind-tasting the same thing: 52 samples of liquor (100% cacao mass) and 52 of 66% dark chocolate supplied by Zoi of Zoto from Belgium. We know the samples are an assortment from Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala or Nicaragua but they are otherwise unidentifiable.
The results of the tasting and the multi-year Latin American Cocoa Flavor map project will be released at the Chocoa conference in Amsterdam in June, 2022 (next month). I'm thrilled to have been part of this tasting and I'm always amazed by the breadth of flavors and aromas found in cacao. I've tasted a few outstanding chocolates among these samples and I'm excited to tune into Chocoa to learn where each of them originated!