Single Origin Chocolate - Standards?

Kalibri Anne
@kalibri-anne
04/08/13 04:18:09PM
5 posts

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


updated by @kalibri-anne: 04/09/15 01:56:17PM
Jim2
@jim2
04/09/13 07:22:49AM
49 posts

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

Sebastian
@sebastian
04/09/13 07:23:28PM
754 posts

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

Gap
@gap
04/09/13 07:29:30PM
182 posts

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?

Sebastian
@sebastian
04/09/13 08:49:16PM
754 posts

Correct, no legal requirements.

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

Gap
@gap
04/10/13 12:41:41AM
182 posts

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.

Sebastian
@sebastian
04/10/13 06:24:56AM
754 posts

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-)

Ruth Atkinson Kendrick
@ruth-atkinson-kendrick
04/10/13 06:44:03AM
194 posts

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

Gap
@gap
04/10/13 08:13:15AM
182 posts

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 moredefiniteanswer.

Jim2
@jim2
04/10/13 06:07:02PM
49 posts

Sebastian,

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

Jim Lucas

Sebastian
@sebastian
04/10/13 06:19:39PM
754 posts

You can absolutely have genetic variation w/in a pod. All of the seeds will not be genetically identical.

Sebastian
@sebastian
04/10/13 06:20:04PM
754 posts

Thanks Jim - looking forward to it!

Jim2
@jim2
04/12/13 11:51:46AM
49 posts

Sebastian,

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

Jim Lucas

Kalibri Anne
@kalibri-anne
04/12/13 02:45:41PM
5 posts

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?

Olivier L
@olivier-l
04/13/13 08:42:06PM
15 posts

Hi Anne,

I can only agree with the previous comments, single origin is a marketing tool. I doubt any chocolate maker will go through a genetic testing session before using this "single origin" term to scientifically validate the premise.

In the end, I feel nowadays it comes to trusting the chocolate makers you deal with. I have moved to Chile and I work with various chocolate makers from South America that I believe trustworthy. If you want some names, just send me a private message asking what chocolate "origins" you're looking for and I'll send you what I have.

In addition, if you don't know it yet, you'll find some rich information around chocolate strains on Mark's website: www.c-spot.com

Cheers

Olivier

Clay Gordon
@clay
04/15/13 12:06:29AM
1,680 posts

There are no formal industry standards as to what "single-origin" means. It's probably not a bad idea because of the widespread use of the term and the potential for misleading buyers.

I stopped using the phrase "single-origin" when talking about chocolate a long time ago because, for me, it's no longer either meaningful nor helpful. I now just use the single word "origin." An origin chocolate is one where the place where the beans come from is indicated on the label.

The origin may be big - an entire country: Venzuela. It could be a region: Carenero, Sur del Lago (by Lake Maracaibo), Ocumare. It could be small: a village/community (Chuao) or a farm (Hacienda Concepcion, Hacienda San Jose).

Is a chocolate a single-origin chocolate if it is a blend of beans from two different growing areas of the same country?It might be if your definition of the origin is an entire country. Otherwise not.

Another nuance to consider for companies adding cocoa butter to their chocolate: To be a "true" single origin the cocoa butter has to come from the same place that the beans come from. It's not single-origin if the beans are grown in Venezuela and the cocoa butter is Ghanaian deodorized.

If you really wanted to be picky about it, a "true" single origin would have ALL of the ingredients come from the same origin. Should a "single-origin" from the Dominican Republicbe made with Dominican sugar?

Finally,a varietal name is not an originand can be confusing. Ocumare is also a varietal - and they grow in other places besides Ocumare. (I've seen them in a gene bank in Bolivia - at least they were identified as Ocumare, but that's another story.)

In the end, you have to trust everyone in the supply chain to be telling the truth. Traceability is supposed to be part of agri- and social certifications. Does that mean that accidents and fraud don't happen? Of course not.

Sebastian is totally right about genetic variability within a pod. It depends, from what I have been told, on how many times the flower has been successfully fertilized. This more times, the greater the genetic diversity within the pod. From what I have been told, cacao is nearly unique, if not unique in this respect.




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clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/

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