Information on Madagascar

Brian S. Ruggles
09/11/10 11:45:07PM
7 posts
I am still a Chocolate Life greenhorn, but I would love some input from the contributors on here.

I recently formed a Chocolate Society in Utah with some fellow chocophiles, and we meet monthly to focus on various aspects of the wonderful brown stuff. We have looked at Venezuelan chocolates, Amedei's blends, etc. Our next meeting - just this Monday evening - will spotlight Madagascar chocolates.

I love the fruitiness of Madagascar's beans. I love the difference between Amano's Madagascar and Pralus's. I am excited to try and overload on one of the most potent beans out there. I think this will be an interesting look to see the stylistic differences between the great producers out there in addition to an exciting way to discover the unique characteristics of the Madagascar beans that exist independent of the producers' methodology. We will be sampling chocolate from Amano, Patric, Valrhona, Pralus, Amedei, Domori, and some others I can't remember now.

I am hoping to get information about Madagascar's beans in relation to these brands' bars. I understand that Amano, Amedei, Domori, and Patric get their beans from the Akesson family plantation in the Sambirano Valley in the northern part of the island, and that Pralus and Valrhona use beans blended from Akesson and some other locale(s).

Are the beans Trinitario or Criollo? It seems there is some debate there, and I tend to think the beans fall somewhere on the Criollo side of in-between - whatever that would even mean. Does anyone know where the distinctive brightness comes from, or the fruit-skin-style bitterness? Is that the varietal or the climate or soil or some other factor coming through?

If you have any info to offer, I would greatly appreciate it. And keep up the great work.


updated by @brian-s-ruggles: 05/05/15 04:27:42AM
09/12/10 02:44:18PM
754 posts
Actually, while many tend to discuss cocoa beans in a general 3 bean family (forestero, trinitario, crillo), it's much more complicated than that. Genotypically speaking, there's at least 10 families - cacao genetics is much more complicated than we'd historically gave it credit for!Much of the flavor is attributed to it's genetics. Much is from the growing conditions. A very, very significant amount is from the fermentation. It's amazing the degree to whicih you can influence flavor at fermentation if you know what you're doing.
09/12/10 05:07:31PM
49 posts
Brian,Here are some facts that reflect an environment which provides beans from Madagascar. You will note the monthly minimum wage for agricultural workers is the equivalent to two high end 100 gram chocolate bars. Although the flavors may be heavenly, the means of extracting them are hell.The website for this info is included if you have an interest. The quest for excellence in chocolate should include consideration for the labor that provides it's prime material. If you read the full report, it may alter your evaluation of the next sampling of Madagascar chocolate.Jim Lucas The monthly minimum wage was about $42 for nonagricultural workers and $43 for agricultural workers in 2008. The Ministry of Civil Services and Labor is responsible for enforcing working conditions and the minimum wages. It does not have the resources to properly monitor working conditions. The standard workweek is 40 hours in nonagricultural and service industries and 42.5 hours in the agricultural sector.The minimum age for employment is 15 years. Children can work a maximum of 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week with no overtime. Persons under the age of 18 are forbidden from working at night and at sites where there is an imminent danger to health, safety, or morals. The laws to protect children from exploitation in the workplace are not effectively enforced. The International Labor Organization's 2007 National Survey on Child Labor in Madagascar indicated that about 28% of children between 5 and 17work on a full-time or part-time basis.Only 36% of families in rural areas have access to clean drinking water. According to a government survey of hygiene in February 2009, only 18% of the 111 school districts have access to drinking water at their schools and only 30% have toilet facilities. Lack of access to water and sanitation at schools is one of the major reasons for the high rate of diseases among children. Skin infections and respiratory diseases are common as a result of contaminated water.37% of the population is considered to be undernourished, 47% of the population have access to clean drinking water, 36.8% of children under 5 are underweight for their age, 12% of the population have access to improved sanitation facilities, the probability of dying between the ages of 15 and 60 is 26.8%, 89.6% of the population lives on less than $2 a day, 71.3% of the population lives below the national poverty level
Walter Plante
09/12/10 05:51:33PM
9 posts
Jim, good information. Given that (according to the report) the econonic outlook is negative, I have to ask myself would I hurt people or help people by not buying the chocolate? I don't have the answers, but assume it depends upon the political situtation and how the "plantations" are managaged. Personally, I'm not sure I would change anything politically by not buying Madagascan chocolate (without taking some other action) and I can only assume that buying the chocolate helps someone in Madagascar. So I choose to buy.I think there are other threads on the fair-trade model and who winds and looses that may be of interest here.Thanks - Walter
Anthony Lange
10/06/10 09:50:51AM
34 posts
Hello Brian.I'm no expert on Madagascan beans (having been there only once) but I can tell you that MOST, if not ALL Madagascan beans are mixed at source. Even Millott SA don't/cannot do specific trees. The place is stuffed. The trees, for the most part are OLD (like 30/40 years), there are a few people trying to grow new trees , and the farmers are VERY poor and VERY desperate. But you are right. The beans are the BEST. And you can most certainly tell a Madagascan chocolate from any other. I do have contacts on Madagascar for as much as you like (if you want, that is). I think once the chocolate bug has bitten, you are well and truly bit.RegardsAnthony
Sarah Scott
10/12/10 10:22:33PM
16 posts
Funny that you mentioned the source of the Amano bar from Madagascar. I was speaking to one of the guys from Amano on sunday at the LA chocolate salon, out of curiosity I asked him what type of beans they used for the Madagascar bar because it is one of my favorites and he said they don't like to tell people or even from what plantation it comes from because it is such a small farm and they don't want other companies getting a hold of their bean source, why ..... because there isn't enough to go around. I also know that many small companies like Amano work hand in hand with the farmers to ensure that the farmers not only get fair prices for their beans, but also to teach and help them improve their farming skills. If we are willing to pay 8$ for a 2oz candy bar I don't think we should feel too guilty about eating it. We surely aren't going to improve their way of like by boycotting chocolate, but boycotting companies that mass produce chocolate...that's another story.
Anthony Lange
10/13/10 01:32:59AM
34 posts
Hi Sarah, Well it all boils down to ones philosophy in life. I for one beleive that there is always enough and to be propriety is just norrow minded. how does the idea of "Fair Trade" apply when you are instrumnental at limiting the amount the farmer can produce. Like most things in the "west" it's just plain schizophrenic. No wonder Amajinadad has such a problem. If you want Mada beans - just ask and you shall receive. T PS... Not even the largest supplier in Mada is able to seperate the beans into Criollo, Forestaro or Trnitario.... Its all BULL (and Spin) or Spunbull.
Sarah Scott
10/13/10 01:48:39AM
16 posts
Thanks Anthony for the light reply and the tip pertaining to the beans! Great close up of the beans as well.
Anthony Lange
10/13/10 01:56:33AM
34 posts
only a pleasure....
Vercruysse Geert
11/24/10 03:30:11AM
16 posts
Hello Brian,Did you learn and find some usefull information abou Madagascar? Tsar & Madcasse are both from Sahin, even the same shape and form ! Valrhona - Millet plantation and Cluizel - the Mangaro plantation, tell me about it if you will, looking forward and always glad to learn from members like you.Greetings from Belgium-FlandersGeert Vercruysse

Java Cocoa
12/25/10 02:25:20PM
4 posts

I love this part of chocolate life!!

Finding out all these wonderful factoids really makes me want to read more and learn more. Thank you Jim for all the enlightenment!!

Bruce Toy (Coppeneur)
12/26/10 02:13:55AM
15 posts
Coppeneur also purchases their Madagascar beans from Akesson.


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