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What’s the Difference Between Cocoa & Cacao?

September 23rd, 2017
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Sure, you love chocolate, but can you tell these ingredients apart?

Most people love the rich, creamy taste of chocolate, but not everyone knows the difference between cocoa and cacao.

The chocolate flavor most of us think of is based on cocoa, which comes from the beans of the cacao tree. Cocoa is processed into cocoa powder, cocoa butter and, of course, chocolate chips. With its sweeter flavor, cocoa is a more common ingredient than cacao in desserts like fudgy brownies and rich chocolate cakes.

The purer form of chocolate is called cacao. It comes from the same source as cocoa, but you can find it in cacao nibs and specialty bars. It’s also a superfood with many antioxidants—in case you needed another reason to give it a try.

Source:  tastingtable.com

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Uncommon Cacao vs. global commodity markets

September 23rd, 2017
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A new report from the farmer financier highlights imbalances that disproportionately hurt farmers and create disincentives among manufacturers and retailers to push for change

To understand the impact that volatile commodity markets have on the “little guy,” just look at the Ivory Coast. The West African country is the world’s largest producer of cacao?—?the fruit that chocolate is made from. To help farmers stabilize income, the government sets a minimum price for purchasers: last year it was $1.88 a kilogram of cacao beans. But the markets had a different idea.

Higher-than-expected yields drove down futures prices for cleaned, roasted cacao beans on the London and New York markets. In turn, the Ivory Coast’s government slashed the guaranteed price to farmers by 36%?—?a decision that affects cacao farmers worldwide because the price is set every year in West Africa where 60% of the world’s cocoa is produced.

Here’s where Uncommon Cacao comes in. The Berkeley, Calif., social enterprise provides logistics and financial services to smallholder cacao farmers, connecting them with premium chocolate makers. It started in Belize in 2010 with a vision of making cacao trading more equitable for local farmers and has grown to a network of 2,600 farmers in five Latin American and Caribbean countries. Now it is looking to effect a systems change across the entire cocoa market through something the market currently lacks: farmer pricing transparency.

In its latest transparency report, Uncommon Cacao details the prices received by farmers in its network, where producers earned $1.30 a kilogram above the 2016 West Africa FarmGate price and 30 cents a kilogram above the average commodity price.

The report exposes several other issues in the cocoa value chain that affect farmers. One is the importance of cacao processing to farmer income. In Haiti, for instance, Uncommon Cacao partners with PISA, a cacao processor and farmer network that works with half of all farmers (and 70% of women farmers) in Uncommon Cacao’s network. Last year, the farmers received slightly below the West African FarmGate price for their crops?—?a legacy of Haiti’s notoriously opaque cacao market, where large export companies historically have bought “dried, unfermented, low quality cacao from smallholder farmers at prices below the commodity mark,” the report says.

Since PISA opened its own central processing plant, producers have seen earnings almost quadruple. What’s more, the report notes, they are “incentivized to protect their trees from the environmentally degrading charcoal market.” (An article by agricultural data company Gro Intelligence says that farming accounts for only 6.6% of the cocoa value chain; processing accounts for an additional 7.6% of the value.)

The report raises another issue that affects farmer income: the unreliability of product certification. Because existing certifications don’t verify quality or flavor of the beans, the report says, it leaves farmers at the mercy of commodity pricing because all cocoa beans are treated the same.

Finally, Uncommon Cacao highlights imbalances that disproportionately hurt farmers and create disincentives among manufacturers and retailers to push for change. “Our entire supply chain is only 10% or less of the price of a chocolate bar,” the report states. (Gro Intelligence’s data reveals that almost 80% of cocoa’s market value is in manufacturing and retail.) “We need consumers to pay more and retailers to get on board with margin transparency.”

Source:  news.impactalpha.com

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United Cacao receives environmental certification

December 24th, 2016
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Peru-based cacao plantation company United Cacao has had its soil study report approved by the General Directorate for Agricultural Environmental Affairs (DGAAA), a division of the Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture.

The approved soil study is the final element for completion of the company’s environmental certification programme known as the Proyecto de Adecuacion de Manejo Ambiental (PAMA) submission. The PAMA is an environmental document issued by the Peruvian government that certifies and accredits United Cacao’s agricultural practices and activities and confirms that such activities comply with the country’s environmental rules and regulations.

“This is an important milestone for the company. Approval of the soil study allows the company to officially submit the PAMA, which is the definitive environmental certification programme requested by the Peruvian authorities,” notes United Cacao executive director Anthony Kozuch.

United Cacao expects final ratification of its PAMA in 2017.

In addition, the company has updated shareholders on the progress of its operations in Peru. Highlights include United Cacao having planted over 1,843 hectares of land in Peru to date, of which 1,643 hectares is planted corporate estate and 200 hectares relates to the company’s innovative small-farmer programme.

United Cacao continues to target a production yield at maturity of between 2 and 2.75 tonnes of cacao per hectare, which is broadly in line with similar corporate estates in the Peru. The company is adopting some advanced planting and grafting practices, which, if successful, might significantly increase the expected yield, however the advanced nature of these practices may lead to both a delay in reaching maturity or a shortfall in yield.

The group has also planted 400 hectares of high premium, fine flavour Sacha Gold cacao. This variety, it says, has not been planted before on such a large corporate scale and as yet there is no certainty that it will achieve the predicted yield. Management continues to monitor the performance of the blend and will provide updates on its progress.

Source:  confectioneryproduction.com

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Science explains why chocolate should be savored, not scarfed

November 5th, 2016
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t_chocolate-marshmallow-185331_640And other molecular secrets to digest while you’re digesting

In October of 1671, French aristocrat Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, marquise de Sévigné, penned a note to her daughter: “I have reconciled myself to chocolate,” she wrote. “I took it the day before yesterday to digest my dinner … and I took it yesterday to nourish me so that I could fast until evening: it gave me all the effects I wanted. That’s what I like about it: it acts according to my intention.”

Most of us can relate with Madame de Sévigné’s assessment that chocolate sates many hungers. Cocoa and chocolate come from a fruit categorized by Carolus Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist who founded taxonomy, as Theobroma cacao: food of the gods. Colorful and typically oblong, this precursor to chocolate starts off as a bitter seed surrounded by juicy pulp within the pod. That pulp, known as baba, or “slime,” in Spanish, dissipates during fermentation. The seeds are dried and become what we refer to as cocoa beans. From there, they are roasted, cracked and shelled. The smaller pieces of beans, or nibs, are then processed into cocoa and chocolate.

But long before cacao seeds were transformed into chocolate bars, they were consumed in liquid form and used as currency and in indigenous rituals. In Mayan culture, cacao was a sign of power and considered critical sustenance for the journey to the afterworld. In the pre-Colombian period, explains anthropologist Cameron McNeil in her book Chocolate in Mesoamerica: A Cultural History of Cacao,  “cacao was associated with blood and sacrifice.” Chocolate could even serve as ersatz blood: Achiote, a natural red colorant from the tree Bixa orellana, was added to some cacao beverages, giving them a blood-like appearance.

Cacao, revered around the globe, has played an important role in spiritual traditions, global trade, medicine, culinary traditions and many a broken heart. Before you and indulge in Halloween treats, join us as we explore how this bitter seed—and the chocolate it becomes—came to captivate our hearts.

It starts with a slow melt

Cocoa beans are made up of nibs and cocoa butter, roughly 50 percent of each. The butter is a fat that’s stable at room temperature, which is why it is popular not only in chocolate and baked goods, but also in beauty products. When used in the latter, the cocoa butter is typically deodorized, stripped of some or all of its aromas. But these aromas are essential to chocolate.

Flavor is primarily an expression of smell, not taste—which is why it’s so hard to discern what you’re eating when you have a cold. In chocolate, the molecules that make up these aromas are suspended in the butter (or fat) and released slowly into our mouth and retronasal passage as the glorious substance starts to melt on our tongue.

Chocolate’s high concentration of fat, coupled with a melting point just below human body temperature, allows for maximum flavor dispersal. That’s why, according to food chemist Peter Schieberle, chocolate should be savored, not scarfed.

“When you put chocolate in your mouth, a chemical reaction happens,” Schieberle explained to his colleagues at the meeting of the American Chemical Society before being presented with the 2011 ACS Award for the Advancement of Application of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. “Some people just bite and swallow chocolate. If you do that, the reaction doesn’t have time to happen, and you lose a lot of flavor.”

Every smell is made up of multiple aroma compounds that come together to register in our brains as a distinct scent. While cocoa contains over 600 of these volatile, or airborne, aroma compounds, most of what registers to us as a chocolate smell comes from compounds that, surprisingly, smell nothing like cocoa. Instead, these compounds have aromas ranging from peaches and potato chips to cooked meat that transform when they are combined.

When sharing his team’s findings, Schieberle asserted: “To make a very good cocoa aroma, you need only 25 of the nearly 600 volatile compounds present in the beans.”

Source:  smithsonianmag.com

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MycoTechnology uses mushrooms to create sweeter chocolate with less sugar

July 25th, 2014
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Chocolate_1MycoTechnology, Inc., a cutting-edge, food technology startup, is working to create great tasting cacao made from far less sugar than normal.

By nature, cacao beans are not sweet and require a significant amount of added sugar to mask the bitterness. For example, an average milk chocolate bar contains 31 grams of sugar, or 72 percent by weight.

The healthier dark chocolate bars contain 21 grams of sugar (51 percent by weight). However, the company claims that when cacao beans undergo its MycoSmooth process, they can make great tasting chocolate with little to no added sugar.

“By using gourmet mushrooms and their natural cleansing abilities, we are able to train them to consume only the bitter compounds in chocolate,” the company explains on its website. “The mushrooms symbiotically interact with their food source, giving back valuable nutrients other unavailable in chocolate.”

MycoTechnology is in discussions with several of the largest food companies and the reception has been positive.

One Fortune 500 food company said “With your MycoSmooth chocolate we can significantly reduce the sugar requirements in several of our products, which will allow us to provide a lower-calorie solution to our customers while significantly reducing our ingredient costs.”

The MycoSmooth process was first applied to coffee beans in 2013 with outstanding results. Even low quality Robusta beans treated with the MycoSmooth process brew into smooth, full-bodied coffee that tastes great without any additional sugar or creamers. Also, after going through the process, the coffee also had significant levels of beta-Glucans, which are known for boosting the immune system.

Since 2013, MycoTechnology’s research department has perfected the process for coffee and cacao, and its now working on a variety of other food compounds. The MycoSmooth process is ideal for bitter products or products with a known taste defect.

As a food technology company, MycoTechnology will produce finished or partially finished private-label products for customers.  As an alternative, they will also license the rights to the process.

Source: Candy Industry

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