Lost and found: Nacional cacao in Peru

January was a busy month for the science of chocolate.

First, The New York Times reported that the rare, thought-to-be-extinct Nacional strain of cacao had been found in Peru. Amid much excitement, Maranon Chocolate was hailed as hero in the chocolate world. (I’ll note, apologetically, that Canada’s Globe & Mail took a whole two weeks to report the same story.)

Then, Clay Gordon posted this analysis of the situation on The Chocolate Life, which goes into a lot of detail about genetics, chocolate production and the taste of the chocolate itself.

The big commercial deal about this chocolate is that you can buy the roasted beans, enrobed in their own chocolate. You can get them from Moonstruck Chocolate in Portland (where they’ve given it the precious name Fortunato No. 4, which only begs the question of what happened to Fortunato 1, 2 and 3), or from Christophe Morel Chocolatier in Montreal.

A big deal has been made of the exclusivity of the chocolate. And on that topic, I’ll pull out the most interesting detail of Clay Gordon’s post on The Chocolate Life, and that’s that large Swiss chocolate maker Felchlin is actually processing the Nacional beans into chocolate. Nothing wrong with that, but it certainly dulls the romantic glow that some have tried to cast on the situation.

But how does it taste? The chocolate is quite good. The enrobed cacao bean has a nice nuttiness, floral notes and a long finish. Is it the world’s most fantastically amazing chocolate, or remotely close to “profound,” as the Globe & Mail describes? Um, no.

Sure is a nice story, though.

Published by: Eagranie

7 years as a chemist + 9 months of culinary school + 2 years as a pastry chef & chocolatier + a lifetime of writing = this blog. This blog won't always be about chocolate, but it will almost certainly be about food. The name of the blog is a triple play on words. 1. It's a nod to my training as a classical pianist. Among other fantastic accomplishments, J.S. Bach combined technical prowess with artistic inspiration and penned the 24 preludes & fugues that make up The Well-Tempered Clavier, Books I and II. 2. In order to behave properly, chocolate needs to be tempered. In a nutshell, tempering prompts the chocolate to assume its most stable crystalline form (beta prime, if you're interested) so that it is shiny, snappy, and as stable as it can be. 3. Depending on my mood and how we meet, you might agree that I'm well-tempered. Or not.

Categories 2011, Food science1 Comment

One thought on “Lost and found: Nacional cacao in Peru”

  1. To say the least it is an interesting idea which I haven’t seen previously. Looking at it from a marketing sense, it’s a very good idea which puts them as pioneers in bean chocolate but like you said, it’s not the best tasting chocolate.

    With time though they could improve and compete with some of the other finer chocolate brands.

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