Thursday, January 26, 2017

Hawaiian chocolate--hoo da good! And how you process it makes a difference.

Immature cacao fruit.

A lot of Hawaii residents are growing chocolate—either for a hobby or commercially.

And if you’re growing Theobroma cacao, the cacao tree, from which chocolate is made, chances are you’ve experimented with making some.

It turns out there’s a lot of disagreement about how best to process this magical fruit. 

Traditionally, the fruit is harvested and the cocoa-producing seeds removed along with their white fleshy pulp. All of that is then fermented, normally with the bacteria and yeasts that show up naturally.

Later, the fermented beans are cleaned, dried, roasted, processed to remove the seed coat, and then the resulting nibs are ground into chocolate liquor. After that you can make chocolate milk, add the stuff to cake, or even make chocolate bars.

It’s a whole lot of work. There are dozens of Hawai`i companies marketing Hawaiian-grown chocolate. I’ll list a few, and apologize to those left out. 

Manoa Chocolate on O`ahu has a quick video on production.
The Moloa`a Bay Coffee folks on Kaua`i do excellent chocolate. I've tried it.
The Original Hawaiian Chocolate Farm does tours in Kona 
There’s Waialua Estate on O`ahu. 
And Steelgrass Farm on Kaua`i.
You can take the Maui Chocolate Tour

It goes on and on. Do your own search to find more.

And it turns out, there are different theories about which processing method for chocolate is best.

For example, the fermenting is supposed to bring out a better flavor, but it can also remove some of the valued anti-oxidants. 

“Substantial decreases (>80%) in catechin and epicatechin levels were observed in fermented versus unfermented beans,” says this paper in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. Catechin and epicatechin are anti-oxidant flavonoids. They’re also found in green tea. 

Of course, we really don’t eat chocolate because of its health benefits, do we?

Fermenting can also increase the likelihood that rot will set in during the fermentation. (I lost a whole season that way once.)

There is a small movement marketing non-fermented cacao. I tried doing that. Just drying the beans without fermenting and then roasting them. Still tastes like chocolate to me, but I haven’t done proper testing to see whether it’s inferior to fermented beans.

There are studies that argue that the specific type of yeast used in fermenting makes all the difference. 

“Our findings demonstrate that yeast growth and activity were essential for cocoa bean fermentation and the development of chocolate characteristics.,” wrote the authors of this paper

But wait, the Mars candy company has announced a patent for a fermentation-free chocolate. No yeast at all. It uses an ethanol soak for a couple of days instead of the fermentation. And it insists that it’s the ethanol, not the microbes, that causes the great chocolate flavor. 

You’d assume the Mars people know something about chocolate. Here is the link to Oliver Neiburg’s article in Confectionery News on the subject of the new Mars technique.

There’s more on the Hawaiian chocolate industry at the website of the industry organization, Hawaii Chocolate and Cacao Association..

© Jan TenBruggencate 2017

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