Wild Cacao Tree BFREE

February 1 2017 – The Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund (HCP) is delighted to announce that the cacao trees of BFREE Demonstration Cacao Farm, Belize; San Jose de Bocay, Nicaragua and Pham Thanh Cong, Mekong Delta, Vietnam have been designated HEIRLOOM. They become, respectively, the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth HCP Heirloom designations made since the 2014 inaugural Heirlooms.

The HCP’s International Tasting Panel loves the Belize heirloom’s smooth, mild chocolate flavor with a lightly roasted nut base reminding them of macadamia nuts. The flavor of the Nicaragua heirloom cacao is an immediate burst of a fresh fruit salad – beginning with a evanescent brown fruit (dates, figs) then shifting to a red fruit and mixed tropical fruit character with ripe plums, berries, red currant accompanied by a fruit bowl of mango, apricot and pineapple. For the Vietnam heirloom there is a coconut note accompanied by a dried fruit and spice character that is cinnamon and cardamom—its spice character combined with the dried and browned fruit is reminiscent of tonka beans with additional saffron and bitter almond. Specific notes can be found on each of the Heirlooms’ pages.

“Flavorless high-yielding trees are not the only option in the fight against the global degradation of cacao,” says Gary Guittard, President of the Guittard Chocolate Company. “Numerous specialty chocolate manufacturers and chocolatiers whose livelihood depends on fine-flavored cocoa have come together to work with local farmers on every continent to preserve heirloom cacao. That’s what the HCP supports.”

About the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund (HCP)

The best chocolate in the world starts with the finest cacao but that cacao is poised for extinction. As the industry continues to replace fine flavor cacao trees with bland hybrids and clones, a world of boring monochromatic chocolate dominates. The HCP seeks to protect, preserve, and propagate the finest, richest, most complex forms in the chocolate universe for future generations. Launched by the Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA) in 2012, the HCP offers a new way to find these diamonds of cacao by connecting their flavor traits to their genetics, rewarding their growers, and working with world’s foremost flavor experts and geneticists to save Heirloom cacao from extinction.

A completely self-funded 501c3 non-profit, the HCP is not another certification or awards program. HCP is a not-for-profit collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA/ARS). The HCP’s Heirloom designations are the first steps to realizing its mission:

  • identifying the finest flavor cacaos in the world;
  • linking their flavor to genetics for natural reproduction;
  • preserving and propagating them now and for future generations;
  • recognizing and rewarding the growers who cultivate them.

Unlike other organizations which charge growers a certification or entrance fee, the HCP is self-funded by a worldwide group of small, medium, and large chocolate makers/manufacturers and staffing is largely volunteer. When growers do not have relationships with manufacturers or other well-funded industry people, the HCP arranges for bursary sponsorships to support those growers through the HCP process. All they need to do is provide the beans for the HCP to evaluate and access to their trees once the designation is made and the evaluation process is complete.

Throughout its process, the HCP follows a strict set of protocols, all of which are publicly available in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. The HCP Lab at Guittard Chocolate Company, the oldest continuously family-owned and operated chocolate company in the US, blind-processes all submissions for an international Tasting Panel of acclaimed chocolate specialists. A detailed report is then provided to the applicant and the USDA/ARS performs a site visit and genetic analysis to both map the DNA of the trees and preserve them in the database for the future. Everything is provided to the growers who, with the support of the HCP, can use the designation to achieve better prices than they would growing ordinary or bulk cacao.

Taken together, the HCP is about three P’s in Pod: People, Planet, and Prosperity. It goes from gene-to-bar and unwraps the possibilities for the millions worldwide who believe that life without the very best chocolate is no life at all.