HCP Tasting Panel Protocols for Liquor & Chocolate Evaluation & Heirloom Designation
The international HCP Tasting Panel is currently made up of nine experts from six countries with a minimum of 15 years’ experience in chocolate — all of whom have all served as professional evaluators of cacao bean flavor and give a wide field view of the cacaos of the world, the cocoa supply, and fine chocolate production across the globe. Since these Panelists have established approaches to evaluating liquor and chocolate made from that liquor, the HCP Tasting Panel evaluation protocol initially retains the uniqueness of these approaches.
The HCP Tasting Panel’s initial sensory evaluations of liquor and chocolate samples will be in the format they currently use. Panelists will then translate their evaluations into HCP global scores for flavor, write short written evaluations of the liquor and chocolate IN ENGLISH, and make a Yes/No vote for Heirloom designation based on this scoring and evaluation.
HCP Panelists will enter their scores, written evaluations, and recommendations in the HCP Database. (If the Database is unavailable or offline, the Chair of the HCP Tasting Panel will compile the results into a single review and circulate it to the Panel.)
Panelists will conduct all evaluations independently and only discuss each other’s assessments after the entire Panel’s evaluations are complete. While the names of the HCP Tasting Panel are public, Panelists’ scores, evaluations, and recommendations will be blinded; Applicants will only be able to see unattributed individual scores, chocolate and liquor flavor and evaluations, and recommendations.
In addition to a written Sensory Evaluation of Liquor and Chocolate, Panelists will make two standard attribute evaluations from 1-10 (10=maximum) for:
- Overall Flavor (Quality and Balance); and
- Unique Flavor (distinctive or unusual flavor profile of long term value to the community of cacao worthy of preservation).
HCP RECOMMENDATION – YES/NO
Based on scoring and evaluation, each Panelist will cast a Yes/No vote for Heirloom designation.
While individual scores should play a part in making that designation, Panelists are NOT required to correlate their recommendations to a score (i.e., one Panelist could score a sample a “5” and another a “9” and both could vote yes, no, or split on Heirloom designation).
DETERMINATION OF HCP STATUS/NOTIFICATION
AFTER the evaluations are received, the Panel Chair will schedule a conference call to review the results with the Panel and prepare a final report. Full Panel participation in this call is preferable but not mandatory. Upon completion of this call and report, the Panel Chair will notify the HCP and the HCP office will notify the Applicant.
Supermajority Vote FOR Heirloom Designation: If a supermajority (70% or more) of the HCP Tasting Panelists vote yes, the sample will receive HCP designation as Heirloom flavor.
Majority but not Supermajority Vote FOR Heirloom Designation: If a majority but not a supermajority recommendation is made for Heirloom designation or the Panel is split, the HCP Tasting Panel Chair will take one or both of the following steps:
- If any Panelists were unavailable for the initial evaluation but are now available in a reasonable time frame to make an evaluation, the Panel Chair can hold the final result until one or more of those Panelists make an evaluation. If the recommendation(s) create(s) a supermajority or minority vote for Heirloom designation, the Panel Chair will follow the steps outlined above.
- If no Panelist is missing or missing Panelists are unavailable, AFTER the evaluations are received, the Panel Chair will schedule a conference call to review the results with the Panel and prepare a final report. The Panel Chair during the Panel discussion will see if any Panelist wants to re-taste the beans based on the discussion. If a re-tasting results in a Panelist vote for designation that creates a supermajority, the Panel Chair will follow the steps outlined for the supermajority. (Only the final consensus of the Panel will be made public.) If the Panel remains unchanged, the Panel Chair will take the steps in that follow.
Simple Majority, Tie, or Minority Vote Against Heirloom Designation: If a simple majority of the HCP Tasting Panel votes yes, the Panel is tied, or a minority vote for Heirloom designation, the sample will NOT receive HCP designation as Heirloom flavor but will receive a score from the Panel.
IF the Panel perceives that the beans display the POTENTIAL for heirloom, regardless of whether there are any processing issues, the Panel may vote to allow the Applicant to re-submit the beans for re-evaluation under the rules under “Evaluation Troubleshooting.”
Upon completion of this call and report, the Panel will notify the HCP and the HCP office will notify the Applicant.
OFFICIAL DESIGNATION OF HCP STATUS/NOTIFICATION
While Heirloom designation by the HCP is not contingent on genetics (unless a problem with the beans is detected – see “Troubleshooting” section that follows), official designation as Heirloom flavor IS CONTINGENT on a field visit by the USDA or its representative to gather leaf material from the marked trees and verification/review of the fermentation process. Ideally, this will be done during production but always in a reasonable amount of time to not unnecessarily delay the announcement of the designation or Applicant’s production and marketing of those beans.
IF upon site visit, any beans are found or suspected to be in violation of any of the HCP Submission Protocols at any time during or after this field visit, the HCP will withhold HCP Heirloom designation pending further discussion by the Tasting Panel, Lab, and Board.
Perceived Postharvest Processing Problem/Vote for Resubmission
IF the HCP Lab or Panelists perceive a failure in the sample due to postharvest processing AND feel that the liquor and chocolate display some desired attributes, the Panel will recommend the beans be resubmitted for re-evaluation by the Applicant as soon as new beans are available.
The HCP will allow for ONE resubmission per Application – provided the Applicant wants to have its beans re-evaluated by the HCP. Regardless of the Applicant’s decision, it will still receive a full report of the original evaluation.
Applicant will be responsible for submitting the beans for re-evaluation, but the HCP will NOT require an additional application fee. Re-submitted beans must come from the same trees as the original submission. If the Applicant decides not to re-submit, the evaluation of the beans by the Panel will be submitted to the HCP as the final evaluation.
Perceived HCP Lab Processing Problem
IF in the unlikely event Panelists perceive a failure in the sample due to the processing of the beans into liquor and chocolate by the HCP Lab AND feel that the liquor and chocolate have reasonable potential for displaying HCP desired attributes, those Panelists will immediately inform the Panel Chair and may request another sample of liquor and chocolate along with the beans be re-sent for evaluation, if needed, to make a final recommendation. If after re-evaluation Panelist(s) detect the same problems, the Chair will review the comments and rationale and convene a Panel discussion as appropriate.
IF a Panelist perceives a failure in the sample due to processing of the beans into liquor and chocolate BUT feels that the sample DOES NOT have Heirloom potential, no action will be taken and the Panelist will vote NO.
Perceived Fermentation Alteration
IF the HCP Lab or any Panelist perceives a sample has been altered in any way during fermentation – a direct violation of the HCP Submission protocols – AND feels that the liquor and chocolate display HCP desired attributes, the Panelist will immediately inform the Chair and the HCP Lab and the Chair will convene a Panel discussion as appropriate and decide what, if any, action to take. The HCP Tasting Panel Chair may recommend Heirloom designation be withheld pending a site visit AND genetic testing.
IF the Lab or a Panelist perceives the sample has been altered in any way AND feels that the sample DOES NOT have Heirloom potential, no action will be taken and the Panelist will vote NO.
HCP Panelist Unavailable
The HCP strives to have all Panelists provide evaluation input but recognizes there may be times when, due to travel, holidays, or emergencies, Panelists may not be available for an extended period of time.
The HCP Tasting Panel Chair will be responsible for determining whether a panel will proceed at these times or whether it will wait to send out samples.
If the decision is made to wait, all samples whether at the HCP Lab or in the hands of Panelists will be frozen.
In no case will the panel proceed with fewer than five Panelists.