HCP Protocol for Bean Submission and Requirements for Processing & Evaluation


Upon registering on the USDA site, and completing the application, the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Initiative (HCP) Applicant receives an HCP Identification Number. This number and bean information will be the ONLY information the HCP Lab sees when performing the blind processing and evaluation procedures for the Tasting Panel.

The HCP requires EIGHT (8) kilograms of cocoa beans – cleaned and dried weight – representing the population of trees and commercial shipment quantity proposed Heirloom designation. The HCP defines “cleaned” as having all broken beans and foreign material removed. For those Applicants who normally wash and polish beans after drying, the HCP considers washing and polishing part of the cleaning process.


  • Fully mature, ripe, un-diseased beans harvested during the normal crop cycle so as to be fully representative of long-term production.
  • Eight kilograms of clean, dried beans will require beans from 40-120 bearing trees representing the population being assessed. Trees should be marked or tagged so they can be assessed for genetic diversity at a later time. (Genetic evaluation is done after the HCP designates the flavor of the beans as Heirloom.) If less than 8kg of clean, dried beans are available, the Applicant must receive agreement in advance from the HCP.

We ask for 8 kg of beans to ensure sufficient beans for the primary Lab tasks, provide spare beans in case of preparation or shipment problems, and allow for retained samples and returning liquor and chocolate samples to the Applicants. We assume the beans will be clean with no cleaning losses, and the yield of cleaned, roasted nibs from raw beans will be 65%. Thus, 3kg of beans are needed to cover the following HCP Lab tasks for evaluation:

Physical tests 175 g
Liquor for liquor evaluations 875 g
Liquor for chocolate evaluation 900 g
Total beans needed 1950 g or 1.95kg
(65% of 3kg)

Remaining beans are stored pending the Tasting Panel evaluation. If designated Heirloom, the remaining beans are used to make chocolate samples for the FCIA and media. 


  • Fermentation and drying must be done in a manner that is consistent with the larger scale (commercial) production of this bean type. The HCP does not specify fermentation or drying practices.
  • NO fruit, fruit pulps, juices, or any other substance may be used to alter, enhance, add, or “spice up” the flavor of the beans during fermentation.
  • Drying should be completed until the moisture content of the beans is 6.5 to 7.9%. The ideal moisture content of the beans is 7.0 to 7.5%.
  • Following the completion of drying, samples must be stored for a minimum of six (6) weeks to allow the flavor to equilibrate and be representative of commercial shipments.

It is recommended that Applicants store a minimum of 8kg of beans in the following ideal storage conditions.

  • Beans should be stored in a breathable bag such as new, clean, odor-free burlap, jute, or cotton. Any material used should be smelled prior to its use as a storage bag for the beans to insure that it is free from any odor taint that would impart an off odor or flavor to the beans as a result of storage. Care should be taken to ensure this does not happen.
  • Storage should be at ambient conditions but protected from excessive moisture or any possible off odors in the storage area. Care must be taken to avoid exposure to any conditions that will cause re-wetting or re-humidification of the beans and resulting mold growth on the beans. Mold present in a cut test above United States FDA standards (4% internal mold) will be grounds for immediate rejection of the sample. Care should be taken to ensure this does not happen.
  • Bagged samples should be stored in screened but breathable containers that will protect them from insect infestation. The mesh size of the screen should be small enough (like mosquito netting) to prevent the entry of moths and larvae. The presence of any insect infestation in the cut test will be grounds for immediate rejection of the sample. Care should be taken to ensure this does not happen.
  • It is required that the Applicant retain a minimum of 5 kg of bean samples in these ideal storage conditions. This is an insurance against possible loss of sample during shipment.

Applicants will need to confirm the details of the farm from the first part of the HCP Application and email the following additional information to the HCP prior to shipping:

  • Date of harvest
  • Date of Drying Completion
  • Bean Type/Tree/Clone Information (necessary to determine the proper roasting conditions for each sample without un-blinding the application)

Applicants will also need to agree in that email that they utilized commercial practices for the fermenting and drying of the beans.

Applicants MUST ensure that all necessary paperwork including bill of lading, commercial invoices, customs declarations, and any required United States FDA Prior Notice requirements are met. If you do not have an account for Prior Notice you can create an account in less than ten minutes on the FDA Site: CLICK HERE

Prior to shipment of the cocoa beans, the Applicant should assemble and then enclose all this paperwork as well as a copy of the application information provided at the end of the Submission portion of the HCP Application with the Applicant’s HCP Identification Number.


  • Beans should be shipped in the same breathable bags that they were stored in and not any other bag, like plastic Ziploc bags – applicants accustomed to shipping samples in plastic Ziploc bags should take care to note this point.
  • Bags should NOT have any markings aside from the HCP Identification Number. Multiple samples must be shipped separately and require individual applications for each sample being submitted.
  • Samples will be sent to the FCIA, which will immediately remove the bags of beans from Applicant’s box, log them in, place them in a new, anonymous shipping box, and send them to the HCP Lab for processing. This ensures the Applicant’s HCP number and bean type are the only information the Lab sees when performing the blind processing and evaluation procedures for the Tasting Panel.

Paperwork and unmarked bags of beans should be sent to the HCP LAB. ADDRESS IS GIVEN WHEN THE USDA APPLICATION IS COMPLETED.

The HCP Lab will log the receipt of the beans by their HCP Identification Number. Applicant and HCP Tasting Panel will receive notification when this shipment is logged as received.While at the HCP Lab, prior to evaluations, beans will be stored in a temperature and humidity controlled environment to ensure their stability. Beans will be stored separately from all other cocoa beans to minimize the opportunity for any infestation.

Following receipt at the HCP Lab, beans will be scheduled for bean counting, cut tests, and raw bean moisture content test and prepared for processing into liquor and chocolate – see the subsequent protocols in the left menu.