HCP Protocols for Field Site Visit & Collection of Samples for Genetic Analysis

Official designation as Heirloom or fine flavor by the HCP IS CONTINGENT on a visit to the Applicant’s field site by a USDA/ARS representative to gather leaf material from the marked trees that produced the HCP sample to determine their genetic makeup, supplemental data on those trees, and verification/review of the fermentation process. The HCP will coordinate this visit as soon as designation is final and the $1,000 Application Fee is paid to the FCIA.


ONLY beans designated Heirloom by the Tasting Panel are charged this fee of $1000, which must be paidbefore completing the designation and goes directly towards the costs of completing the HCP designation. Aside from the shipping of the beans to the FCIA, this fee is the only financial contribution Collaborators make to the HCP process. The HCP covers the rest from preparing and evaluating the beans to collecting the leaf samples on-site to the genetic testing by the USDA/ARS laboratory to the announcement of the designation. Costs for this can easily exceed $3,000.If you are a farmer or small cooperative unable to afford the $1,000 fee, we may have a few Bursary Sponsorships available. This is an ongoing opportunity for companies and individuals to support farmers who don’t have the financial resources to apply to the HCP. By donating the $1000.00 fee, sponsors ensure that cacao from the smallest, most at-risk farms and orchards have a chance to be evaluated by the HCP and they stand a much better chance of being propagated and preserved–and commanding a premium price.

Ideally, this visit will be done during production but most importantly in a reasonable amount of time to not unnecessarily delay the announcement of the HCP designation. The USDA will provide all materials for sampling and send them to the representative prior to his/her visit.

IF at any point during the site visit, the Applicant is found or suspected to be in violation of any of the HCP Submission Protocols or the representative has any concerns about the sampled trees, the representative will document them and inform the USDA/ARS and HCP immediately. If a violation is suspected that would affect designation and cannot be resolved during the site visit, the HCP will terminate the visit and withhold Heirloom designation pending further discussion by the Tasting Panel, Lab, and Board.


When the Applicant takes the representative to the trees used for the HCP bean samples, a sample will be collected for genetic analysis from the most recent fully expanded leaf from no more than 46 trees. Data will be taken for each sampled tree and if trees are not marked or clearly marked, the Applicant will mark them with the number 1-46 corresponding to the number of each leaf sample.

  • Only leaves that appear to have no browning or any signs of disease or pests will be taken.
  • Only half of one leaf from each tree will be harvested and that leaf will be placed into a Ziploc type plastic bag with a desiccant. (Leaf samples will be completely dry in less than 24 hours and will remain green.)
  • Trees sampled will be assigned a code and the sample bags will be labeled to indicate the tree’s code.

The representative will also gather supplemental data about each tree (tree height, pod characteristics, bean color, yield, tree age, tree origin, disease resistance/susceptibility, etc.) and submit this information along with the leaf samples using the HCP data sheet.


The Applicant will show the representative all aspects of the postharvest processing used to process the beans submitted to the HCP.

The representative will gather basic information regarding the processing (fermentation times/temperatures, drying methods, etc.), as well as production and agronomic data (fertilizer use, soil characteristics, topography, climate, etc.). A list of basic information to collect in addition to other observations will be provided to the representative.

Photos of the process, unless proprietary, should be taken. FIELD REPRESENTATIVE WILL ASK IF ANY PART OF THE PROCESS IS PROPRIETARY BEFORE TAKING PICTURES. GPS of the farm (not the cooperative) must be taken.


United States Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) guidelines will be followed to prevent the importation and release of plant pathogens.

The healthy dried leaf samples will be prepared for shipment to the USDA by the representative, including the APHIS permit (provided by the USDA) that will be placed in the package. The Applicant will then send the package to the USDA and submit the shipping receipt to the HCP for reimbursement.

Samples should be sent to:

Lyndel W. Meinhardt

USDA/ARS Sustainable Perennial Crops Lab

Building 001 Rm 222, BARC-WEST

Beltsville, MD, 20705-2350

Tel 301 504 1995 Fax 301 504 1998

Photos and information gathered should be emailed to Dr. Lyndel Meinhardt: lyndel.meinhardt@ars.usda.gov

All submitted plant samples will be subject to quarantine and inspection upon arrival in the United States. If APHIS inspectors identify any signs of plant disease on the samples, the samples will be destroyed at the port of entry.

Once the samples arrive at the USDA, they will be processed and sent to the DNA testing facilities for analysis.

DNA will be extracted and analyzed with standard markers and compared to all known reference types. Parentage and sibling analysis will be done to determine what groups, hybrids, or clones are involved in the genetic makeup of the sampled trees.

The results of the genetic analysis will be sent to the Applicant and placed into a secure part of the HCP database for a period of five (5) years. This database will be the repository for genetic diversity population analysis, GIS population locations, bean quality traits, and flavor analysis. After that period it will be incorporated into the HCP public database. Until then, the public database will be the storage area for all of the international reference types, and after the designated time period, for all cacao types designated as Heirloom.

Once the samples are received and tested, the DNA matches (within reason) the DNA of the originally submitted beans, and Lyndel Meinhardt signs off on the report from the USDA representative, the HCP will provide the Applicant with the “Permission to Disclose” form in order to proceed with the announcement of Heirloom designation.