A huge part of TCHO Source has been the installation of TCHO Flavor Labs at origin. These Flavor Labs are mini bean-to-bar chocolate-making labs that enable farmers to make and taste chocolate made from their own beans. For many farmers, this is the first chocolate they have tasted and for nearly every farmer, it is the first time tasting chocolate made from their own cacao beans.
Florence Deglo is the heartbeat of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana’s plant breeding laboratory. She is in charge of all chocolate making and ensuring that the cocoa being bred is not only high-yielding and disease-resistant, but tastes delicious in way that represents what Ghana cacao is famous for: deep rich brown fudgy notes.
Elizabeth Burgos is in charge of quality assurance at the Flavor Lab in the Conacado cooperative in the Dominican Republic. Elizabeth monitors the quality of the cacao coming out of the cooperative and makes sure it meets high quality and flavor standards.
Javier works in the Esmeraldas region - named for it’s deep green and lush landscape - of Ecuador at the UORPOCAE cooperative. He is the Flavor Lab manager who ensures that the cacao being produced reaches the high standards set by the co-op.
We’ve installed improved infrastructure at farmer-owner cooperatives. Including temperature monitored fermentation centers, raised drying beds, and secure bean storage.
Many farms have rudimentary drying systems in place, part of TCHO Source has been building improved drying beds and infrastructure, like roofing.
Attention to detail
Fermentation of cacao beans is one of the most important steps in chocolate making. This process removes harsh and astringent flavors found in the raw bean and brings out the chocolatey profiles we know and love. Here we’ve installed controls in standard fermentation boxes to track and regulate temperature to get more consistent product and higher quality beans.
Every part of the chocolate making process is monitored to make sure that the best beans possible are being produced. Our farmer partners perform “cut tests” of cacao beans to ensure they’ve been fermented well and dried properly.
As part of implementing our Flavor Labs, we conduct sensory analysis trainings for farmers and cooperative leaders to expand their understanding of flavor palates in teems of cacao. The development of flavor in cacao is nuanced and can be affected by many different control points throughout the supply chain – from the soil, to the weather, to how long the cacao beans are dried in direct sunlight and beyond. Once farmers and researchers have the tools to create their own cacao samples – we spend countless hours building a shared language of taste.
To solidify the success of the Flavor Labs, we conduct extensive sensory trainings with our partners to hone their palates and pick up on nuanced flavors found in cacao.
Calibration of Flavor Palates
Part of making great cacao is understanding the customer’s needs. We teach our partners what off-flavors taste like to North American consumers, European consumers, etc. Additionally, we introduce delicious flavors that they may not have tried, like blueberries.
Our friends from the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana, came to the Bay Area to visit our factory for educational chocolate making sessions. Through the help of our Flavor Labs, CRIG, as well as our other partners, understand the importance of good growing, fermenting, and drying practices and how they directly affect the development of flavor. We are constantly striving to further our work in sensory analysis and are so excited to introduce our Guide to Cocoa Sensory Analysis (!!!), a culmination of years of quality development with our USAID co-op cacao partners and Equal Exchange. Check it out here.