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Smoke Taint in Cocoa Beans (and Chocolate)
April 6, 2021
On the subject of smoky cocoa beans, Minifie has this to say:
“Smoky Beans Beans contaminated by smoke have a most objectionable flavor, which is virtually impossible to remove from chocolate. The contamination can arise from the use of crude methods of drying or from defects in dryers that allow smoke to reach the beans […] proper maintenance is required to prevent smoke damage.”
Minifie, B.W. Chocolate, Cocoa, and Confectionery, 1989 p.31
Our cocoa beans come from the islands of Santo and Malekula in Vanuatu.
On the west coast of Santo, the climate allows for sundrying.
On Malekula, the growers are relatively well-educated and well-organised. As a result, they have been able to obtain organic certification, and they have the resources to properly maintain their artificial dryers. Sadly, not all of Vanuatu’s cocoa growers are so lucky. For example, on the island of Malo, we saw many privately owned “cocoa sets” – small huts designed for artificially drying cocoa (see the photos below). The heat pipes in these cocoa sets were made of old 44-gallon drums joined together. Many of the heat pipes we saw were poorly joined, or riddled with holes caused by rust. These cocoa sets are a good example of the “crude methods of drying” referred to by Minifie as the principal cause of smoke taint in cocoa beans.
The only thing stopping these growers from repairing their heat pipes (and preventing smoke taint in their beans) is a lack of resources, caused by low cocoa prices.
The Cocoa Communiqué
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Lang & Sam meet some cocoa growers in a remote part of Vanuatu
Three reasons not to grow cocoa commercially in Australia
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