How fermentation standards impact the taste of chocolate

22 Jul 2019


Great, delicious chocolate starts with good quality cocoa beans. To create high-quality chocolate, it’s important to know where the cocoa fruits are harvested and how the fermentation process works. This fermentation process has tremendous impact on the flavours of the product. That’s why the cocoa bean forms the basis of the Cacao-Trace programme. Learn more about the impact of terroir, fermentation and how Cacao-Trace operates to ensure Puratos’ customers get the highest quality cocoa with a superior taste.

Mastering the post-harvesting process

The Cacao-Trace programme monitors the five key steps in the (post-)harvesting process which ensure the cocoa’s quality:

  1. Careful cultivation and harvesting of the fruits (pods).

  2. Careful selection of the fresh beans.

  3. Fermentation mastering (in post-harvest centres).

  4. Drying and stabilisation of cocoa beans.

  5. Storage and segregation of the production through the various stages of the supply chain.

Every step of this process is controlled and optimised, in order to safeguard the pure, natural flavour of each region’s cocoa. Fermentation is key in this process. The high quality of Cacao-Trace chocolate depends largely on this third step.

Fermentation: crucial for the final taste of cocoa

Fermentation is a natural process in which micro-organisms transform a food component, changing its structure and taste. Most people eat fermented food every day, including bread, yoghurt, beer and chocolate. In the case of chocolate, fermentation unleashes the flavour potentials of the cocoa beans. And because different micro-organisms occur naturally inside cocoa beans in different regions, the flavour profiles of chocolate differ too. That’s why Cacao-Trace cocoa is fermented in local post-harvest centres by fermentation experts, preserving the natural flavours of the cocoa beans.

Cocoa chateaux

Anyone who is familiar with wine knows that ‘terroir’ – the combination of climate, location and soil – has a big impact on flavour. Cocoa has similar terroir-based differences. But terroir is not the only distinguishing factor in the end product. Just as different ‘chateaux’ in the same terroir produce completely different wines, cocoa farmers also put their own stamp on their cocoa beans. And the ‘cocoa chateaux’ – the difference in taste between cocoa beans from different farms – is defined in the fermentation process.

Fermentation mastering in local post-harvest centres

In many cocoa regions, each farmer ferments according to their own tried and trusted methods, often without proper installations, focus and volumes of cocoa. Needless to say, this has a huge impact on the flavour of the beans. In other fermented food processes (like bread, beer and yoghurt) this important step is strictly controlled. We believe this should be the same for cocoa. That’s why Cacao-Trace sets new standards and guidelines for the fermentation process. We create optimal conditions for the fermentation, by carefully selecting the fresh cocoa and by controlling the temperature and the aeration of the fermenting cocoa. This way, every Cacao-Trace farmer’s beans meet the highest quality standards, ensuring a consistent superior taste. 

Do you want to learn more about the Cacao-Trace programme? Visit the Cacao-Trace website or contact your local Puratos representative to learn what the programme does for happy farmers and exceptional chocolate. 

Do you want to learn more about our fermentation process? Watch our mini-videos on this interesting subject: