The day came to a close at Finca Chimelb right as the rain started again and we returned to Lanquin looking forward to finally getting a taste of all the cacaos we’d been visiting at Cacao Verapaz.
We started early on saturday and headed back to Coban where Cacao Verapaz located. For those of you who don’t know, Cacao Verapaz is our on the ground arms of Uncommon that sources, manages and supports our cacao producers in Guatemala. The hard work or Roy, Teddy, Sylvia and rest of the team work throughout the year meeting with our associations and finding new sources of cacao. Any of the Guatemalan beans that you love, have passed in and out of the doors here. Roy runs his quality control lab and we, as a team, approve and reject lots as we work to maintain a grade A supply chain.
Teddy welcomed us and then handed the floor over to Roy who walked us through his quality analysis process. It all starts with a cut test of 100 beans. You are looking for mold, infestation and fermentation quality. Any of the beans that do not look well fermented and clean, are pulled aside and then you can calculate the percent of beans that have defects. Cacao can be tricky to analyze as there are often natural color variances in the different strains of cacao, but over time it get easier to identify the problem areas and beans, especially as you build a working knowledge the beans from the region as Roy has done in the last four years of working with Cacao Verapaz.
Then we peeled and blended raw beans to asses the flavor through the FCCI protocol, and then the final step was the liquor tasting. Stasi introduced everyone to the liquor grading sheet we use company-wide and then invited us all to taste and grade the beans. (Also, yes you read that right, we taste liquors and calibrate our palates across countries as a company.) Since the sheet and grading scale were new to virtually everyone, we were not expected to generate a quantitative result for this tasting. Qualitative notes would work well as we really just wanted to taste and talk about the different beans and compare them. Tasting Chivite next to ADIOESMAC really is a night and day experience going from punchy and bright like pineapple to nutty and rich. For the Lachua liquors, we tasted each association on its own, as this origin is made from a blend of beans from three associations (ASODIRP, ASOSELNOR, Kat’balpom). Two of our four makers on the trip are Lachua fans, so that was our most rigorous discussion, that quickly delved into how the blends are made and where the associations differ. It was all thoroughly whetting my palate for our final association visit to ASODIRP in Lachua the next day.