A New Chocolate

Posted by Alayne Gardner-Carimi on

All Things Chocolate
Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, white chocolate, chocolate liquor and chocolate liqueur (there is a difference!), hot cocoa, cacao, and now cacao vinegar—wait…WHAT? Yep, you read that right, vomFASS Madison now brings you Cacao Fruit Balsamic vinegar! This is not some amalgamation of syrupy chocolate combined with a balsamic. This is a forward-thinking, up-cycling creation that allows more of the cacao fruit to be utilized, creating another revenue stream for the cacao farmers. Who knew cacao has more to offer than its beans?
Well, to be honest, the cacao farmers and homemakers with cacao trees in their yards do. They collect the liquid left over from the fermentation of the cacao seeds and use the vinegar in their kitchens, and for local wines and jams. However, until recently, the juices from the cacao fruit were difficult to harvest in large volumes, so most of it just became a waste product of the cacao industry.
Working with Koa, a Swiss-based B Corp which has spear-headed an initiative to help the cacao farmers of rural Ghana bring sweet cacao fruit juice out of their rainforest farms and onto the world stage of new foods, vomFASS has created its latest taste sensation. In the vomFASS vinegary in Germany, cacao juice is fermented through the special processes used to produce our other fruit balsamics to create our new Cacao Fruit Balsamic. With its tropical fruit and floral notes and hints of cocoa on the finish, pair it with our any of our nut oils or our Orange Extra Virgin Olive oil for new taste sensations! 
The Anatomy of Cacao
A cacao pod grows on the trunk of the cacao tree. The average cacao pod weighs about 14 oz and contains 30-40 beans. The beans are encased in a hard outer shell (about 50% of the weight). The individual beans (seeds) are surrounded by a sticky, sweet-tart pulp sac. The pulp/juice makes up about 25% of the weight, and the fresh seeds the final 25%. Each pod yields 1.2-1.4 oz of dried beans (9-10% of the harvested weight).
Cacao or Cocoa?
Chocolate is made from the seeds (beans) of the pod-like fruit of the Theorbroma cacao tree. Use of “cacao” versus “cocoa” on chocolate products is inconsistent and varies by brand, so you can’t assume one is better or different than another. Bean-to-bar chocolatiers, who make chocolate from scratch starting with the fermented, dried beans, only use the word cacao for the pod and beans before they’re fermented. After fermentation they call them cocoa beans.
Top 12 Facts Every Chocolate Lovers Needs to Know
  • It is thought to have been first domesticated over 5000 years ago in what is now Ecuador. 
  • The cacao tree is native to the Amazon rainforest. 
  • There is archeologic evidence of fermented cacao drink dating back to 1900 BCE near Chiapas, Mexico. 
  • Among the Mayan culture, it was used in official ceremonies and religious rituals, at feasts and festivals, as funerary offerings, as tribute, and for medicinal purposes.
  • Cacao beans were used as currency in both the Mayan and Aztec cultures.
  • Cacao trees grow best near the equator.
  • Hard to grow, the cacao seed germinates best when fresh from the pod.
  • The only state in the USA conducive to growing cacao is Hawaii.
  • The growth of cacao industry has spread from its native South America to include Africa, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
  • Two African countries, Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, produce more than 60% of the world’s cacao today.
  • Until the 16th century, the cacao tree was wholly unknown to Europeans; however, the countries that produce most of the world's finished chocolate are Germany, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland.
  • The citizens of Switzerland have the highest per capita consumption of chocolate (average 22 pounds/year).
Making Cocoa from Cacao
There would be no chocolate as we know it without fermentation. The beans must go through both anaerobic fermentation (creating some alcohol) and then aerobic fermentation, where the alcohol is converted to acetic acid for the beans to develop the rich, complex flavors of chocolate. This happens as the naturally occurring yeasts feed on the sweet pulp sacs surrounding each seed.
Fortunately, Mother Nature is generous and only about 30% of the pulp is necessary for proper fermentation and flavor development of the beans. When properly harvested, this surplus of cacao juice can give the cacao farmers an additional revenue stream, give the world a new ingredient for kitchens outside the chocolatiers, and make a 40% reduction in food waste! 
We are very proud to support such an important cause, and proud of our Fair-Trade products!

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