While chocolate is a household word that everybody knows, there is more to it than meets the eye. Here we share some of the details about cacao which influence how we chose our Soaring Free African Cacao supplier. So now you can also make informed choices when deciding what chocolate to put in your body.
RAINBOW PODS & THE FERMENTATION OF CACAO
The generous cacao tree bears fruit all year round. A little eccentric in nature, they produce pods that hang from their trunks rather than from their branches. The pods are between 15 – 25 cm long and 7 – 10 cm in diameter. The pods come in a variety of colours ranging from green and yellow to orange and red. Each pod can contain around 20 to 50 cacao beans surrounded in a fleshy, white pulp, and contains about 65% water.
After harvesting the pods are opened and the cacao pulp and the beans are taken out to ferment for several days in the tropical temperature (below 118°F, 47°C). The fermentation process is key, since it eliminates some of the bitterness and develops its unique character and aroma. The beans are then spread out and sun-dried below 47°C before processing.
The cacao bean is known for its overall nutritional values and health benefits. Soaring Free Superfoods African Cacao Powder, Paste, Butter and Nibs are made from beans originating from West Africa, primarily Ghana and the Ivory Coast. In order to make our cacao products, the finest cacao beans are selected and carefully processed to keep the nutrients and flavour intact. This African cacao has a low cadmium content and sweet, rich chocolate taste.
ORGANIC & NATURALLY LOW CADMIUM CACAO
Cacao beans contain heavy metals which are naturally occurring in the soil of some plantations where the cacao trees grow. Cacao beans from Latin America are particularly affected by higher heavy metals because the plants grow on old volcanic ash soil which is rich in all minerals. Typically this is a good thing, but one of these minerals is the heavy metal, cadmium, which is actually not well absorbed by the body, but can accumulate over time if not naturally excreted by our organs.
Soaring Free Superfoods African Cacao is low in cadmium with an average of 0.2-0.3 cadmium mg/kg whereas the EU allows a maximum level of 0.60 mg/kg in finished cacao powder products. It is vital to note that South Africa has no legislation to regulate cadmium levels in food, so it’s perfectly legal for any South African cacao product not to state how much cadmium is in it. We know our customers are health conscious, as are we, and so we have opted to meet the strictest legislation and put it on our label.
Conventional cacao is also heavily sprayed with chemicals, while our organic cacao is farmed and processed free of chemicals, which is much better for your health and the planet.
SOARING FREE ETHICAL SOURCING
Our supplier works according to the guidelines of IFOAM. IFOAM is the international umbrella organisation for the global organic food industry, uniting a diverse range of stakeholders sharing and contributing to the organic vision. The notion of organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people.
IFOAM relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.
The way our cacao is farmed and processed is of utmost importance. We only source certified organic and low-temperature-processed cacao. Our new African cacao has a fantastic rich, deep chocolate flavour as a tasty bonus to all the health benefits! Our cacao powder is also not “dutched” as the alkalising process destroys up to 90% of the antioxidants.
CACAO VARIETIES: FORASTERO vs. CRIOLLO
Our African cacao is one of the original 3 varieties of cacao, Forastero.
Cacao has historically been divided into three varieties: Criollo, Forastero, and Trinitario. Conventional wisdom would have you believe that Criollo is the best, Forastero the lowest quality, and Trinitario in the middle. But this isn’t the full story. There are at least ten recognised cacao varieties, and probably many more out there.
ALL CACAO IS ORIGINALLY AMAZONIAN
The confusing classification of cacao is thanks to Spanish colonisers. Criollo meant “native” in Spanish, while Forastero means “foreign”. The Spanish named the first cacao they encountered, in Mexico and Central America, Criollo. Forastero is the cacao that came from anywhere else. But in reality, even Criollo is not native to the region where colonisers first found it.
Cacao originates from the Amazon jungle, probably from the zone where Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil meet. This means that the vast world of cacao all came from one tiny region.
The plantations in Africa and Southeast Asia were started with Forastero seeds from the Bahia region of Brazil. This robust variety soon became the dominant cacao on the market. Today, it makes up over 80% of world production. Sadly it has been hybridised into varieties such as CCN51 which is lower quality, but high-yielding and easier to grow.
There are fewer Criollo plantations and they have a lower yield because the plant is less resistant to disease. This makes it rarer and more expensive. Perhaps the abundance of Forastero and the relative scarcity of Criollo influence how we think of the varieties.
Criollo is often described as being mildly acidic and rarely bitter. Criollo fans say it has a mild taste with secondary aromas of nuts, caramel, fruit, and tobacco.
Forastero has a powerful, less aromatic flavour that can sometimes be bitter or acidic. This variety results in a full-bodied chocolate that some prefer.
SUPERFOODS ARE HEALTHY AT HEART
Most of the commercial chocolate available in shops today is sold at lower prices than raw cacao product. The difference in cost is paid by the ecosystems surrounding the cacao plantations and, even more directly, by you. Due to the long term accumulation of chemicals and heavy metals that your body cannot excrete, many years down the line, a variety of illnesses and conditions can develop as a result of toxic food and you would be none the wiser as to the real cause.
So, making organic, premium quality cacao available to you is not only part of our mission to help clean up the planet with ethical business, but also to create a brand you can trust that has your healthiest interests at heart!