The origin of Caribbean cocoa beans
Cocoa (from the Spanish word, cacao) has a long and fascinating history, stretching back at least 4000 years. The ancient civilisation of the Mayans used cocoa beans for medicinal purposes and to make a bitter drink used in traditional rituals. The Aztecs later used cocoa beans as currency, clearly valuing it considerably. Chocolate, as we know it, was still a long way in the future. It wasn’t until cocoa was brought to Spain that, mixed with sugar or honey to make it sweeter, it began to catch on. After Spain, chocolate reached France, and then the rest of Europe – chocolate was on its way!
So where does the Caribbean come into all this? The answer is climate – being a tropical tree, cocoa only grows in countries with a hot and humid climate, as in the case of the Caribbean islands. By the way, the term ‘the Caribbean’ actually includes both the Caribbean islands and the continental American regions surrounding the Caribbean Sea. The islands are best known as a tourist destination but they are also an important cocoa producer. Moreover, cocoa obtained from these islands is rare and highly appreciated.
Cocoa varieties from the Caribbean Islands
There are different varieties of cocoa, producing fruits called pods, whose seeds are cocoa beans. These beans have different characteristics that can determine the final quality of the chocolate made from them. One type of cocoa found in the Caribbean is criollo, considered by many to be the rarest and most desirable of all beans.
Criollo (also grown in several other countries) provides less than 5% of world cocoa production and is a very delicate bean to grow; the weather, the soil, and the irrigation can all greatly impact the beans’ flavour. The main characteristics of this cocoa tree are its pale pink flowers, with an orange-yellow or reddish orange pod when they reach maturity. The surface of the fruit is rough and the beans obtained are plump, almost round, very light in colour, and can be almost white. It has a subtle and slightly bitter but fragrant aroma, with a delicate taste. After treatment, very fine and aromatic cocoa beans are obtained. They are considered to be the best, and are the main ingredient used in luxury chocolates. The cocoa fruits are generally harvested twice a year, in June and December.Cocoa production in the Caribbean (all types of bean) accounts for about 2% of world production. Since criollo cocoa is rare and in high-demand, a large part of the economy of the islands is based on this high value product. Many master chocolate makers use it in the manufacture of their chocolates. Due to its rarity, Caribbean criollo cocoa is only used as a main ingredient in very highest quality chocolates.
Caribbean Chocolate 66%
For our Chocolate Macaron we use Caraïbe chocolate which is a 66% cocoa solids chocolate. It is created with Caribbean cocoa beans and is a perfectly balanced and voluptuous dark chocolate. This blend of grands crus is characterized by subtle acidity and sweet bitterness; it is a perfect balance of smooth chocolate and roasted dried fruit notes with a slightly oaky finish. So you can imagine what a divine flavour it gives to our macarons!