Does it still make sense to talk about “countries” of origin for cacao?

When we find the names of countries like Ecuador, Venezuela, India, Ghana or Peru on chocolate bars without further details, we are indirectly made to believe that all cacao from that specific country taste the same, and that the name of the country should be enough information for consumers. We are also pushed to prefer some countries over others, perhaps never giving a chance to the countries of origin with a bad reputation, like it happens often with African origins.

But the more chocolate we taste as distributors and retailers, the more we realize that it doesn’t make much sense to talk about single-origin chocolate in terms of countries.

First of all, the elements that make up the final flavors of the cocoa beans are truly endless: genetics, soil, weather, farming techniques, fermentation and drying, storing and handling. How can all these conditions be the exact same in thousands of cocoa farms across a country? There can’t possibly be a standard flavor for all cocoa coming from the same country of origin.

Secondly, the approach of the chocolate maker and the chosen bean-to-bar method add to the unpredictability of the tasting notes. So not only the same country can produce very different cocoa beans, but also the chocolate bars made with the same fine cacao can end up tasting extremely different.

There are many stereotypes in the fine chocolate industry, like Ecuadorian cacao being “floral” or Madagascan beans tasting “citrusy”, but the reality is that there are many more factors playing a role in the final taste of chocolate.

We believe it’s more appropriate to start a conversation in terms of single-variety, single-farm, area, region or producer, than about whole countries. This way, also transparency and traceability in the fine chocolate industry will be encouraged.
What’s your opinion?

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