Inside a cocoa pod there is a white pulp widely referred to as “mucilage”.
You will find the mucilage surrounding the cocoa beans inside the pods like a protective veil with a stick texture. Although the white pulp isn’t directly used to make chocolate, it is far from being useless: the mucilage is an essential component of the fermentation process, a crucial step to develop the flavor precursors inside the cocoa beans. Technically, it’s the white pulp, and not the cocoa beans, that is fermented and gives the start to all the chemical reactions happening during fermentation. After doing its job, the white pulp drains away and remains a waste of the cocoa production. Many professionals thought that this was a real pity, as the white pulp has a uniquely tropical, fresh and fruity taste, like a mix of fruit juices. So things are changing!
In cocoa producing countries, the white pulp has always been used in the kitchen for smoothies and sweet beverages because of its unique taste and quick availability. In recent years, some companies in Europe and the US have launched cacao juices made entirely with this white pulp, with no need for added sugars. Some craft chocolate makers, and now also big chocolate brands, are also experimenting with including the fresh pulp inside their chocolate bars as the most natural and healthy sweetener.
It’s also interesting to notice that the white pulp will have different tasting notes depending on its variety, terroir and origin, just like cocoa beans do. For example, some white pulps will taste super fresh like pineapples, others will be as sweet as mangoes, some more will be tangy like passion fruits. Regardless of the predominant tasting notes, the white cocoa pulp has a unique taste that can’t be found anywhere else.