Craft chocolate has been rapidly gaining popularity among enthusiasts who seek unique flavors and distinct origins. While some cacao-producing countries have already made a mark on the chocolate shelves, there are always hidden gems waiting to be discovered. In 2023, three new fine cacao origins are set to captivate the taste buds and imaginations of chocolate lovers worldwide. Let's delve into the exciting world of these emerging cacao origins!

1. Thailand: The Flavors of Chanthaburi Province

In January 2023, prominent players in the craft chocolate industry embarked on a journey to explore Thailand's fine cacao scene. With influential names like Manoa Chocolate and Fjak Chocolate showing interest, it's evident that Thai cacao is about to make a splash in the market. The Chanthaburi Province, in particular, is attracting attention with its delightful aromatic profiles of flavorful Trinitario hybrids. Thanks to optimized post-harvesting processes, these cacao beans are now expressing their full potential, promising a distinct and exceptional taste.

Moreover, the rise of local craft bean-to-bar chocolate makers in Thailand is contributing to the surge of interest in their native cacao. The Thailand Craft Chocolate Festival, in its 3rd edition this year, is a testament to the growing significance of Thai cacao. European, American, and Canadian cacao importers are keen to showcase the unique flavors of Thai cacao to their high-profile clients.

2. El Salvador: A Cacao Renaissance in Central America

Despite being surrounded by well-known cacao-producing countries, El Salvador has remained relatively unnoticed in the fine chocolate industry. The key issue has been the lack of production capacity and government incentives, leading to abandoned cacao trees. However, beneath the surface, El Salvador holds a treasure trove of cacao genetics, boasting fine flavor varieties from native Criollos and delightful Trinitario hybrids.

Fortunately, the country is experiencing a cacao Renaissance, driven by the dedication of single farms scattered across the region. From the mangroves of Usulutàn to the mountains of Sonsonate, these passionate producers are putting El Salvador on the map with their exceptional cacao flavors.

Leading the charge are pioneers like VAICACAO, founded by the enterprising Italian-Salvadorean couple Elisa and Juan Rafael. Their direct connections and partnerships in El Salvador have been instrumental in uplifting many farms and improving their post-harvesting processes. Belco Cacao, a French direct cacao importer, also plays a crucial role as a bridge between Salvadorean cacao farmers and European chocolate makers.

3. Togo: Climbing the Ladder in the Cacao World

In an unexpected twist, Togo is rising as one of the biggest cacao producers globally. After facing challenges in the coffee industry, Togolese farmers discovered their soil and climate were better suited for cacao cultivation. Interestingly, over 90% of Togolese cacao comes from the Plateaux region, and contrary to common beliefs, hundreds of Togolese women actively participate in cacao farming and promotion.

The cacao strains cultivated in Togo, including Amelonado and Forastero, boast a diverse range of tasting notes, offering chocolatiers the opportunity to create rich and dynamic chocolate creations. The efforts of pioneers like Silva Cacao and Gebana have been instrumental in bringing the flavors of Togolese cacao to the attention of European craft chocolate makers and chocolate enthusiasts worldwide.

Final Thoughts

As the craft chocolate industry continues to expand, the exploration of new and exciting cacao origins becomes a quest for both makers and consumers. In 2023, Thailand, El Salvador, and Togo are set to take the stage as the new fine cacao origins to watch.

Their unique flavors, distinctive profiles, and captivating stories are sure to entice chocolate lovers, both seasoned and novice. So, venture forth, try the intriguing creations from these emerging cacao origins, and savor the taste of true craftsmanship.

FAQs About Emerging Cacao Origins

1. Are these new cacao origins sustainable and ethically sourced? Absolutely! As the craft chocolate movement places a strong emphasis on sustainability and ethical sourcing, these emerging cacao origins are no exception. Many cacao producers in Thailand, El Salvador, and Togo are committed to responsible farming practices and fair trade, ensuring that their cacao is grown and harvested in harmony with the environment and local communities.

2. How can I find craft chocolate bars made from these new origins? You can start by exploring specialty chocolate shops, online retailers, and craft chocolate festivals. Look for brands that specifically mention sourcing cacao from Thailand, El Salvador, or Togo. Craft chocolate makers often take pride in highlighting the unique origin of their cacao, so keep an eye out for such information on the packaging or their websites.

3. What makes craft chocolate different from mass-produced chocolate? Craft chocolate is a labor of love, handcrafted in small batches by skilled chocolatiers who prioritize the quality and flavor of the cacao beans. Unlike mass-produced chocolate, craft chocolate makers often have direct relationships with cacao farmers and pay premium prices for high-quality beans, ensuring a traceable and transparent supply chain.

4. Can I visit cacao farms in these emerging origins? Yes, some cacao farms in Thailand, El Salvador, and Togo offer tours and educational experiences for chocolate enthusiasts. Check with local chocolate associations or the farms directly for more information about visiting their plantations.

5. What should I look for in craft chocolate to ensure a unique and delightful experience? When trying craft chocolate from these new origins, look for tasting notes that go beyond the typical chocolatiness. Notes of fruits, spices, floral hints, and earthy undertones are indicators of exceptional flavor profiles. Embrace the diversity of craft chocolate and let your taste buds embark on a delightful journey of discovery.

July 15, 2023 — Ryan Dunn

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