Ghana is about to introduce onto the international market a new fine-flavoured cocoa bean variety after five-years of extensive trial to ensure crop viability and disease resistance.
Developed by Ghana’s Cocoa Research Institute, the fine-flavour cocoa bean has enormous unique signatures and mineral properties for human consumption – unlike the conventional cocoa crops.
“We started this five years ago and we are harvesting the first major materials that we are sending to the United States market very soon. We hope to increase the tonnage over time,” Executive Director of the Cocoa Research Institute Dr. Gilbert Anim Kwapong told the B&FT.
“If it is on your tongue it tastes so different from the others. You get some unique taste on your tongue that is unlike the others. It is less bitter,” he said.
“It is fairly disease resistant, that is why we have sent it out into the field; otherwise it cannot withstand the conditions out there in the field. It is robust enough to withstand the environmental conditions that prevail in the country,” Dr. Kwapong told the B&FT at Tafo in the Eastern Region where the Institute is located.
He explained that the Institute is collaborating with some foreign partners and has managed to work with about 38 farmers in the Ofinso district, where they have been provided with the fine-flavoured cocoa planting material.
The world cocoa market distinguishes between two broad categories of cocoa beans: ‘fine’ or ‘flavour’ cocoa beans, and ‘bulk’ or ‘ordinary’ cocoa beans.
It should be noted that the difference between fine or flavour cocoa and bulk cocoa is in the flavour rather than in the other quality factors.
Fine flavours include fruit (fresh and browned, mature fruits), floral, herbal, and wood notes, nut and caramelic notes as well as rich and balanced chocolate bases.
Usually, a combination of criteria is used to assess the quality of fine or flavour cocoa. These include the genetic origin of planting material, morphological characteristics of the plant, flavour characteristics of the cocoa beans produced, chemical characteristics of the cocoa beans, colour of the cocoa beans and nibs, degree of fermentation, drying, acidity, off-flavours, percentage of internal mould, insect infestation, and percentage of impurities.
The share of fine or flavour cocoa in the total world production of cocoa beans is relatively small and has being falling over the years, from between 40% and 50% at the beginning of the 20th century – with Ecuador and Trinidad & Tobago being the major fine or flavour cocoa producers to just over five percent per annum currently.
The decline in consumption of fine or flavour cocoa over recent decades was brought about by a general shift in consumer demand away from solid products toward filled products, containing other ingredients endowed with stronger flavours such as nuts, fruit, cream – reducing dependence on the aromatic and flavour characteristics of fine or flavour cocoa.
Nowadays, chocolate manufacturers use fine or flavour cocoa beans in traditional recipes; mainly for a limited number of relatively expensive, up-market finished products. Only very recently has the demand for fine or flavour cocoa started to grow very rapidly.
Most major chocolate manufacturers have premium quality chocolate products in their range, which require fine or flavour cocoa from specific origins in their recipes for the distinct taste or colour of their chocolate.
The traditional cocoa- consuming countries of Western Europe (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the United Kingdom) as well as Japan are the main consumer markets for fine or flavour cocoa, while the United States of America uses this type of cocoa to a lesser extent.
Some countries in Latin America also have a large domestic market for the use of fine or flavour cocoa.
Ghana, the world’s second-largest cocoa producer, is targeting production of 850,000 metric tonnes of cocoa beans in the 2014/2015 crop season.
Ghana runs a two-cycle cocoa season consisting of the October-June main crop harvest which is mainly exported, and the July-September light crop that is discounted to local grinders.
An unprecedented one million tonnes of cocoa was produced during the 2010/11 crop-year, thanks to good weather and improved farming techniques — but production declined to about 850,000 tonnes in the 2011/12 season.
Cocobod, the state- owned bulk exporter, said cocoa production tends to fall slightly after a bumper year.