FARMING FOR FLAVOUR

Cacao is a fruit tree - just like an apple tree. Most of the farming principles for fruit trees are therefore identical for cacao.
The first principle is to plant the trees for flavour and variety. All fruit orchards are planted this way, except for cacao. Xoco is now changing this. This is key to improving the flavour in chocolate.

Farming-Principles

The principles for farming are similar to those for all other fruit trees. Some of the more important elements of cacao farming are as follows: Pruning is essential to encourage the tree to produce fruits, instead of growing big and sturdy.

Pruning also ensures that the tree is kept low (under 2.5m tall) and balanced. The target is 3-4 producing branches, or 10 metres of producing branches. The harvest target is 22-30 fruits per tree per calendar year. On average, 22 fruits yields one kilo of cacao, which roughly translates into 1 kilo of 70% couverture. As rule of thumb, 2-3 fruits make a 100g chocolate bar.

220213.farmer with machete and pods farming

GRAFTING

Cacao is a fruit tree – like an apple tree – and most of the farming principles for fruit trees are therefore identical for cacao. The first principle is to plant the trees for flavour and variety, and you do that by grafting. All fruit orchards are planted this way, except for cacao. Almost all cacao in the world today is seed-planted. Through its approach, Xoco is now changing this. This is key to improving the flavour in chocolate. It all starts with roaming the country side in the growing countries, looking for cacao with the best flavour potential.

To be able to plant for variety, you conduct the technique of grafting. Carefully breeding for flavour in the fruit. This originates with the Romans, 2,000 years ago, when they started to breed apple varieties. Before then, when apples were wild, no one ate apples. Today, there are more than 7,000 apple varieties. The grafting technique was since applied with all fruits (cherries, pears, grapes, etc.), except cacao.

Growing cacao and grafting are closely linked to fermentation and roasting. Only by having a single variety, with a well understood intrinsic flavour profile, can you experiment with fermentation and roasting to get to the best results.