These extremely rare, Heirloom (Silvestre, Wild) cacao beans are collected by hand by indigenous low-lands Bolivians in remote areas of the Beni regions (Huacaraje and Baures areas). Thy are processed by Volker Lehman's Tranquilidad Estate. These cacao beans are significantly smaller than hybrid beans but they have 10% more cacao butter, and lots more flavor. Hybrid cacao beans have about 55% cacao butter, while Heirloom Beniano have 65%, which means higher percentage chocolate on the bar without additional cacao butter.
We consider our good friend, Volker, the father of Bolivian cacao. After he left his native Germany as an agricultural engineer he begun working in 1991 in Agroforestry making a difference in land use practices. He has lived now permanently in Bolivia since 2000, where his two daughters were born, dedicating his work to the Bolivian cacao sector.
Nelson visited his Tranquilidad Estate in Huacaraje, Beni in November of 2018 and was fortunate to spend a few days enjoying the tranquility and the delightful native cuisine. You fly into Trinidad, the capital of the Beni department, and then you take 6-9 hours driving on dirt roads to reach his estate. How long it takes depends on the condition of the roads, usually impassable during the rainy season, and how long you want to stop and admire the Bolivian Amazonian flora and fauna.
These are the #2 Heirloom Cacao Project (HCP) beans, which have the 97.3 Boliviano and 2.7% Upper Amazon Forastero Genetic Profile. They were registered at the HCP by our good friend Volker Lehmann. Below is the Genetic profile published in the www.hcpcacao.org website. We export these beans from Bolivia and imported and warehouse them in the US at Continental Terminals in Jersey city (wholesale only) and Salisbury (MA) , both wholesale and retail.
“This chocolate has the complexity of one of the illusion paintings” commented one HCP Tasting panelist. Additionally, this bean was celebrated for its extremely complex mix of chocolate, fresh citrus, and aged fruit flavors.
USDA Genetic Profile
How do I roast cacao beans?
To roast cacao beans, you need to expose them to a high temperature, close to 325 degrees, and then gradually lower that temperature for the next 15 to 30 minutes. You lower temperature to prevent burning of the outside of the beans while the inside gets appropriately hot, and kills all the bacteria and mold that may be left over from fermenting the fresh cacao beans. When the beans start to pop (from water evaporation), making a sound known as the "crack" in coffee roasting parlance, they are very close to being finished. You want to stop just after most are finished cracking, but not so long after that they start to smell burnt. It is a trial-and-error method and you will get better as you roast more cacao beans. Many coffee aficionados roast their own coffee at home to ensure the highest degree of flavor and quality, and save lots of money in the process. If you are one of them, you can do exactly the same thing for cacao beans. Even if you don't roast coffee at home, but just love the flavor of high-quality cocoa or chocolate, you can follow these quick, easy steps to roast your own cacao beans in your own kitchen.
The processes of roasting coffee and cacao beans are nearly the same, except because cacao beans are more fragile than coffee beans, they have to be roasted at a much lower temperature. Coffee beans are generally roasted at around 450-480 degrees Fahrenheit, while cacao beans should never get hotter than 325 degrees. Your nose will tell you. If it stars smelling burnt, it is too hot! Other than the lower temperature, the process is the same. We recommend using the Behmor 1600 coffee roaster for cacao roasting. The Behmor 1600 AB Plus is designed as a coffee roaster, but works well with cacao. Use the one-pound setting with the P2 profile, but fill the grid drum with 2.5 to 3 lbs of raw cacao beans. We are an authorized distributor of the Behmor 1600 AB Plus, and you can find it on this site in the "Roasters & Grinders" collection.