Is world’s best tasting cocoa found in Bohol?

If you had a time in your childhood when you cracked a red cacao pod from a backyard plant, sucked on its pulpy seed and then placed the seed in a mat to dry, chances are you had that from a criollo, the world’s most sought-after cacao variety which has found its way in Bohol.

Criollo is a cacao variety that gives the smallest seeds that are white all though out, but is the most aromatic, explains Department of Science and Technology assistant provincial head Vina Antopina, during a recent cacao Productivity Enhancement Training attended by over a hundred cacao growers at the NIA Training Center in Dao, August 18.

Cacao is the source of the cocoa beans, which when roasted, gives out the world-famous chocolates.

“When you have a criollo, world chocolatiers would definitely get [their beans] from you”, Antopina relayed.

The introduction of high yielding varieties however has pushed the criollos to near extinction or to cross pollination that seeking the pure criollo may not be that easy, she added.

Already adjudged among the best sources of chocolates all over the world, the criollo comprises only about 5 percent of the whole world cocoa beans production, because this cacao plant variety is so sensitive and thus vulnerable to a variety of environmental threats: directs sunlight, strong winds and pests, according to Bacolod cacao grower Christopher Fadriga, in an interview.

Brought by the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade from MesoAmerica, the cacao came to the Philippines and found its way to Bohol, based on the remnants of the old cacao which has been the source of local cocoa beans made into tableya.

Proven to be ideally grown in non-acidic soil, in altitudes about 60 meters above sea level, the now much sought after native cacao is eyed as the source of what Filipinos intend to internationally register as the “ginintu-an Filipino Aromatic cacao.”

It has accordingly a delicate yet complex, low in classic chocolate flavor, but rich in secondary notes of long duration, according to Barry-Calibaut in its website.

Considered to be the “prince of cocoas,” Criollo is prized as an ingredient in the very finest of chocolates.

But considered small, a criollo pod can go 15 centimeters or a bit bigger and produces between 20-30 cocoa beans, which could be “inferior” compared to another cacao variety called “forastero,” which came from the Amazons.

Owing to the need for the best tasting chocolates, chocolate makers use around 80% of forastero and 20% of criollo to produce decent chocolates.

In Bohol, the DOST brought regional cacao experts to give a day’s training on cacao production and processing as well as its business prospects, August 18.

Brought under its Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SET-UP), the DOST hopes that cacao production enhancement opens up the avenues for more cacao production in Bohol while it pushes into action the search for the classic criollos which has produced for Boholanos its heirloom white beans, Antopina added.

At the training, Fadriga who is also the national president of the Plantacion de Sikwate urged Boholanos to get into the habit of cacao planting which promises to give out between two to three tons of beans per hectare.

At P200 per kilo, getting into cacao can be the opportunity Boholano farmers are waiting, said a cacao grower who had 6 years of cacao production belt, Bern Karaan.

With hybrid varieties now available like the trinitario, which has been natural hybrid biological cross-pollination class with the criollo and the forastero.

The trinitario picks the high yield characteristics of the forastero and the delectably refined taste of criollo, which produces the taste that is between average and superior, Duke Mendoza, who owns a 12,000-seedling cacao nursery and a plantation in Carmen, put in.

As to markets, a Bohol chocolate maker actually needs about 6 tons of beans a month to keep her business, DOST said.

To respond to the need, the chocolatier sources out her demands from Mindanao and other cacao growing areas, according to the DOST in Bohol, subtly suggesting a tasty future for anyone who would venture into the industry. (PIA)

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