Tatiana Sanabria reports for Pagina Siete:
Swiss cocoa taster empowers producers
Markus Lutz spent five days in La Paz evaluating grains of cacao from five regions of the country so that producers and entrepreneurs achieve quality in Switzerland.
Fermentation is one of the secrets to get a grain of high quality cocoa, explains Swiss taster, Markus Lutz, who arrived in the country to train 20 producers and collectors of this wild fruit in the North of the Department of La Paz.
The workshop evaluation of quality and taste of the wild Bolivian cocoa, which also brought together companies dedicated to the chocolate industry, focused on evaluating the quality of cocoa bean through the tasting, to publicize its morphological attributes and identify faults in the processes that affect the quality of the product.
“The goal is to have contact with the producers to know the activities carried out and, in this way, understand the product obtained. But who also know the attributes demanded by foreign companies and the work that requires”, says the expert, who is also the analytical and product development director of the Swiss company Chocolat Bernrain AG.
This improvement will mean the difference in the market.
This event was held yesterday [2/7/14] and the day before yesterday at the initiative of the Organization Conservation International (CI), with the support of Fundación Amigos de la Naturaleza [FAN], in the framework of a project to generate markets for wild Bolivian cocoa in the North of the Department of La Paz and give an added value to the product.
During his visit, Lutz also gathered organoleptic profiles of different grains of wild cacao of the regions Baures and Riberalta, Beni; Urubichá, Santa Cruz; and Carmen de Lemero, to the North of La Paz, to identify factors that determine their taste and quality.
As part of Chocolat Bernrain AG – one of the oldest Swiss companies engaged in the field of chocolate and leader in production of organic chocolate – Lutz develops workshops for eight years, to improve the quality of cocoa products in India, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia.
As a taster, it always focuses on assessing the process of fermentation and drying of grain, as well as the internal characteristics of color and texture and, of course, taste.
So it takes samples of 100 grains, the dumbbell to know if they are hybrids or wild, evaluates its external appearance, smell them, makes the humidity control – which may not exceed 7%-, the part to see inside and check for rust, and evaluates if the grain is Slaty, due to lack of fermentation, or if it’s Purple, an inappropriate fermentation process.
“Bolivia has a good cocoa, the taste is good and has a good variety of flavors, but with a good production could improve the product”, he says, in time explain that the production of the best chocolate in South America is disputed between Venezuela and Ecuador.
The country has two types of cocoa: the hybrid, which develops with imported plantations, and the wild, which is part of a system of natural forest and is found mainly in the Amazon region and in smaller percentage, in the tropics of Cochabamba, Pando and Santa Cruz.
This type of cocoa is known for its high quality, intense aroma, floral flavor and high energy content, attributes for which are valued in the international industry, explains Horacio Lorini, Coordinator of the project implemented by CI in Bolivia.
This variety is, for example, in community Lemero Carmen, cultivating 3,000 hectares of cocoa in the middle of the mountain, which generates a production of between 100 and 150 quintals of grain annually. This means an income of between Bs1,050 and Bs1,200 per quintal.
Considering the potential of this area and the interest of the community to improve the quality of its products, the Organization gave them lights in the production and maintenance of crops and wild plants, the development of a tablet of dark chocolate with the recipe for a French expert.
“At Carmen de Lemero, cocoa was not fermented before and was destined for sale locally, but now that they ferment, they entered the national market with good acceptance. So much so companies like Para Ti and El Ceibo demand much of that product”, said Lorini.
As Lutz argues, fermentation makes the difference and only demand three to eight additional days in the production schedule. “As you see, is not too much work,” sentenced with a smile.
Cocoa producers put the eyes in the domestic market
Wild Bolivian cocoa producers prefer to put the eyes in the domestic market, the high offer of high quality chocolate in other countries and to raise awareness of the variety of products that are produced in different regions of the country.
“Unfortunately, Bolivia is not on the world map of cocoa producers. For this reason it is important to see the internal market, which is accustomed to consume chocolate scrap, without knowing the attributes that has our cocoa”, says Horacio Lorini, Coordinator of the Cocoa project of Conservation International.
According to the National Institute of Statistics [INE], in 2012, Bolivia imported the $28.3 million worth of both grain and different cocoa derivatives and only exported $2.6 million.
Lorini, however, believes that this is a good strategy, not to compete with products that are at best level, but to offer products with high content of cocoa, which are good for the health.
Career. Markus Lutz is of Swiss nationality and his profession is chemical in foods.
Work. Began his work in 1973 at Thomi & Frank AG, of Basel, Switzerland, and since 1988 is working in Chocolat Bernrain AG.
Area. Member of six famous companies of the chocolate industry.