Ask the Alchemist #50

I got a bean from you that you said was milder … I thought you had mentioned that criollo was more difficult to make chocolate than Forestaro or Trinitario. but from what i’ve been reading, criollo is more mild b/c less polyphenols. Shouldn’t this make it easier to make chocolate from? I’m finding my criollo kind of bitter and astringent.

I’ve looked over our correspondence, and honestly, I don’t see where you asked for milder. You initially asked for Criollo, and chocolaty and less fruity. That led me to Peru because it is NOT mild. I didn’t mean to give you that impression. But you illustrate a good point that you asked for Criollo, but remember asking for mild.  They are not synonyms, but people constantly try and make them such.

“caution – lecturing rambling alchemist ahead”..

The main thing here is that chocolate is a living thing. It has bred and cross bred a lot. It very, very, rarely can be stuffed into neat and tidy cubbyholes that many of us humans desire. Most everything you have said, and most everything I’ve said are true….and totally a lie…because they are not the full truth. For instance “criollo is more mild b/c less polyphenols” is true but not the whole truth. The better phrase is “the milder criollo are more mild because they have less polyphenols that the ones that are not as mild”. The even better phrase is ‘it has been observed there is a statistical correlation (r^2 > 0.90 {which is actually pretty horrible from a cause and effect and prediction relationship – that falls into the ‘general trend’ category}) between polyphenols amounts and perceived bitter/astringent flavors’ and ‘many Forastero have polyphenol counts (warning bogus example numbers) from 50-100 mg/kg, many Trinitario have polyphenol counts from 30-80 mg/kg and many Criollo have polyphenol counts from 20-60 mg/kg”. Note the “many”, the hedging language, the overlapping ranges but the general trend? THAT is much closer to the truth. That there is a lot of variation in beans and you simply can’t make an all-encompassing statement and hand a hope it will be true. .

As for Criollo harder to make….yes….it CAN be, but does not have to be. And note, you are writing me just because of that. No contradiction there. And given that Peru is not one of the milder Criollo, (but is still on the milder side of cocoa in general) it needs a ‘full’ roast. It’s very possible I over emphasized how delicate to be on this bean. It needs a good roast to develop flavor, but not one so strong to drive off all the flavor. If you under roast, you get more astringency. When you fully roast, you develop the flavors we think of as chocolate. When you over roast, you add bitter flavors and in some of these ‘milder’ beans, burn off some of the already mild chocolate flavor.

And if you have made it this far, there is a new bean in.  A Fair Trade Certified Ghana.  And bucking the Forastero expectation a small amount, it’s a little bit floral.

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