Saturday, February 21, 2009

What to plant? What to value?

As the craft chocolate marketplace continues to develop from the demand side, we can increasingly see a critical need to engage cacao farmers (and whole farming communities) in the idea that we as chocolate makers and consumers are ready and interested in valuing their crops based more on their overall quality than their sheer quantity.

This seemingly simple change in perspective will in fact take substantial time and effort to get into place, and as we read further into the collective past of cacao cultivation, it's very clear that questions of yield versus flavor (and other related dichotomies) have been with us for at least 150 years or so.

As new origins are planted and established regions are revitalized with an eye to this new higher-value chocolate market, it's an exciting time to engage in what turns out to be a very long conversation with cacao about what we want from it--and what it wants from us as well.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Chaco Canyon inhabitants used chocolate

For years there's been speculation on just how far north and south cacao was traded during the precolumbian period. Now, for the first time, there's solid scientific evidence (theobromine residue, in this case) that chocolate made it at least as far north as Chaco Canyon in New Mexico.

This is the first proof of chocolate's use north of Mexico before European contact, and a nifty piece of the evolving picture of cacao's travel through the precolumbian Americas.