Davao beans granted ‘heirloom cacao’ status

Heirloom cacao beans are the botanical equivalent of diamonds.

DAVAO CITY- Malagos Chocolate’s Puentespina Farm was designated heirloom producers of quality cacao beans by the Heirloom Cacao Preservation (HCP) Fund in collaboration with the Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The status was granted in ceremonies held in San Francisco on 12 January this year recognizing Puentespina as among a select few heirloom cacao farmers from around the world. Heirloom cacao is considered the diamonds of cacao. They are the foundation of great chocolate and the trees and beans are considered heirloom variety because of a combination of their historic, cultural, botanical, geographic and flavor value.

Puentespina Farms is the first from the Philippines so designated by the HCP, making it the 16th heirloom cacao in the world. It joins 15 farmers from Bolivia, Ecuador, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Belize, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Tanzania and Madagascar.

Puentespina Farms submitted samples of its Trinitario beans that underwent extensive evaluation by a tasting panel comprising nine chocolate experts from around the world. The beans were rated consistent on low acidity and hint of fruits in the liquor, pure cocoa mass, pleasant yet slightly astringent chocolate taste and herbal liquor flavor.

To celebrate the certification, Malagos Agri-Ventures Corporation, makers of Malagos Chocolates and a sister company of Puentespina Farms, issued a limited-edition bar of Malagaos heirloom 72-percent dark chocolate.

“To become designated as ’heirloom cacao’ is an incredibly high standard to meet. We’re very proud to bring this honor to our country,” said Rex Puentespina, farmer and chocolatier at Malagos Chocolate.

Puentespina is also hopeful the certification will create more demand for fine and premium chocolates that are proudly made in the Philippines.

“And most importantly, increased awareness of how valuable our cacao is, thereby encouraging the growth of the entire cacao industry in the Philippines,” he told the Daily Tribune.

He encourages other growers in the Philippines to subject themselves to an HCP process and evaluation to uncover more heirloom cacao in the country.

The heirloom cacao certification raises the status of the beans grown in the Philippines. For years, the Philippines was not included in the list of countries who are sources of fine flavor chocolates due to outdated techniques and quality control sufficient to meet international standards.

Only chocolate made from beans identified by the HCP can be called heirloom chocolate because the designation is not contingent on genetics. It is also contingent on the field of evaluation verifying the source of the beans and the process they underwent to make the chocolate.

The HCP Fund is an initiative of the Fine Chocolate Industry Association, a non-profit organization founded in collaboration with the USDA that gathers cacao farmers, chocolate makers, chocolate industry professionals and chocolate enthusiasts around the world to unite and save the Theobroma cacao trees.

Puentespina Farms encourages the preservation and protection of Theobroma cacao and the training of farmers to make fine flavor chocolates.

Apart from being “heirloom,” Puentespina’s Malagos Chocolates already received 15 international recognitions and commendation in fine chocolate competitions.

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