A Cacao Tree Grows in Maryland

It was just announced by the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Initiative - a joint project of the Fine Chocolate Industry Association and the United States Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service- that Nicaragua has heirloom cacao! To find out exactly what that means, we went to the USDA's campus in Beltsville, Maryland to meet with Dr. Lyndel Meinhardt who heads the cacao genome mapping project.

Heirlooms are genetically distinct cacaos. For the HCP, heirloom cacaos have truly fine flavor!

Our world is increasingly filled with flavorless foods. We are losing preciously tasty plants to crops engineered for robustness and yield, but not flavor.  Whether this trade off is worth it is an interesting question for many foods - but not cacao.  We want our chocolate to taste good!

The USDA is working with other organizations to map out the cacao genome. As heirloom cacaos become extinct and man-made variants take their place, our hope is they maintain a database of the diverse genetics of heirlooms still with us today!

The HCP works to categorize which heirloom cacaos have exceptional and distinct flavor qualities to pair with their unique genetic composition.  Together, the USDA and taste-minded chocolate makers are working to ensure that great tasting cacao does not vanish from the earth.  I think we can all agree that is important! 

Along with Ecuador, Bolivia, and other countries, Nicaragua is now a country with heirloom cacao. Something which we and you, as great MUCHOMAS customers, can be very proud of. If you recall, last fall the International Cocoa Organization dubbed Nicaragua a 100% Fine Cacao country. With this new designation from the HCP, we know for a fact that the world can enjoy some exceptional and unique chocolates thanks to our Nicaraguan friends!

We were joined at the USDA, with well known chocolate critic and cacao savant Mark Christian from the C-Spot. Mark recently completed a project where chocolate was made from 7 distinct heirloom cacaos. Check it out.  We hope in the near future his next project will involve 8 distinct heirloom cacaos :) Obviously Nicaraguan cacao being the newest member of the 8!

The world's appreciation of Nicaragua's great cacao is growing rapidly! Here's to another year of MUCHOMAS discoveries with MUCHOMAS new friends! 

And don't forget to order more MUCHOMAS here!

-The Team at MUCHOMAS Chocolate