Know Your Chocolate Origins

By Caroline Hatchett


Caroline Hatchett
Letterpress Chocolate from Rising Star Chocolate Maker David Menkes
Letterpress Chocolate from Rising Star Chocolate Maker David Menkes

David Menkes is on an obsessive quest to express terroir through his LetterPress Chocolate. “I’m looking for specific flavor profiles. I want something for everyone,” he says. To achieve the flavors he wants, Menkes buys beans that require a three-day canoe ride from the cocaine-riddled jungles of Peru. He once air-freighted a new crop of beans from Tanzania (before anyone else in the world) for his mint chocolate bar because a different cacao, grown in a different region and fermented in a different manner, simply wouldn’t do. As with fermenting coffee beans or even wild cultured beers, cacao fermentation is intricately linked to environment, and all the yeast/bacteria/microbe activity is central in developing flavor and aroma in Menkes’ final product. As with the best bean-to-bar operations, each LetterPress chocolate bar is an education in origin, fermentation, and craft. Here’s a primer on four of Menkes’ favorites.

Origin: Ucayali, Peru
Estate: Ucayali River Cacao
Varietal: ICS and Cacao Comun
Fermentation & Process: Meticulous selection of varietals native to the Ucayali region, sorting both wet (pre-fermentation) and dried (post-fermentation) cacao
Flavor Notes: Caramel, star anise, pepper, cedar

Origin: Toledo District, Belize
Estate: Maya Mountain Cacao
Varietal: Amelonado
Fermentation & Process: Centralized fermentation and drying, with more 150 farmers bringing their cacao to one place for processing
Flavor Notes: Stone fruit, mocha

Origin: Tanzania
Estate: Kokoa Kamili
Varietal: Trinitario
Fermentation & Process: A large organic producer working with farmers to plant and cultivate the best cacao in the country with centralized fermentation and drying for consistency
Flavor Notes: Green banana, peppery mocha

Origin: Esmeraldas, Ecuador
Estate: Costa Esmeraldas
Varietal: Nacional hybrids
Fermentation & Process: A single-family estate that cultivates and ferments their own cacao, meticulously consistent
Flavor Notes: Nutty, floral

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