Every year we select a new couverture to use as our limited-edition chocolate bar. This year we chose cacao from the ‘Eti-Oni’ region of Nigeria. A creamy, smooth dark chocolate with light floral notes, you can find out more about it in our Jan 19 blog post here: https://cocoajoneschocolate.com/blogs/news/nigeria-eti-oni.
For 2020 we wanted to look for cacao from a region which isn’t traditionally associated with chocolate. We selected Indonesia, located in Far East Asia. It’s the third largest producer of cocoa beans in the world, after Africa and South America. For research purposes only of course, this summer I visited a cacao farm amongst the rice paddies of Bali followed by a whistle stop tour of the finest chocolate shops in Jakarta. Over the next few months, as we select a couverture to use in our limited edition bar, we’ll share with you some of the sights and tastes we were lucky enough to experience and bring back with us.
The Malay Archipelago, pronounced 'ark-ih-pel-e-goh' (what a beautiful word!), is the largest group of islands in the world, made up primarily of 24k pieces of land in Indonesia and the Philippines. Indonesia has been inhabited for at least 1.5m years. It's culture reflects Hindu, Islamic and Buddhist influences, in some part due to a long history of trading and agriculture. In the 16thcentury the Dutch became the dominant European power with independence won after WWII.
The spread of the islands along the Equator and a volcanic geography hint at a climate that could produce unique cacao. Lee McCoy, founder of one our favourite blogs on all things chocolate, https://www.chocolatiers.co.uk, speculates that the crop first arrived in the Archipelago sometime between the 16thand 18thcentury but was slow to gain popularity due to a lack of profitability. After a few false starts, in the latter half of the 20thcentury, with support from the Indonesian government, farmers and private producers began to build an industry which now has sufficient depth to house a number of ‘bean to bar’ brands who are spreading their name beyond the Islands including Cau, Krakakoa, Pod and Monggo.
We’ll be tasting bars and hot chocolate from a selection of them over the next few months; I’m salivating already (not a pretty sight!).