We Look At Every Pure Nacional Cacao Bean At Least Five Times

by Adam Pearson

I’ve been working in the Maranon Chocolate cacao processing facility for exactly 23 days now. The crew is fantastic, the work is hard, and the cacao that we turn out is just splendid. What has impressed me most about the operation is that Brian has put together is our quality control. It is no exageration when I say that EVERY SINGLE pure nacional cacao bean gets looked at by various sets of eyes at least five times.

Why does it matter?

We’ve been told by numerous world class experts that our cacao is the best they’ve ever seen or tasted. A big part of that has do do with the genetics. An equally important factor is processing. A well processed bean retains its delicate flavors resulting in delicious chocolate. We eliminate all beans that are not perfectly processed

Also, we only ship perfectly shaped beans. Much of the worlds cacao is delivered with deformed beans. A deformed bean, a bean that is flat or misshapen, takes to the processing differently than a perfectly shaped bean and may cause flavor inconsistencies.

Because we look at every bean at least five times, no deformed or poorly processed beans make it into our chocolate. We can promise a consistently wonderful chocolate.

Bees and Motorcycles

In the Maranon Canyon, quality control is not fun and games. Before we even start the fermenting process we do our first round of removing deformed beans. Our first look at the cacao comes when it is delivered to our plant in sealed buckets. They come covered in the sweet, white pulp that surrounds them in the pod. Bees have an affinity for the nectar. As we slosh through every single bean, the bees begin to surround us. At the height of the invasion, we look at the beans, literally, surrounded by a swarm of bees. It is not for the faint of heart and we and our workers are regularly stung. The price of perfection!

Sometimes the beans arrive from the farms late at night. We had a rain storm during the day last week that ruined the roads coming to our facility. As a result, our pickup team hadn’t arrived until 9:30pm. The storm was so bad that it knocked out the electricity in our plant. In the dark, by the light of motorcycle headlights, we made sure that as few deformed beans as possible made it to even the first stage of our processing.

And that is just what happened on the first day of processing.

Conclusion

We can guarantee that every bite of Maranon Chocolate will be as delicious as the preceding bite. Come rain, shine, bees or darkness, every bean will get looked at at least 5 times. Only the best pure nacional cacao will ever make it into our chocolate.

Fortunato No.4 Testimonials

Recent testimonials describing the Fortunato No.4 chocolate experience forwarded by Franz Ziegler:

“I let chocolate lovers do the talking when it comes to Fortunato No 4. People who understand chocolate and can make a judgment on the quality.”  -Franz Ziegler

“Really… if you had sent me diamonds and emeralds I could not be happier!  I think wars could be prevented and marriages preserved with gifts such as this!” -Carrie L. Chisholm

“I am still fascinated by the story and the product. I am very impressed with what Confiserie von Rotz made with it; truly very good and beautiful, the entire presentation and approach. You have broadend my chocolate horizon by another piece. Thanks for that. Kind regards from Vienna.” -Leo Forsthofer, Renown Austrian Chocolatier

“This chocolate that you sent us — from Peru’s lost cacao — is absolutely amazing! The flavor of this is so different than anything I’ve ever experienced.” -Anne Knudsen, friend of Franz Ziegler

“For now I send you my greetings with the remark that my wife wants to divorce me. She fell in love with Fortunato No. 4.” -Marcel Suter, Media Specialist

“The Fortunato- products carry  flavour impressions, like I have never, in this kind experienced in chocolate. Even after minutes after the pleasure, a feeeling remained on the palette, like one just tasted a piece of pure happiness. Fortunato does not seduce me to self indulgence, rather to stimulate me to a enjoyful pause.” -Urs Schönholzer, Manager for leading machine manufacturer for chocolate machinery

“We need to take care of our planet. It is  the only planet where cacao grows.”  -Unknown

Chasing Chocolate

by Dan Pearson and Nancy Curren

Dan and Nancy chasing chocolate in Peru

From Dan:

“Of all the Gin Joints in all the world…She walked into mine.”  Humphrey Bogart in the movie “Casablanca”  spoke those words about the lady he loved and lost as the Germans marched into Paris during World War II. Years later she unexpectedly walked into his Casablanca night club (Gin Joint) turning his life upside down. He was drunk when he delivered this famous line as he tried to decide whether he wanted his life to be turned upside down or not.

My life has been turned upside down, as has the Chocolate Chaser I live with, Nancy Curren, since the thought-to-be-extinct lady, Pure Nacional Cacao, lost for 100 years, unexpectedly walked into our lives. Brian Horsley and I, with no chocolate experience, stumbled upon the lost Pure Nacional while searching for bananas. In our wildest thoughts, we never dreamed our story would catch the imagination of adventurers and chocolate lovers, everywhere. Especially when we were on a journey seeking one thing and discovering, unexpectedly, something totally different and historically remarkable.

Fortunately we are on this journey with Chocolate Chasers that do know something about making fine chocolate. So after our story of discovery is told, the unique and delicate flavors and aromas of the Swiss made chocolate, can speak for the lady, Pure Nacional.

How does it feel when an ordinary person like me, who with Brian, accidentally makes an extraordinary discovery? It is like riding a teeter-toter between exciting and frightening.  At the end of every 14 to 16 hour work day, since we launched Fortunato No. 4 chocolate, I think of  Fortunato. The mother tree of the Pure Nacional cacao lives on his farm. When Brian told Fortunato we were naming the chocolate after him, he frowned, smiled briefly, shrugged his shoulders and went back to work. Now when asked how I feel about being present at the discovery of Pure Nacional, I am comfortable responding like Fortunato. Unlike Bogart, I do not need to get drunk and decide whether I want my life turned upside down or not.

My life has been and is upside down since the discovery and it is fine with me, because I have learned that Fate and/or Lady Luck is what it is…no more…no less.

From Nancy:

I have known Dan Pearson for most all of my adult life. We met when he was 24 and that meeting is a whole other story. For now in real time, I find myself still asking the same question I once asked in our earlier years when we first met  after some bold stroke of his that came from out of nowhere, “WHO ARE YOU?!”. Well, nothing has changed. Chocolate Chasing is the latest BOLD STROKE.

As for me, I am often asked what my Chocolate Chasing role is today. Rather than give a resume of my life both past and present, I keep it simple and answer, “I’m the ‘Laundry Lady'”. The tasks that I perform are not necessarily intellectually stimulating. I view what I do as catching the ‘stuff’ that falls off of Dan’s desk. The ‘Head Chocolate Chaser in Charge’ puts in 14 to 16 hour days and is totally into Chocolate Chasing but alas, as we all know, real life in the fast lane still benefits from making certain that any ‘BIG STUFF’ that falls off the desk is caught before it hits the floor. The little stuff may hit the floor and will get picked up later.

What is a Cacao Farm Like?

by Brian Horsley

Fortunato with a cacao pod from his farm

Fortunato with a cacao pod from his farm

Many people who’ve never had the chance to visit cacao country must wonder what a cacao farm is like.  In some parts of the world cacao is grown industrially, on large and modern plantations, and often monocropped, without significant biodiversity.  In our area of the Marañón Canyon all cacao is grown on small, rustic farms, between .25 and 1.5 hectares in size, and intermixed with other crops and vegetation.

Because the farms where we harvest our Pure Nacional cacao vary in altitude, there are a wide variety of crops grown within, next to and around the cacao.  In the low end of our altitude range, along with cacao we find rice, bananas, coconuts, citrus fruits, pineapples, mangoes and papaya, among many other plants.  At the higher altitude end, we find primarily coffee, sapote (a native fruit), corn and alfalfa, among many others.

Of course almost all small farms raise various plants and animals for their own family consumption, in addition to the cash crops mentioned above.  As one example, Fortunato, the farmer whose cacao Fortunato No. 4 chocolate is named after, is located in the upper middle of our altitude range, and grows or uses the following plants and animals on his farm, among many others too numerous to list:

cacao, coffee, mango, orange, key lime, limon (a sweet green lemon), sapote, alfalfa, sugar cane, cucumber, noni, coconut, banana (3 varieties), guanabana, guaba, chili pepper

cows, pigs, dogs, cats, horses, donkeys, ducks, chickens, turkeys, peahens, cuy (guinea pigs), bee hives

Cacao groves in the Marañón Canyon almost all have a thick layer of decomposing material on the ground, composed of old cacao pods, fallen fruit, branches and leaves, etc.  This material is nature’s finest organic fertilizer, and helps to maintain a balanced, nutrient rich soil base which allows ancient Pure Nacional cacao beans to develop without the use of chemical fertilizers.

Walking in a cacao grove on a hot humid afternoon, among the dappled shade of the tall fruit trees, ducking under coffee and cacao branches, picking fresh oranges, bananas and mangos to snack on, listening to leaves crackle underfoot, and the ever present hum of cicadas overhead, has to be among the finest nature experiences available.  And when Fortunato invites you to eat cuy lunch with his family, or try some of his fresh honey, that’s when it becomes one of the best days you could ever have.

Marañón on the Radio

Dan and Franz recently made an appearance on public radio.  A great introduction to Marañón!  Here is the link:  http://www.wpr.org/hereonearth/archive_110121k.cfm (click the “mp3″ button to listen)

– Katherine