Source: Camino Verde
Region: Balao, Guayas Province
Source Type: Single Estate Farm and Fermentary
Beans: Grown and fermented on farm
Fermentation Style: Onsite, using inoculation
Tasting Notes: brownies, nuts, caramel
Camino Verde cacao comes from a farm and fermentary in Balao, a town in the Guayas province of southern Ecuador where Vicente Norero employs a rigorous but artistic approach to experimental processing. In lieu of fermenting cacao beans in their own pulp—as it’s traditionally done—Vicente drains and reintroduces a measured quantity of the “miel,” or pulp, alongside a carefully curated cocktail of effective microorganisms—predominantly anaerobic yeasts and bacteria. Inoculation itself is unusual, but the extraordinary level of control and creativity that characterize Norero’s process is what excites us most about this cacao. There is a reason Vicente is more often known as “El Profesor” on the farm than by his own name.
Vicente is at the fore of a modernizing mission, but his work is also deeply rooted in Ecuador’s history of cacao production. Until the early twentieth century, Ecuador was the home of a prized and pure heirloom variety of cacao in the Forastero family: Arriba Nacional. About fifty years ago, an Ecuadorian agronomist—Humero U. Castro—designed a new variety of hardier, more productive cacao: CCN-51 (the fifty-first attempt in a series of genetic crosses). The breed produced larger, denser pods, was self-pollinating, and withstood threats of disease better than other varieties—including Arriba Nacional. A high yield and robust composition gave farmers more financial security, and CCN-51 quickly became a widespread cultivar, displacing a good deal of Ecuadorian heirloom cacao and resulting in the extinction of pure Arriba Nacional.
While Vicente grows CCN-51 for a separate product, he mostly cultivates a new variety of Nacional, showcasing to other Ecuadorian farmers that heirloom varieties are easy enough to cultivate. Vicente produces a specific blend of fine flavor cacao (including the Neo-Nacional) for each of his products to create a unique product with a perfectly balanced flavor profile. Greg, Pearl, and Chiann visited Vicente’s farm for the first time in March of 2014. His farm is one of the most fascinating to explore, so much so that we’ll soon be leading trips there for customers.
As a chocolate, Camino Verde cacao displays the mellow, chocolatey characteristics and notes of quintessential fudge brownie with roasted nut undertones and a clean, sweet finish.