Porcelana...finally after a decade of waiting.
Update: Oct 20/2015: The final results of the International Chocolate Awards were just announced in London England. Holy wow we just won best dark chocolate in the world for this bar. The CSB Chama bar won "best in show" in the Americas. What an incredible honour. It was worth the 12 year wait...
Before we started Soma in 2003, we read a copy of “The New Taste of Chocolate” by Maricel Presilla. This fascinating book documents the whole world of fine cacao and chocolate with amazing detail. We highly recommend it. One section focuses on the rare and highly coveted Porcelana bean from Venezuela. At the time only high-end European chocolate companies had access to such beans. Many consider Criollo Porcelana to be the holy grail of cacao beans.
The name Porcelana comes from their appearance, the immature pods are smooth skinned, ivory in colour sometimes with a tinge of pale green, petite compared to other types of cacao pods.
The unripe beans ( cotyledons ) are also pale in colour reinforcing it's namesake. Just in case you are wondering the finished chocolate is not white at all, it is indeed brown but much lighter in tone.
Porcelana pods are fragile, the outer walls thin making them vulnerable to invasive insects and fungal disease. They are notoriously difficult to farm. So why grow such a troublesome crop? Pure Porcelana holds a very important place in the history of cacao as one of the purest forms of Criollo cacao. And the taste? Well. we will get to that...
Throughout the centuries much of the Porcelana was wiped from the map. Today there are still small pockets growing in Venezuela. The most concentrated area is where our beans were grown in the humid region directly south of Lake Maracaibo in North West Venezuela.
In this area there is a germplasm bank called Estación Experimental Chama dedicated to the preservation of Porcelana, much of it's harvest is used to propagate new plants from seedlings to be grown by local farmers in the region of El Vigia. Each small tree will take 3 years to grow and start bearing fruit.
Fast forward 12 years and we are excited to have received a few bags of this very special cacao. In fact we received 2 types of Porcelana, a pure Porcelana and a Porcelana Ocumare hybrid ( a young project called Criollo Santa Barbara out of Estación Experimental Chama ). Both are superb. The sample beans we received were so good we roasted, peeled and ate the entire 1 kilo bag of whole beans.
Cacao of this quality is hard to come by so of course it gets extra special treatment. We hand sort the beans to extract any sticks, stones and foreign matter. After that, the most gentle roast and conch is all that is needed to expose all those nutty and delicate creamy notes. Most of our chocolate is formulated to be 70%. This Porcelana was so mild and nutty that we pushed it to 75%.
The finished chocolate is elegant and quietly complex, very low astringency with a freakishly long finish. Both encompass a very wide octave of tastes from red berries, cashews, macadamia nuts, cream, and roasted cacao. The two bars sing a slightly different tune yet are clearly related.
We only received a few bags of beans so both the Porcelana 75% and the CSB Chama 70% are sadly very limited editions.