The first Heirloom cacao from Nicaragua

Nicaragua has many fine flavor cacao varieties, but it wasn’t until late 2015 that the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) recognized the country as a fine cocoa origin (one of only nine countries to have that designation). One of the fine cocoa varieties is Nicalizo, which in late 2015 was the first Nicaraguan cacao to be awarded Heirloom Cacao status by the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Initiative (HCP). The term “heirloom” can mean many things, but in the case of the HCP it means a bean that, through a combination of genetics, terroir and post harvest processing (fermenting and drying) has an extraordinary or unique flavor. The designation is important for many reasons, among which is that identifying heirloom cacao can potentially help preserve the genetics of those beans through increased awareness.

A consistently high quality bean

The Nicalizo bean was identified and propagated through a program run by Ingemann Fine Cacao, just outside Managua. They’ve helped more than 400 small farmers start or expand their cocoa plantations. In exchange for agreeing to a long-term contract to provide cacao to Ingemann, farmers receive training and technical assistance, and are also given access to many fine flavor varieties of cacao, including Nicalizo. In addition, Ingemann guarantees the farmers will always receive a price that’s 25% above New York commodity cacao prices.

Ingemann collects all of the wet cacao from the farmers, then ferments and dries it at their facility, ensuring a consistently high quality bean. Nicalizo’s Heirloom designation was announced at the Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA) conference in San Francisco in September of 2015.

Flavor profile: The complex flavors in this limited edition bar include grapes and raisins, with a slight woody aftertaste.

Learn More About Our Other Chocolate

View from the plane on our way to Managua!
Tom speaking with Lars Moller, General Manager of Ingemann, in front of the fermentation area.
Ingemann uses “step” fermentation — beans are placed in the top boxes, and when they’re ready for the next fermentation stage they’re allowed to drop into the box below. This is repeated until the beans are fully fermented.
Drying racks with retractable covers allow the beans to be fully exposed to the sun, but protected when it rains.
Beans midway through the drying process.
Ingemann uses this machine to sort the dried beans, and ones that don’t meet their quality standards are discarded.
Cacao beans packed, color coded by variety, and ready for shipment!