NEW • Limited Release, Yasica Especial
This very special bar is crafted from the single sack of ancient Nicaragua Criollo beans that were produced by farmer Giff Laube this harvest season.
Over a decade ago Giff discovered what he thought may be ancient Criollo trees in a remote jungle near the Yasica river in Nicaragua. He had the leaves from several trees tested by the USDA (test results below), and one tree (identified as “Laube 1” on the test results) turned out to actually be ancient Nicaragua Criollo. Giff cleared a section of his farm away from his other trees and began to propagate this ancient Criollo through grafting.
This year, almost ten years after first beginning this labor of love, Giff’s painstakingly grafted and nurtured trees finally produced enough beans for a single sack of dried cacao. He sent us that sack.
The beans themselves are white, which result in a light brown color once dried (see cut test picture in the gallery). They’re extremely small, and with only one sack we had to get everything right the first time. After deciding on the best roasting temperature we carefully monitored the entire roast, tasting beans at one-minute intervals and stopping the roast as soon as we felt the flavors were fully developed. We took a similar approach with the conch, tasting hourly throughout the process and stopping the grinders once we felt the chocolate had reached peak flavor.
The flavors in this bar are intense and exquisite, with notes of juicy strawberries, cream, honey and cashews (among others). It’s fascinating to think that these may be some of the same flavors that indigenous Latin American peoples tasted in their cacao hundreds of years ago.
We finished this bar just before the start of the Northwest Chocolate Festival in early October, which is where we released it. The reaction was overwhelming and extremely gratifying – the bar received the highest score in the dark chocolate category at the awards ceremony on the first night of the festival, and we sold out of the bars we brought with us within hours. Giff was there, too, as we had paid for his flight from Nicaragua, and he and Monica gave a presentation about the bar on the festival’s main stage. It was wonderful to see Giff receiving the recognition he deserved for all his years of dedication to making this chocolate a reality.
Since only one sack of beans was produced this is a very, very limited release bar. The price is also much higher than our usual bars, although it doesn’t even begin to cover the true costs of bringing this bar to market. This is a passion project for everyone involved.
One thing it’s important to note is that there’s often a lot of confusion surrounding the term “Criollo.” There’s still a common misconception that there are three genetic types of cacao: Criollo, Forestero and Trinitario, with Criollo being considered the best. This is absolutely not true.
For one thing, Forestero and Trinitario aren’t even genetic types – they’re cultivars. In addition, there are over a dozen different genetic types of cacao that have been catalogued, and more that haven’t been. Plus, unless specific genetic varieties are planted in areas separate from other genetic varieties, the genetics get mixed together not only between trees in the same area but even within pods on the same tree.
Most importantly, growing Criollo is NOT particularly good for cacao farmers. The trees are very susceptible to disease, and aren’t good producers. This is one of the reasons Giff was only able to produce one sack despite having over 1000 trees.
This project was truly a labor of love on Giff’s part. He has a large cacao farm which is productive and sustainable, and was able to undertake this years-long project because the other operations on his farm made it financially possible. In addition, he was lucky enough able to get the cacao leaves tested by the USDA – something that’s very difficult to do.
In the end, great flavor comes down to many factors other than simply genetics – the expertise of the farmers, how the cacao is cultivated and harvested, the skill and techniques of the post-harvest facility, and of course the approach an individual chocolate maker takes to roasting and conching (among other things).
We’re very lucky that Giff put so much time and effort into making these beans, and that he chose to share them with us. As a cacao farmer, Giff understands and appreciates the value of such a special project, and as chocolate makers we’re fascinated and intrigued by the unique flavors in this bean, and what it represents. But, this bar needs to be viewed as a flavorful exception to the standard practices of viable cacao farming.
Tasting notes: Juicy strawberries, cream, honey, cashews.
Nicaragua, 55g Bar
Ingredients: Single origin cacao beans, organic sugar, single origin cocoa butter
We tasted the chocolate during a family dinner. Loved the brochure that was included with the delivery on how to taste chocolate. We love doing wine tastings so it was a learning experience about chocolate. Also, it was very helpful to have all fo the information behind the chocolate, from grower to roasting process. Deepened our appreciation for single source chocolate. We plan to do a tasting again with a selection of your chocolates. Thank you!