Stressed Cocoa Trees could Produce More Flavorful Chocolate

Stressed Cocoa Trees could Produce More Flavorful Chocolate

Scientists report that various climatic conditions can put strain on cocoa trees, which can affect the intensity of chocolate flavor.

The results of the study were published in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in December 2017. Wiebke Niether, Gerhard Gerold and colleagues from FiBL (Switzerland) studied the effects of different weather conditions on growth, chemical composition, and the flavor of cocoa beans.

According to the researchers, agricultural method used to grow cocoa trees does not affect flavor of chocolate as much as the specific weather conditions. Conventionally, these trees are grown together in mixed groves with other types of trees and plants that can cool the air and provide vital shade. To gain higher yields, farmers plant cocoa trees in monoculture groves where trees are exposed to stressful conditions. In response to the stress, tress produce antioxidants that can potentially counteract the damage. These compounds could change the quality characteristics of the beans.

As a part of study, researchers harvested beans from five cocoa tree farms in Bolivia at the beginning and end of the dry season from April to September. The beans were analyzed after fermentation and drying. Minor differences were observed in the chemical composition of the beans harvested from the farms during the same weather conditions. Slightly high phenols and antioxidant compounds were detected in beans taken from monoculturally grown trees than those that came from trees grown with agroforest methods, but the differences were not significant.

According to Cocoa Market report published by Coherent Market Insights, Forastero, trinitario, and criollo are the three main varieties of cocoa plant. Forastero beans are most widely consumed and comprises around 85% of the world production of cocoa. Flavor of the bean is the main aspect in production of chocolate. The study reports how weather conditions can affect the flavor of the cocoa beans. The larger contribution to chemical composition was the weather. Antioxidant content was observed to be high while fat content of the beans decreased during the dry season as temperatures rose and soil moisture dropped. The researchers say these differences could contribute to variability in cocoa bean flavor.

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