Cacao Fino de Aroma: Colombia’s cultural and historical heritage

Today, after having developed a success story around Colombian Cacao Fino de Aroma throughout the world, and opening a market not only for Luker Chocolate but for all the country’s cocoa farmers, we want to go back and think about the road travelled, analyse the present, and think about what will come next.

One of our most important advantages, which has been difficult to replicate by other companies in the world, is our ability -developed over more than 100 years- to play with the different types of cocoa available to maintain consistency in the taste of chocolate, day after day and year after year, so that our customers can always enjoy the very best Colombian chocolate. To make drinking chocolate like Luker Tradicional, one of the products in our Colombian portfolio that is made 100% of cocoa liquor, and to ensure that it maintains its flavour through the years, is something that is still difficult to believe by many of our competitors, who know that the flavour of cocoa changes slightly in each harvest.

To tell you how we have achieved this consistent flavour, we must go back to 2004 – 2005, where we see Luker Chocolate as a local company beginning to think about the world and about the right strategy to internationalize as a global business. It was then that we began to deepen our knowledge of Colombian cocoa of which we already had the flavour identified and standardised according to the country’s main regions, and we sought the help of CENICAFE to conduct a scientific study to allow us to design a strategy based on the flavour of the cocoa and our ability to develop mixtures that preserve the flavour that we were promising.

In these first phases of our international business, it was scientifically proven that the cocoa from Santander, Tumaco, and Huila had the flavour characteristics necessary to define origin cocoa with its own personality and sufficient differentiation and volume to build an international expansion strategy. At the same time, we realized that there was an organization called ICCO (International Cocoa Organization), which had a clear definition for special cocoas, known as CACAO FINO DE AROMA. This is a cocoa free of taste defects, with a complex sensory profile that reflects not only the experience of those harvest it, but also the environment where it was grown, fermented and dried. A Cacao Fino de Aroma that has these criteria, also offers an important genetic diversity, as well as a historical and cultural heritage, and this was exactly what we believed of our Colombian cocoa; a cocoa that reflects the work of our country’s farmers, showing their culture and history, and that stands as a symbol of economic development and social transformation in the Colombian countryside. The difference is that it was beginning to be recognized worldwide.

At that time, one way to demonstrate that the cocoa was indeed Fino de Aroma was through the theobromine/caffeine ratio, which was used as a discerning factor to differentiate between Forastero, Trinitario and Criollo Cocoa (the first one being related to common cocoa and the latter to special cocoa) by discerning between their aroma and taste characteristics. It is worth specifying that while the level of theobromine is similar in all cocoas, the more Latin American in origin the cocoa, the higher the caffeine.

All these antecedents, organized by a team of visionaries determined to do something different, allowed us to design and implement an expansion strategy based on the flavour of Cacao Fino de Aroma, sustained by years of experience in chocolate making, deep agricultural knowledge developed on the Luker Chocolate Granja, and a strong relationship with small cocoa farmers in our country.

In these 15 years of history, we have increased our scientific knowledge of our Cacao Fino de Aroma, we have developed new origins and more are on the way. We can now clearly define the physicochemical characteristics of cocoa from some 40 regions of the country. Technical parameters such as vitamin and mineral content, antioxidants and polyphenols, structure of triglycerides present or theobromine/caffeine ratio, is information that can be used for the design of almost any type of chocolate that our customers require, always preserving the flavour characteristics that we can control. We continue to maintain our ability to manufacture the drinking chocolate that Colombian consumers like, while also developing a portfolio of chocolates for the world’s professional market. More than 100 recipes or mixtures of cocoa and other ingredients enable us to have an unsurpassable offer of chocolates made with Cacao Fino de Aroma.

The list of countries that export Cacao Fino de Aroma total or partially is made up today of 25 countries according to the decision made by the panel of experts at the last ICCO meeting in Abidjan on April 13, 2019. The panel of experts is made up of 10 people, 5 from non-producer countries and 5 from producer countries, of which we are part, and is responsible for recommending to the ICCO, the qualification to be given based on the guidelines established in the International Cocoa Agreement. According to historical information, the list of countries was reviewed in the years 1972, 1975, 1980, 1986, 1993, 2001, 2010, 2015 and 2019.  Colombia appeared as a partial exporter of Cacao Fino de Aroma in 1993. In 2008, it was included by the panel in the list of countries with 100% compliance, and in 2010 this was raised to 95%, a figure that has been maintained ever since.

We are delving deeper into the world of flavour, developing new varieties of cocoa that offer very interesting profiles, while increasing the productivity of our crops and the cocoa regions where we work. We are exploring new technologies that will allow us to perfect and standardize the fermentation and drying processes, in order to continue to offer the best chocolates made with Colombian Cacao Fino de Aroma to the whole world.

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