Pure Criollo: The Rarest Chocolate

Cacao Experiments

Criollo cacao evolved almost entirely through human intervention in Central America, where it was likely the dominant or even only varietal present for several thousand years.

Tango-Lowy and McLintock, Geological and Early Human Influences on Cacao Flavor

We encounter the term “Criollo” frequently in chocolate circles for good reason–it’s the most sought after chocolate in the world. Pure Criollo cacao is exquisitely rare: there are only two sources, and only one of them, BFREE Belize, produces sufficient beans for chocolate production.

Jacob Marlin and his mostly-Mayan staff planted the BFREE farm with grafts cut from wild trees in the Belize rain forest. These trees were genetically validated to be 100% pure Criollo and in 2016 were recognized as Heirloom designee number 11.

The Science of Fine Chocolate

Observation, reason, and experiment make up what we call the scientific method.

Richard Feynman

Dancing Lion Chocolate has partnered with BFREE Belize to determine the optimal fermentation for pure Criollo cacao. There are many opinions about how these beans should be fermented, but given the complexity of the fermentation process and the rarity of pure Criollo, we think it makes sense to start from scratch.

We do science here, applying the scientific method to nearly everything. Observe, discuss, argue, experiment, repeat. How does cacao fermentation work in practice? How does each step affect flavor? How do we know are theories are correct?

We want to make the best possible Pure Criollo chocolate, so we proposed a multi-year series of fermentation projects at BFREE to better understand this cacao’s unique requirements. We humbly offer the results from our first round of experiments. We’re currently the only source for chocolate produced from this rare cacao, and I hope you find these bars delicious and unusual.

Criollo cacao is unlike any other cacao in the world, and this inspires us to continue our efforts to master the process, from the nursery to fermentation to chocolate bar.

Jacob Marlin, BFREE Belize