Roasted Cacao Beans: Oven or Fire?
As the “ceremonial cacao’’ movement grows, so does the number of options. Good news, right? People around the world are rediscovering cacao in its original form compared to the extremely processed chocolate– which we are all familiar with. This rediscovery has encouraged farmers to value organic products, cultures to value artisanal processing, and consumers to value the nutritious properties cacao has to offer. So the question is rising about roasted cacao beans.
As you may now choose your favorite pure organic cacao out of a growing number of producers, it is good to be informed on what each practice signifies. With Cacao Source, we are proud to be sharing cacao that is grown organically on small-scale worker-owned farms and that is and hand-peeled by Kaqchikel (an indigenous Mayan nation) women’s collectives. You can learn more here.
We are also passionate about roasting. We discovered that there are a few factors amongst the process of making cacao that will affect the taste and nutritious value. First, it is the natural environment it is cultivated in, or rather, the “terroir”. Secondly, the fermentation process. Lastly, the roasting. Today we will address the topic of roasted cacao beans.
At Cacao Source, we decided to take two paths in regards to roasting: fire and oven. Let’s dive in!
Women collective at San Marcos la Laguna
Roasted Cacao Beans: Choose What is Right for You
Fire roasting reawakens the ancestral essence of cacao crafting. It has been known as well to make particularly tasty cacao paste! It is the most common practice amongst the few Mayan communities that still process cacao. Fire roasting is a ritual in itself, which requires a lot of presence and devotion. It demands presence throughout the process which increases the energetic spiritual level of the cacao. We believe that it elevates the energetic potential of the medicine to a rare, elemental, and traditional quality. Some even say that ‘’ceremonial cacao’’ must be fire roasted.
We also work with oven-roasted cacao. When speaking about oven-roasted, we mean the same oven as you have in your house– nothing complex. We discovered that quality light roasting doesn’t require specific equipment unless you want to toast bigger quantities. This fact opened so much potential in the development of our unique social business structure. Decentralized production became a tool for our social ethos.
Some of our women’s collectives have an oven in their household which they use for roasting. This allows freedom, flexibility, and sovereignty in their work dynamics. It also allows us momentum to let them assimilate, integrate and then implement our quality criteria. Throughout our research on roasting profiles and the impact of heat on cacao fat, we came to the conclusion that if we roast the bean at a certain temperature, it will optimize the quality of the nutrients that our bodies can absorb.
With the oven-roasted method, we can create consistency in the cacao paste and guarantee the optimal health benefit of each block. It works with cacao as a super-food– a highly nutritious food that brings a lot of benefit to your body as a consumer. It also results in a more tender and fruity taste compared to the fire roasting version of the same cacao beans. It is praised by the chocolatiers of our community for its fat and taste when working with it to create chocolate products.
I like to compare the roasting process of cacao with the one of coffee. In the practice of coffee making, roasting plays a huge role in the quality of the product. Here in Guatemala, coffee beans are amongst the best in the world but, the local community buys their morning coffee from industrial low-quality coffee products. Why is that?
In the neighborhood where Cacao Source is nested, we find mountainsides of coffee planted and harvested by the local Mayans who have proven to be excellent growers. The art of bean roasting has, however, rarely been mastered. The simple education on artisan bean processing and bean roasting could change the quality of their product in a significant way. Therefore, this could impact the local economy by bringing back financial abundance to the people who tend to the land. Coffee specialists exist around the world who share their expertise in roasting. One intervention from them to a small-scale coffee business may make a huge difference.
In the world of cacao, we find a large number of chocolate specialists. Chocolate making became an art and science to be mastered. When it comes to the cacao itself, we’ve mainly found specialists that studied how to produce the largest amount of cacao beans within the smallest amount of expenses, answering the needs of commercial cacao (industrially referred to as “cocoa”) corporations. This has created a delocalized and industrial cacao culture.
Very few have studied and worked with cacao to discover the best practices to optimize it as a super-food. Even fewer have studied how to work directly with the small-scale farmers (that represent more than 80% of the world’s cacao production) in order to organize and equip a sustainable, fair and localized artisan cacao economy– even if artisan cacao turns out to be more nutritious, and therefore better adapted to the superfoods market. Our intention is to work with cacao in a way that increases the nutritional value delivered to your body.
When choosing between fire and oven roasting, the intention of your work with cacao may be your guide, or simply a pure preference in taste and energetical connection. With Cacao Source, we work primarily with oven-roasted cacao and offer, on request, fire-roasted cacao. We enjoy both processes but find that what has made our cacao’s uniqueness was in the quality and preciseness of our oven roasting methods– especially when it fosters opportunities for reinstigating a healthy artisan chocolatier economy in Guatemala.