As the demand for organic and fair-trade certified cocoa beans continues to grow as consumers are getting more concerned about their food origin. One can’t help but wonder if commercial certification is correlated to the quality of cocoa beans.
The flavour profile of cocoa beans is influenced by genome type, fermentation and drying process. Most of the flavour profile is determined during the fermentation process as slight changes in the fermentation conditions can result in different taste profiles. As common to many other crops, cocoa beans also taste differently depending on the season and climatic condition where they are grown, harvested, fermented and dried.
All cocoa beans follow the same process regardless of their certification status but the difference between general cocoa versus certified ones are that certified cocoa is required to comply with certain requirements such as usage of only organic fertilizer, hiring of paid works to ensure the certifications standard are met.
The certifications do not affect the quality of the cacao but do address the other issues faced in the cacao industry such as overused of fertilizers and usage of slave/underpaid labours. Certified cocoa beans are good in providing end consumers peace of mind but the practice that they encourage does limit farmers on what they can practice on the field.
There are also farmers that adhere to these best practices set by these certifications but are not certified. The reason being that to maintain these certifications, companies often have to follow these strict guidelines that add on to the operating cost and the price premium brought on by the certifications are not sufficient to sustain their expenses.
These farmers that produce organic and fair-trade beans without certifications are often overlooked in the cocoa industry as they do not enjoy the premiums that should be given to them for their effort to maintain high quality, fair-trade, organic beans.
Using certified beans can enhance the reputation of the end products for consumers but also prevents them access to quality beans that have the same specifications but not certified
So how do I start looking for good quality beans that are not certified?
These beans are normally processed by local farmers or family-owned plantations. Most of them have a strong social media presence showing their quality products and you might be able to find reviews of their products. Join social media groups and ask other buyers who have tried these beans for their reviews before you make any purchase. It is always advisable to purchase sample batches before you commit to large orders.
Should I purchase only certified beans for business?
As mentioned, certified beans provide traceability which is important for some consumers. Therefore, the decision to limit to only certified beans or to use other uncertified but quality beans is purely up to your own decisions.