Many people factor quality and flavour to fermentation. However, factors such as climate and soil conditions also contribute to the cacao’s flavour profile.
The different composition of soil and microelements affects the flavour profile when the plant uptakes the nutrients from the soil. The flavour profile is formed by the presence of various type of elements, and this is the reason why fruit harvested from different region taste different. This is due to the difference in soil characteristics, content and fertility. The difference in soil type can affect the taste profile of the product even though the same clone is being used. Soil profile can differ even within a short distance, but typically a general flavour character can be established throughout an area/plantation.
Presence of different types of materials such as fertilisers, compost, animal manure can also inversely affect the taste profile due to the presence of additional microelements that can amend the soil profile.
An example of this will be that on karkar island, the cacao flavour profile on kulili estate is creamy and chocolatey. On the other side of the island, another estate produces bitter chocolatey cacao beans.
Climate affects cacao bean quality as the environment affects the health of the cacao tree. The reason why flavour profile generally differs season to season is due to the changes in climatic conditions throughout the year.
How does climate affect plant health?
During the dry season, crops produce a more intense flavour as compounds present in the crop is more concentrate. With the wet season, the compounds are more diluted due to the high amount of water in the plant.
Climate has a direct response to plant health as plants are required to adapt to the conditions to survive.
Climate affects the amount of water uptake as fruit trees are generally dependent on rainfall and groundwater for access to water. Drier conditions reduce the transpiration rate as plants try to conserve water and in wet conditions vice versa. Temperature fluctuation is also found to have an impact on fruit quality as during high temperature, the transpiration rate increases, evaporating more water from the plant. The process of water intake and output have a direct correlation with the flavour as it affects the concentration of the flavour compounds in the plants.
Farmers have correlated dry weather to better flavour and have experimented with reducing water input to improve the sweetness of the fruit. During wet weather, it is harder to control the water intake, but fruits were found to be bigger and plump as higher water content is present in the fruits