As the shelter-at-home COVID-19 situation is significantly affecting the format and essence of social interactions and food consumption, consumers are fostering a practice of exploring exotic flavors to try to escape a prolonged ‘pandemic fatigue.’ The growing yearning for indulgence is pushing more people not only to look for ready-to-buy treats like specialty chocolate, but even to utilize rarefied but sustainable cacao ingredients to prepare tasty and healthy recipes at home. Take couverture chocolate, for instance.
Couverture chocolate has always been associated with super-sugary, super-smooth, and super-soapy chocolate imprinting the consumer palate with the compliance that chocolate is just a boxed flavor rather than a multidimensional product derived from a fruit.
In 2020, a premium boutique B2B chocolate producer in Switzerland rediscusses the market of couverture chocolate for pastry professionals and baking-at-home consumers with the launch of Cacao Fruit Couverture, bold couverture chocolate made solely with two wholesome and recognizable ingredients—no added sugar, no vanilla, no lecithin. Fine Criollo Amazonico cacao from Bolivia (75%) and dry cocoa fruit concentrate (25%) obtained from fresh Ghanaian cacao beans before undergoing ordinary fermentation.
In partnership with the Swiss-Ghanaian startup Koa, Felchlin has managed to incorporate the usually-unutilized cacao pulp in chocolate, delivering a more holistic concept of chocolate that, even though it cannot technically be considered a 100% cacao chocolate, yet it is chocolate 100% derived from cacao.
In fact, food regulations indicate that the cacao content in chocolate can only be made up of any of the ingredients derived from the shelled and processed dry bean (mass, butter, and powder.) Instead, this new type of chocolate contemplates the integration of other ingredients (the cacao pulp of freshly cracked-open cacao pods) to complement the chocolate’s flavor profile. Such a progressive approach disrupts the end user’s understanding that great chocolate naturally possesses an inherent fruitiness, subtly expressed when biochemical reactions of the citric-tasting pulp surrounding the cacao seeds occur during closely-monitored fermentation.
Besides the naturally-enhancing flavor component embedded in the fine cacao fruit couverture, Felchlin and Koa aim to reach a significant increase in added value in the cacao supply chain, especially for small-scale farmers based in Ghana. The fruity pulp surrounding the cocoa beans has historically been considered a waste product since only a small part of the white pulp is needed for fermentation; the rest is discarded.
In 2017, the Koa team in Ghana found a way to gently process the cocoa pulp and collect the juice, reducing its waste by 40%. The specialty cacao fruit ingredient gets a premium incentive for farmers expanding their revenue streams by 30%, thus sidestepping the rigid boundaries of the commodity market regulating the price paid for just fermented and dried cacao beans.
By implementing energy technology entirely carbon-neutral, a solar-powered Community Mobile Processing Unit allows cocoa farmers to press the cocoa fruit juice next to cocoa plantations. Thanks to the decentralized and flexible extraction system, Koa can directly work with over 1,200 farmers. After extraction, the fresh cocoa fruit juice is immediately brought to a facility for further processing. Within just three hours, Koa Pure is pasteurized, packaged in airtight containers, and ready to be shipped to partners in Europe.
Concerning my tasting experience with the novel Cacao Fruit Couverture, my honest impressions are as they follow.
Disclaimer. A 2kg sample was gifted me by Maison Dolci, the official Italian distributor for Felchlin, for allowing me to publish this public product review. All opinions expressed herein are my own and exclusively geared to bring the utmost value to my readers.
Premise: don’t be fooled by the wording ‘Couverture Chocolate.’ If your palate is long accustomed to the flavor complexities of fine quality chocolate, you may hold concerns similar to mine before giving this product a chance.
Interestingly enough, ‘couverture chocolate’ doesn’t always have to be a synonym with bland-tasting, flavor-diluted, and butter-flowing chocolate. As a matter of fact, food regulations indicate any chocolate product containing at least 35% total cocoa solids would require a minimum of 31% fat solids (expressed as cocoa butter) to be regarded as ‘couverture chocolate.’
As we can see from the label, the nutritional composition of the Cacao Fruit Couverture overlaps that of a standard 75% cacao chocolate, except that it contains half the amount of sugars and nearly double that of fiber.
Even if this dark couverture chocolate isn’t expected to be exceptionally fluid to cover items (it reports two drops on the label, so a medium performance), the other side of the coin is all in favor of flavor. The flavor profile of the Cacao Fruit Couverture has nothing to envy to the best crafted fine chocolate out there.
With a sweetness sensation almost absent, one would feel they are actually getting a 100% cacao mass chocolate.
The initial notes are intense cocoa, with green banana and lemon hints typical of Bolivian cacao from this specific origin. When milder notes like milk fat blend in the middle, a fruity flavor tail reminding lychee, grapefruit, and clementine kicks in, leaving the mouth so full of tropical fruitiness that the overall tasting seems to start with chocolate and finish with a fizzy orange drink.
Thinking about flavor matching with other food ingredients, I would see the Cacao Fruit Couverture’s sour fruitiness complementing extremely well coconut, cream, eggnog, and nut paste inclusions in vegan and vegetarian recipes. (Felchlin seems to confirm my impressions, as it provides some creative guidance on approaching the novel Cacao Fruit Couverture on this page.)
Have you already tasted or tried the new Cacao Fruit Couverture for professional application? If so, feel welcome to leave your impressions and experience in the comments.