Held on a glittering stage at the Porte de Versailles, the evening ceremony was attended by over 500 cocoa and chocolate professionals, with the final narrowed down to 20 International Cocoa Award winners (see panel below) from four cocoa growing regions.
The Cocoa of Excellence (CoEx) Programme is an intense event held every two years, and spearheaded by Bioversity International (now the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT) and Salon du Chocolat.
The International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) is one of CoEx's founding stakeholders and its executive director, Michel Arrion, told ConfectioneryNews it is important to not only recognize the diversity of cocoa but equally to meet the demands of the consumers, and to recognize the variety and diversity of the producers themselves.
"The link between CoEx and cocoa diversity is important in terms of our global and over-arching objective of improving the income and livelihood of the farmer, a better quality cocoa means a better price for cocoa and therefore more money for the farmer at the end of the day,"he said.
Safeguarding cocoa diversity
Its aim is to recognize quality, flavour and diversity of cocoas according to their origin, providing incentives for safeguarding cocoa diversity to farmers and national organizations, “Cocoa diversity is vital for production, as it provides the different flavours, resistance to pests and diseases, and resilience in climate changes,” said CoEx.
Brigitte Laliberté, Cocoa of Excellence programme coordinator, Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT said: “The most remarkable evolution of the Cocoa of Excellence Programme is the enthusiasm of the cocoa producing countries to participate in greater numbers every edition. We started this great adventure in 2009 with 20 countries and today we have 55 countries and hope that at the next Edition in 2021 we will reach 70.
“We are entering a new era for cacao that makes us discover all the potential and the pleasures that its genetic diversity, its environment, its culture, and the know-how of all these women and men that grow cocoa and upon which their prosperity depends”.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, CoEx is the entry point for cocoa producing countries to participate in the International Cocoa Awards.
Laliberté told ConfectioneryNews one of the most noticeable changes in the ICA's development over the past 10 years is "a real effervescence around quality and flavour, especially in the last five years."
She said the ICA sold out 500 seats in Paris in an event that is exclusively for industry and it has been one of the factors that has allowed chocolate makers to understand their main ingredient, where it comes from and under what conditions it is grown.
Organizers said for the 2019 Edition, CoEx received 223 samples of cocoa beans, originating from 55 countries. After a detailed physical quality evaluation, the beans were carefully processed into liquor for blind sensory evaluation by the Cocoa of Excellence Programme Technical Committee, a panel of international cocoa and chocolate experts.
Following evaluation and ‘a robust data analysis’, the best 50 samples were selected and processed into chocolate (following the same recipe of 66% cocoa) for sensory evaluation.
The evaluation process involved 35 specialists from a broad range of professions from chocolatiers to chocolate sensory evaluation experts to bean sources from 12 countries including Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas.
“The 2019 Edition of Cocoa of Excellence submissions were of exceptional quality collected from diverse regions of the world, making it challenging for the Technical Committee to select the best samples. The general public may view the percentage label of cocoa on a chocolate bar as a representation of its quality, however we understand the hard work and attention given by the farmers in growing quality beans. The perfect expression of aromas and tastes flows out of the cocoa samples, and it’s been a true honour to experience and evaluate the artistry and diversity of these beans,” said Ed Seguine, chair of the Technical Committee, and co-founder of CoEx.
For many participating cocoa producers, the International Cocoa Awards are the “Cocoa Olympics” said Chris Jahnke from Australian Chocolate Pty Ltd.
N’Koh Ambroise of Côte d’Ivoire said: “I participate because with my passion and knowhow, I am one of the best cocoa farmers in the world and I have to go through this 'royal' way to be known from all those participating in the cocoa value chain”.
Chocolat Madagascar, produced on the island by Chocolaterie Robert, won gold for its unique Trinatario bean and it was the second time in succession that owners, the Mava family, have won this award, as they were also recognized for their beans in 2017, when the ICA was last held.
François Jeantet, co-founder of the Salon du Chocolat and co-organiser of the Cocoa of Excellence Programme, said: “This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Salon du Chocolat and we are delighted to have worked with Bioversity International over the past 10 years in gathering the world’s top chocolate makers, producers and international experts who can critically evaluate the qualitative aspects of cocoa. Thank you to all those who have participated, and a special congratulations to the winners.”
The 20 International Cocoa Awards for the 2019 Edition, in alphabetical order, are:
Africa & the Indian Ocean
• Côte d'Ivoire - N'Koh Ambroise - Azaguié, Abé begnini, Lagunes
• Ghana - Samuel Tetteh - Nobi, Korboe Nkwanta, Nobi, Abuakwa North
• Madagascar - Lalatiana Andrianarison - Mangabe, Antranokarany, Ambanja
• Madagascar - MAVA SA, ferme d'Ambohimena Sud - Ambohimena Sud, Ambohimena, Ambanja
• Tanzania - Mababu Cooperative - PO Box 72, Mbeya, Kyela
Asia, Pacific & Australia
• Fiji - Manoa Raika Cocoa Farm - Naweni, Naweni, Cakaudrove
• Hawaii - Likao Kula Farm, Kokoleka Lani Farm and Pa'ani Farm - 75-1038 Kamalani St, 78-6749 Mamalahoa Hwy and 83-5599 E Middle Keei Rd, Holualoa and Captain Cook, North and South Kona
• Malaysia - Cocoa Research and Development Center (CRDC) Bagan Datuk - MCB, CRDC Bagan Datuk, Peti Surat 30 Jln Sungai Dulang, 36307 Sungai Sumun
• Philippines - Jose Saguban - Kialaw, Malabog, Paquibato District
• Taiwan - Joy Cacao Coffee Plantations - No 30-1, Guangfu Rd, Gaoshu Township, Pingtung County
• Vietnam - Hồ Văn Lâu - Số 67, Ấp Bình, Dưỡng Điềm, Châu Thành
Central America & Caribbean
• Belize - Maya Mountain Cacao Ltd - San Jose Village, Zone 2, Toledo
• Dominican Republic - Jose Antonio Martinez Rojas - Seccion El Rejon, El Mamey, Los Hidalgos, Puerto Plata
• St Vincent and the Grenadines - Paula Pompey and St Vincent Cocoa Company Limited - Lowmans Windward, Georgetown, Charlotte
• Trinidad and Tobago - Leroy Peters - 37 ¾ Mile Mark Paria Main Road, Sangre Grande, Grande Riviere
• Trinidad and Tobago - Martin Matthew and Jacqueline Matthew - Whisky Trace, Four Roads, Sangre Grande, Tamana
• Bolivia - Emmoní de los municipios de Baures y Huacaraje - Estancia El Pilar, Carretera Baures, Municipio de Huacaraje, Provincia Iténez
• Colombia - Federación Nacional de Cacaoteros - Granja Villa Mónica, San Vicente de Chucurí, Santander
• Ecuador - Costa Esmeraldas Cacao Company - Km 17 vía Tonchigue, Muisne, sector 7 de Agosto, Tonchigue, Atacames
• Venezuela - Jose Wilmer Kattah Reyes - Consejo Comunal Vuelta Redonda, Sector Caño Gaitan, Municipio Páez, Parroquia Urdaneta