Single origin cocoa: Madagascar

Madagascar chocolate may be a rare commodity – but it’s up there on its own in the single-origin league

By Anthony Myers contact

- Last updated on GMT

Madagascar's lush primeval forests bring a unique taste to the island's cocoa. Pic: Getty Images
Madagascar's lush primeval forests bring a unique taste to the island's cocoa. Pic: Getty Images

Related tags: Madagascar, Chocolate, Cocoa, Premium chocolate, single origin chocolate

Arguably, some of the best single-origin chocolate on Earth is produced in Madagascar, where the country’s ecosystem gives its cocoa unique flavours and aromas.

Companies such as MIA (Made in Africa) and the multi-international award-winning Chocolat Madagascar are at the forefront of a new push to make the island’s chocolate production more sustainable.

According to the World Resources Institute, one 200-gram bar of dark chocolate made from cocoa from a cleared rainforest contributes the CO2 equivalent of a petrol-driven car travelling just five miles.

It is the skill of the origin farmer, fermenter, and chocolatier to bring the best sensorial experience from each seasonal nurtured harvest to the consumer -- Neil Kelsall, Marketing Director , Chocolat Madagascar

In Madagascar – the fourth largest island in the world and twice the size of the UK – cocoa farmers are turning to agroforestry methods to improve yields and sustain the island’s fragile ecosystem by increasing biodiversity.

A recent article in National Geographic referred to Madagascar as 'a massive island nation' …  one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet, but the country has lost 25 % of its tree cover since 2000, primarily to firewood and charcoal production. Deforestation will also exacerbate erosion in the northern part of the country as climate change drives stronger cyclones and increasingly heavy rainfall’.

Neil Kelsall, Marketing Director at Chocolat Madagascar, said Madagascar, which lies 400km off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, is notable for its unique flora and fauna.

It provides less than 0.2% of world’s cacao, the more pure form of cocoa, in the shape of criollo-trinitario & forastero cultivars beans that are renowned for the island’s own (Malagasy) distinctive aroma and fruity fine flavours.

The delicate Criollo was introduced in the early 1800s followed by the Forastero from Sao Tome. Cacao growing then moved to northwest Madagascar, among the forests of the Sambirano river valley, with the benefit of cyclone protection of the Tsaratanana mountains.

The climate, soil, flora of the area, and agroforestry farming practices all contribute to its single-origin habitat – along with post-harvesting fermentation and drying process that are critical to the flavour development. Subsequent roasting, grinding, and conching shapes the fine flavour, aroma and mouthfeel experience of Madagascar chocolate.

Consumers are more mindful and inquisitive about what they eat ... with the health impacts, environmental, ethical and economic considerations, Kelsall says.

Fine chocolate

Fine Chocolate focuses on the art of getting the best sensorial experience out of the cacao bean with the least ingredients.  It is the cacao and ingredients provenance, and the care at origin that shapes the brand​.”

choc madagascar origin 900
Chocolat Madagascar's award-winning couverture chocolate. Pic: Chocolate Madagascar

The Malagasy Ramanandraibe family have been trading with Europe/France with fine flavour cacao (defined by ICCO) since 1927, the first chocolate was produced in Madagascar in 1940 by Chocolaterie Robert. Each farm produces its own unique ‘single terroir’ cacao with its own flavour profile, and the single estate MAVA cacao is a blend of all the farms in the company.

Pioneering the first fresh fine Malagasy chocolate exports in 2004 from Africa, Chocolat Madagascar became the export brand, adding much more value (Raisetrade) to the Malagasy’s least developed economy.

Winners of the Golden Bean for the single origin 100% bar, the fruity fine flavour cacao is selected from the independent cacao farmers of Sambirano – Grand cru de Sambirano and fermented and dried ( single origin), carefully roasted, ground and conched without chemical manipulation (alkalisation) or added flavours, thereby preserving of integrity of flavours and more flavanols, under the direction of Chocolatier Hery Andriamampianina.

For the discerning consumer, the single origin or single estate or single terroir chocolate tasting journey is interesting, offering three-dimensional flavours​,” says Kelsall, “that lingers on the tongue​.”

He also says it is healthier with no added or less sugar and with more flavanols. “It is the skill of the origin farmer, fermenter, and chocolatier to bring the best sensorial experience from each seasonal nurtured harvest to the consumer.”

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