During a virtual ceremony broadcast to more than 70 countries, the 2021 Cocoa of Excellence Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards winners celebrated being among the highest grade producers in the world.
The event, which is led by the Alliance of Bioversity, and the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, alongside the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO), shone a spotlight on work of talented agricultural works around the globe.
Cocoa of Excellence proudly recognises quality, flavour and diversity of cocoas from origins around the world to improve farmers’ livelihoods and drive sustainability of the cocoa supply chain since 2009. Its vision is Excellence in the cocoa sector catalysing multiple benefits for resilient and thriving agricultural systems at landscape and global level.
Cocoa of Excellence takes a big step forward into its second decade with the first Cocoa of Excellence Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards while acknowledging the legacy of our past Editions with the International Cocoa Awards. The next decade will be exciting as we work together to continue to promote diversity and strive for superior quality cocoa. Of course central to all of that are the women and men, the families, cooperatives and communities in origins across the world who grow these cocoa. Brigitte Laliberté, Acting Director, Cocoa of Excellence, Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT.
Cocoa of Excellence works to increase awareness and promote education along the cocoa supply chain about the opportunities to produce high quality cocoa and the need to preserve flavours resulting from genetic diversity, the terroir and the know-how of the farmers who prepare cocoa. Cocoa of Excellence is a unique international initiative that celebrates and values the work of the cocoa farmers. They are the ones recognized and celebrated at the international level.
For this 2021 Edition, Cocoa of Excellence received 235 samples of cocoa beans, from 53 origins across the four cocoa-producing regions.
After a detailed physical quality evaluation, the beans were carefully processed into liquor for blind sensory evaluation by the Cocoa of Excellence Technical Committee, a panel of international cocoa and chocolate experts. Following a robust data analysis, the Best 50 samples were selected and processed into a dark chocolate (following the same recipe of 66% cocoa) for sensory evaluation by the 2021 Edition Jury. This jury of 39 experts included the members of the Technical Committee and additional experts from a broad range of professions from chocolatiers, to sensory evaluation experts, to bean sourcers from 12 countries across Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas.
Jury members this year were impressed by the range of flavours across the 235 samples. “One of the most important things and which I like the most is to discover so much flavour diversity in each cocoa sample. There’s not one which is the same to another. And it takes training to be able to recognise that all. But in the end you have the impression to travel the world,” said Julien Simonis, Cocoa of Excellence Technical Committee member. “The 2021 Edition is for me the most accomplished in terms of diversity,” said Florent Coste, Valrhona, Cocoa of Excellence Technical Committee member.
The 2021 Edition also marks the last edition that the processing of the cocoa bean samples into liquor will be overseen by the chair of the Technical Committee and co-founder of Cocoa of Excellence, Ed Seguine, of Seguine Cacao Cocoa and Chocolate Advisers and Guittard Chocolate. Ed has spent fifty years devoting himself to encouraging and promoting quality cocoa and the producers who grow it. For Ed the farmers and their families are the heart of the cocoa sector: “When we celebrate the fine flavours that are produced in origins all over the world and all farmers of the world, we are celebrating the passion, the joy and the history of the farmers behind them.”
For many participating cocoa producers, recognition from Cocoa of Excellence by being selected as part of the Best 50 and winning an Award validates not just their own work but the work of the generations who came before. Cocoa farming is often a family business. Philippines producer and 2021 Gold Award winner, Arthur Lagoc is a second generation cocoa farmer who inherited the family cocoa farm from his father Juan Lagoc. “It is a pride and honour to the family to be recognised internationally. Especially to my father,” he said.
The producers who win a Cocoa of Excellence Award can play a strong role of cocoa quality champion in their communities. Many participants have mentioned the importance of supporting and encouraging their fellow cocoa producers: “I participate in Cocoa of Excellence because I want to promote cocoa beans from Malaysia that have speciality in fine flavour. I believe that it will give me more insight about cocoa and to share my knowledge to other farmers and encourage them to grow more cocoa because cocoa is a good business,” said Poimon Dangkat, Sabah, Malaysia, 2021 Gold Award winner.