Origin: Mexico - Oaxaca
Region: San Felipe de León
Preparation: Lightly fermented and shade driedCertifications: Direct Trade
Harvest Year: 2021
First and foremost, this is not classic cocoa. It is not Theobroma Cacao. It is Theobroma Bicolor and also goes by the common name Jaguar Cocoa and Pataxte (pa-tash-tee).
I've heard the flavor described as similar to the most delicate of porcelano. I can't quite say I agree with that but it does give you an idea of how mild they both are. There is no cocoa flavor, with the predominant flavor being a cross between macadamia and cashew. It is a unique flavor that once you have tasted it is easily recognizable.
I've put up a spider chart, although it isn't terribly useful except in seeing just how mild it is, completely lacking in astringency, bitterness or fruit.
Theobroma Bicolor contains less fat and more protein and fiber than Theobroma cacao. Little is known about the genetic diversity of Bicolor due to the low economic importance and lack of commercial plantations across Latin American. Bicolor is processed similarly to cacao but with different things to consider. Due to the lower fat content, it can be roasted higher than cacao. There does not appear to be a correct or incorrect roasting profile, it can be roasted up to an End of Roasting Temperature of 280 F, and 300 F is not out of the question.
The lower fat content of Bicolor compared to cacao makes it a harder bean to work with. Butter must be added to the melanger or it simply won't flow. When doing formulations, I use a working number of about 20% fat. I've seem references that it is higher, but the extra fiber requires more extra butter. An extra 20% cocoa butter seems to be about the minimum you can use. This of course means you can't have a 100% or 2 ingredient bar.
I have to say I'm not a huge fan of pure Pataxte bars, primarily due to the subtle nature. It plays lovely with it's cousin, theobromo cacao, either by making a Pataxte 'milk' bar or an incredibly aesthetic swirled bar (see photos).
One final thing I'll mention is that just like cocoa being traditionally hand peeled in Oaxaca, so is pataxte. I don't have the patience for that though and found no down side from cracking and winnowing them as usual. Before you panic, I'm here to tell you the separation is not as great due to how the husk both clings to the nib and that it is slightly heavier. Your nib waste is also going to be a bit higher since the bean doesn't fracture as cleanly as cocoa. That all said, I've compared painstakingly hand peeled pataxte to some that I winnowed, and aside from a slight darkening in the final product, couldn't taste ANY difference.
Of the two pataxte we currently have, this Bicolor II hand peels a bit easier that the Bicolor I, but also has slightly less flavor very generally speaking.
We are offering these roasted but not as nibs, the later due to the extra clean out work required in the winnowers.
Our Pataxte comes from a small village located in the Sierra Norte de Oaxaca
called “San Felipe de León”, belonging to the municipality of San Juan Bautista Valle Nacional. The village is inhabited by around 300 people of the “chinanteco” indigenous minority. Their mother tongue is “chinanteco”, an endangered native language with around 100,000 speakers, but most of them are fluent in Spanish.
Most of the 80 households rely on agriculture for their livelihood. They grow corn, squash, frijoles, citrus, green beans for home consumption and raise chickens and turkeys in their backyards. The village has traditionally focused on growing coffee as a cash crop for several decades, but due to the overproduction in Mexico and the resulting low prices, people have been slowly switching to Theobroma Bicolor and Theobroma Cacao. The relative high altitude of the mountains around the town, where the farms are located, and the relative cold climate provide perfect conditions for the Theobroma Bicolor, which suffers greatly from the diseases that affect cacao. There are no commercial plantations of Bicolor properly speaking, the trees are interspersed with other crops. Each tree yields 25 – 50 pods of Bicolor once a year.
One of the most important growers in the community is Dionisia. She is also in charge of organizing all the other cacao and pataxte farmers to be able to fulfill orders collectively. The extreme poverty of the region has forced many young men to move to the big industrial cities in the center of Mexico. Many work as undocumented immigrants across the US.
Post-harvest & farm:
The farm owned by Dionisia is located at the top of a small mountain. It takes over an hour on foot to go there from Dionisia’s house, the path is uphill through the forest.
Land is fertile and there is no lack of water, you find many creeks crisscrossing the landscape.
The fruit cannot be harvested directly from the tree. Once the pod is ripe, it falls down and at that moment the farmers gather the pods. The process can be described as gathering rather than harvesting. The harvest season lasts for 3 months, usually October – December. Manually removing the pods from the branches is not feasible as the extraction of the seeds is only possible once the pulp is “ripe” and soft. Once the pods are harvested, they need to be cracked and the pulp, along with the seeds, are left fermenting for several days in buckets.
All the process takes place inside a small cottage. The broken pods are composted.
After 2 or 3 days, the fermentation process that occurred inside the bucket has loosened the pulp slightly.
The Bicolor is then sun dried for around a week. During the drying process, the husk might darken if there is no direct sunlight available for the first days and is the case here.
Pataxte does not take to profile roasting like cocoa does. It does not do it any harm but due to its extreme mild flavor there is also not much to pull out and develop either. In this case I want you to just to think about toasting/roasting nuts. Just like many nuts, although raw is not unpleasant, roasted nuts are much more enjoyable in most cases.
I have used both the Behmor and the oven for roasting. P1 (automatic mode) works great, loaded with 2 lb. I prefer a little less so the temperature can get a little higher. I usually take the end of roast temperature to around 270-280 F. I've taken them up to 300 F without an issue.
If you want to toss these in an oven, the procedure is similar to cocoa but you have more leeway and less need to turn them down. I recommend preheating to 350-375 F, putting in a single layer, and stirring every 5 minutes or so until the surface temperature (as checked with your IR thermometer) reached that same 270-280 F. I've also had good luck getting them to about 260 F and just turning the over off and letting them coast up to your final temperature and then cooling naturally.