Uganda Semuliki Forest Direct Trade Organic 2024

Origin: Uganda
Region: Rwenzururu  - Semuliki Forest
Type: Mostly Trinitario and Amelonado
Certifications: Direct Trade,  Organic
Year: 2024

The preparation is perfect on this lot and incredibly similar to previous crops. Very even and no debris to speak of with a beautiful red/auburn color. 

The aroma is an intense thick, deep chocolate fudge and date aroma coming off the finished chocolate mouth watering.  It is just begging to let you down by not being present in the chocolate, but in this case it delivers in spades.

The deep chocolate backbone (thanks to the significant Amelonado in the mix) quickly gives way to super sweet toffee and supple leather notes.  And as promised, it is laced throughout with spiced pudding flavors.  The bitterness I'm noting is from cinnamon and coffee like flavors.  Astringency is near non-existent but the whole profile is balanced with a tangy acidity to keep it lively and incredibly satisfying.  There is a little bit of nut that I can't quite identify that also bittered up with the high EOR (258 F) I gave it but it balanced and integrated just fine with the rest of the flavor profile and probably enhanced it even.  Finally there is a clean earthiness that brings a glorious deep mouth feel to the whole chocolate.

The impression I'm left with is fig jam laced cinnamon toast.

Individual smallholder farmers surveyed and contracted by company staff supply our fermentation facility. Collection locations are located along one stretch of road running through the Galiraya, Kisonko and Buganikere communities. Cacao from these locations is blended throughout the process.

The Rwenzururu sub-region of Uganda sits at 3,000 feet above sea level and borders the DR Congo, the Rwenzori Mountain range and Semuliki National Park. The climate is tropical with over 1,000mm of rainfall which typically occurs in 2 seasons, March to April and September to January. The region suffers from recurring conflict between cultural and rebel groups straddling the DR Congo border. Bundibugyo district likely accounts for more than 70% of cocoa production in Uganda.

Wet cocoa is purchased from over 500 contracted smallholder farmers, each with 1-2 hectares of cocoa trees, often divided between several plots. Staff collect cocoa in the afternoon of harvest day from contracted farmers from established collection points near the farms. Farmers are paid cash on the spot for fresh cocoa at 40% of the dry cocoa market price. 10-20% bonuses are then paid to farmers at the end of the season based on delivered volumes and consistency of deliveries (required 1x per month to ensure consistency of source material).

The fermentation facility and store is located in a converted B&B in the village of Bumate at the base of the hills leading into the mountains. With a shortage of available land in the district, the site is designed to take advantage of all possible available sunshine while limiting runoff from heavy rainfall.

Paired box fermentation built with eucalyptus timber sourced from local timber plantations. Boxes are 500kg capacity with removable shutters to allow turning cacao for uniform fermentation. Fermentation temperatures are recorded at regular intervals 3x daily. Total duration of fermentation varies from 5.5-6.5 days.

The quality of fresh cacao is evaluated by bag and hand sorted prior to filling of fermentation boxes. Any lower grade or cacao harvested on the previous day is separated. Beans are sampled and cut from the start of the 5th fermentation day onward. Prior to drying, beans are again separated based on quality of fermentation and consistency within the box. After drying and sorting, beans are sampled and cut to sort fermentation levels prior to blending.

This mixture of varieties combined with frequent collaboration with Daniel O’Doherty of Cacao Services, produces a unique profile

Dan's influence in the fermentation is quite clear with a very even, beautiful and full fermentation.  You can taste another bean collaboration with Peru Ucayali

Profile Drum Roasting:   The roast profile for my evaluation was 13:40/2:00/5:10 @ 258 F.  The EOR is in a nice zone, not to high, not to low.  You can take it a little higher than some taking into account the bold Amelonado chocolate character if you want to really bring out the dried sweet fruit notes..  Feel free to take the kid gloves off here.  This bean benefits from a strong firm hand.  There is so much depth of flavor here that you can and should roast fast.  I've found slower roasts fail to develop the flavor and you end up with astringency that otherwise would not be there.

You can certainly roast this to a lower temperature but you want to keep the Finishing phase around 5 minutes for full, deep heat penetration and astringency mitigation.

Behmor:   P1 for 18-19 minutes with 2 lb will be just fine.  Go by the aroma.  When it turns sharper near the end of the count down, you are done.  If it isn't there yet, add a bit more time waiting for the turn of aroma. Due to the cold start of the the Behmor, you can just set it on the 1 lb setting with 2.5 lb of cocoa and go.  When you begin getting aromatic notes, somewhere around 4 minutes left (14 minutes elapsed of the 18 minute start) drop the power to P4 (75% power) and continue roasting for about another 6-8 minutes, waiting for the aroma to either decrease or get sharp.  This is all of course if you don't have a thermocouple in the beans (Modifying your Behmor) If you have that you can follow the profiles above.

Oven Roasting: You will need an IR thermometer.  Roast 2 lb of beans.  Preheat your over to 325 F.  Place your cocoa beans in a single layer on a baking sheet and into the oven. Stir the beans at 5 minutes and check the temperature.  Continue roasting until the surface temperature reads 205-215 F (it may well vary across the beans).  At that point, turn your oven down 10-15 F above your target EOR, in this case 260 + ~15 = 275 and continue to roast, stirring every 5 minutes until approximately 260 F.  Again, there will be variation but the beauty of this method is having turned the oven down it is difficult to over roast.  The important part here is to get good momentum going in a hot oven and then basically coasting to finish.  You may not get much chocolate or brownie aroma with this one.