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impact of processing location and growing environment on flavor in cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.) - implications for "terroir" and certification - processing location study

Sukha, D. A., Comissiong, E. A., Umaharan, P.
Acta horticulturae 2014 no.1047 pp. 255-262
Theobroma cacao, certification, fermentation, flavor, genotype, growing season, near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy, sensory evaluation, solar drying, wines
The influence of different processing locations on the flavour and other quality attributes of cocoa investigated over three growing seasons are presented in this paper. Experiments were set up to examine the possible influence of three different processing locations for box fermentations with sun drying, on the flavour of six different cocoa accessions, each harvested from the same field. Processing location effects on the flavour attributes of selected cacao genotypes were also demonstrated with supporting near infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS) results. Additionally, the strong contribution of cacao genotype to flavour, especially in floral flavour attributes, was demonstrated. This superseded the effects of the processing environments in some instances. The sensory evaluation results further supported the successful application of an optimised assessment protocol for training a sensory panel to systematically investigate how processing location can affect final flavour and quality in cocoa. The relative contribution of all elements of the growing and processing environment to final flavour in cocoa permits consideration of applying the concept "terroir", already well-established for wines, to cocoa and also provides a scientific basis for cocoa quality certification programmes.