Last Fall we added sweet and fruity-tasting Cacao Juice to our chocolate collection. Despite the name, it does not taste like chocolate.
It’s the juice from the mucilage, the sticky pulp that surrounds each cacao bean. Mucilage is a critical element in developing chocolate’s flavor. The wild fermentation process that cacao farmers have used for generations begins with this sugary juice from the cacao pod. It attracts wild bacteria, starting the wild fermentation process. As soon as cacao is harvested it begins to ferment. Cacao that is not well fermented will not have good flavor, so this sticky, sweet juice is critical for chocolate flavor development.
When I first tasted Cacao Juice last September at the Dallas Chocolate Festival, I was excited to finally have this delicious nectar from the jungle in a package. I have been fortunate enough to taste fresh cacao pulp directly from a cacao bean, so I knew how incredibly delicious it could be. While the exact flavor depends upon the varietal of the cacao and the local terroir, its characteristics remind me of lychee, apple and pineapple. The most frequent description that comes to mind is a Jolly Rancher Green Apple hard candy.
I had my concerns, however, about this nectar. If Repurposed Pod was packaging it into Cacao Juice, was it taking away the necessary juices for wild fermentation? What would this mean for the cacao? Would it result in unintended consequences for the quality of the chocolate?
I contacted Repurposed Pod to find out more about their vision and how their collection and sale of this juice affects the fermentation process. Here is what they had to say:
You’ll be pleased to hear that although we are using the mucilage, not the placenta, all of the beans in our supply chain are still properly fermented. We can precisely control the amount of fruit that stays on each seed and actually create a more consistent and predictable fermentation. This allows us to create custom flavor profiles that meet specific customer needs. Those beans are sold at a considerable premium and the byproduct of that controlled fermentation process is the excess fruit that we press into our juice! “Win-win,” as they say.
While I love to drink Cacao Juice straight from the carton, it is an intense, fruity and sugary nectar that can be wonderfully diluted with sparkling water or made into a cocktail. I have been experimenting at home and I came up with what I think is a winner of a cocktail. It reminds me a bit of tea with honey and lemon, hence the name “The Cure for What Ails You.” Here it is:
“The Cure for What Ails You”
Cachaça 1 oz (or another sugar-cane-based liquor like Rum)
Cacao Juice 1/2 oz
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
For a list of other cocktail ideas, check out Repurposed Pod’s recipe page.