chocolate, single origin, is a buzzword of today’s fine-chocolate industry. “Single origin” is perceived as a mark of distinction, even quality, promising consumers chocolate made with cacao beans from a verifiable source, not an anonymous blend. Use of the term is not standardized or regulated, however, and chocolate manufacturers have applied it in various ways, some of which are more meaningful than others.
One of the least meaningful is to label a chocolate made of beans sourced in a single country as “single origin.” While it can be generalized, for example, that Ecuadorian cacao has recognizable delicate and elegant flavor notes, each cacao-growing region of the country—Esmeraldas, Manabí, Guayas, Los Ríos, El Oro, Amazonia—has a distinct flavor profile determined by genetics and terroir. Even cacaos from a single plantation might be a mixed bag of hybrids and clones, not necessarily of excellent quality, and few plantations can prove claims of growing pure, single cultivars of rare, fine beans, such as the prized Criollos of Venezuela. Nevertheless, single-origin chocolates, when produced by conscientious chocolate makers who source their beans directly from reputable farmers, can deliver a luscious lesson in how genetics and terroir in its broadest sense—geography, growing conditions, and post-harvest practices—conspire to determine flavor.