First Heirloom Cacaos Named by HCP in Effort to Save Them From Extinction

Bolivia! Ecuador! Hawaii!
The Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA)
Takes a Bold Step Forward to Save the World’s Chocolate


February 2014 – The best chocolate in the world starts with the finest cacao but that cacao is poised for extinction. As the industry continues to replace fine flavor cacao trees with bland hybrids and clones, a world of boring monochromatic chocolate dominates. Fine chocolate is a sweet symphony — the richest, most complex form in the chocolate universe — and protecting, preserving, and propagating that symphony’s centuries-long existence for future generations has be­gun. But how? Connecting genetics to flavor offered a crucial innovation to understanding cacao’s tastiest genes now in production. Yet no genetic initiative has ever focused on flavor until the FCIA launched its ambitious Heirloom Cacao Preservation Initiative (HCP, in 2012 to find the diamonds of cacao, connecting their flavor traits to their genetics, rewarding their growers, and working with world’s foremost flavor experts and geneticists to save Heirloom cacao from extinction.

And today the HCP is delighted to announce the following cacao trees at origin have been designated HEIRLOOM (


Alto Beni, Bolivia and Tranquilidad Estate, Beni, Bolivia

both provided by Volker Lehmann of Frontier Ventures Bolivia

Hacienda Limon, Los Rios, Ecuador

provided by Samuel von Rutte, ORECAO SA

Hawaii Agriculture Research Center Maunawili Experiment Station

provided by Daniel O’Doherty Cacao Services Agricultural & Scientific Consulting

These Heirloom designations are the HCP’s first steps to realizing its mission:

  • identifying the finest flavor cacaos which become the most flavorful chocolate in the world;
  • linking their flavor to genetics for natural reproduction;
  • preserving and propagating them now and for future generations;
  • recognizing and rewarding the growers who cultivate them.

“The pioneering work of the HCP is an important tool in the global effort to promote sustainability,” says Gary Guittard, President of the Guittard Chocolate Company. “As we are identifying the fine flavor cacaos around the world before they are lost to high production varieties that lack fine flavor characteristics.”

The HCP is not another certification or awards program. It is a not-for-profit collaboration between the FCIA and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA/ARS). Unlike other organizations which charge growers a certification or entrance fee, the HCP is self-funded by a worldwide group of small, medium, and large chocolate makers/manufacturers and staffing is largely volunteer. When growers do not have relationships with manufacturers or other well-funded industry people, the HCP arranges for bursary sponsorships to support those growers through the HCP process. All they need to do is provide the beans for the HCP to evaluate and access to their trees once the designation is made and the evaluation process is complete.

Throughout its process, the HCP follows a strict set of protocols, all of which are publicly available English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. The HCP Lab at Guittard Chocolate, the oldest family-owned chocolate company in the US, blindly processes all submissions for an acclaimed international Tasting Panel of chocolate specialists. A detailed report is then provided to the applicant and the USDA/ARS performs a site visit and genetic analysis to both map the DNA of the trees and preserve them in the database for the future. Everything is provided to the growers who with the support of the HCP can use the designation to achieve better prices than they would growing ordinary or bulk cacao.

Taken together, the HCP is about three P’s in Pod: People, Planet, and Prosperity. It goes from gene-to-bar and unwraps the possibilities for the millions and millions worldwide who believe that life without the very best chocolate is no life at all.

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For more information on the HCP:

The HCP is completely self-funded. To donate:

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