origin of cocoa

Linhares

Cocoa has been grown for more than a century in the municipality of Linhares, the town that is responsible for 90% of the entire production of Espirito Santo state. Little known outside of Brazil, it wasn’t until 2010 that it became internationally recognised, when Paulo Roberto Gonçalves Pereira was the first Linharense selected as a finalist for the Cocoa World Cup at the Salon du Chocolat in Paris, and soon to be followed in 2017 by Emir Macedo Gomes.

IG Linhares

In 1921, an ‘Experimental Cocoa Station’ was inaugurated on the Goytacazes farm. The idea was to create a model farm, intended for the cultivation of cocoa, which would serve as a school for farmers. The concept took off and evolved rapidly, the culture quickly asserting itself as the region's financial anchor.

In 2012, the region's cocoa was the first in the country to receive the Certificate of Geographical Indication (GI). Its registration will allow production to a pre-established standard, resulting in quality-assured cocoa. Cocoa production has also helped to preserve the native Atlantic Forest, the famous "Floresta do Rio Doce".

The Atlantic Forest Biome

The rich and varied Atlantic Forest includes ecoregions in the following biome categories: seasonal wet and dry broadleaf tropical forests, tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas and shrubs, and mangrove forests.

Spread over 15% of Brazilian territory, today only 7% of its original area remains. Having once covered large areas of mountains and hills in the highlands, today it has been drastically cut back, the demands of rapid urbanization of the Brazilian coastal land responsible for its demise as nearly 70% of the Brazilian population became concentrated along the coast from São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro, Salvador de Bahia to Recife and even as far south as Porto Alegre.

Like in Bahia, the forest was often thinned so that cacao could be planted as a secondary crop. Some 50 to 60 percent of Bahian cacao is grown in this agro-forestry system known in Brazilian Portuguese as cabruca. This arrangement simulates cacao's native habitat but allowing in more light so as to stimulate greater fruit production. But the native ecology of cacao was not what inspired farmers to extend cabruca into so much of Bahia's remaining forest. They were responding to two lessons from their own experience: (1) that cacao does well in this ecosystem, and (2) that cutting down immense trees was hard work. So, where the objective was to produce cocoa rather than timber, they cut as little as possible. Hence cabruca, a de facto conservation system, and the reason that there is still native forest in places like Eduardo's farm. You could say that the fate of those giant trees is now linked to the fate of the little trees they shelter.

Variety SJ02

In 2019, the first edition of Brazil’s National Cocoa Quality Competition received 54 samples for recognition. The “Bean to Bar” movement will be at the origin of promoting the quality of products whose aromas and flavours vary according to the type of cocoa and the “terroir”, the name given to all the characteristics of the soil and climate from a certain region that guarantee the raw material’s unique peculiarities.

In this first national competition, the SJ02 variety produced by Márcia Fonseca (Fazenda Santa Clara) in Linhares was awarded the first place on the podium. The following year, it was to be the couple Eduardo Zucolotto da Silva and Ana Claudia Milanez Rigoni from Fazenda Guarani who received this recognition with the same SJ02 variety, undeniably confirming the organoleptic virtues of this variety hailing from the Linhares terroir.

Fazenda

Guarani

Her father's deep passion for cocoa was passed on to Dr Ana Claudia Milanez Rigoni and is what led her to continue growing cocoa on the Fazenda Guarani in Linhares, alongside her husband Eduardo Zucolotto da Silva. They are part of the Technical and Management Assistance Program (ATeG) of the National Rural Learning Service of Espírito Santo (Senar-ES) and claim that dedication and knowledge-seeking are the keys to achieving these results.

"The difference is harvesting at the right time, carefully monitoring the temperature during fermentation and drying on nets in a greenhouse, which gives the cocoa the necessary amount of light and heat."

Eduardo Zucolotto da Silva has developed his own fermentation process in round and square wooden boxes to achieve the best results. His dedication has been recognized with national awards as well as the prestigious “IG de Cacau Linhares” seal, thus adding official approval to the undeniable beauty of his production.

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