In Europe, thanks to pioneering efforts by Mikkel FriisHolm and Ingemans, we are well aware of the delights of Nicaraguan cacao. These bars from Tom and Monica of GoodNow have a very different provenance and story.
Tom discovered these Nicaraguan beans after meeting Giff Laube and Jose Enrique Herrera, the owners of Cacao Bisiesto, at their farm just outside the town of Matagalpa. The beans are named after the town in and around which they’re grown, which is located in Nicaragua’s Central Highlands about an hour’s drive northeast from Matagalpa.
Most cacao farms in Nicaragua are too small to generate enough volume to properly ferment the wet cacao (known as “baba”). For this reason, among others, many farmers simply dry their baba and sell it at local markets at a very low price, since unfermented beans don’t develop the flavor characteristics that we recognize as quality chocolate. Giff and Jose realized that the beans the local farmers were growing had the potential to be fine flavor beans, so they built a fermentation and drying facility on their farm and began reaching out to local farmers, convincing them to sell their baba to Cacao Bisiesto for a higher price than they’d get at local markets. Cacao Bisiesto is now working with many farmers in the region, gathering their beans and then fermenting and drying them to their exacting standards.
One of the farmers Cacao Bisiesto works with is Bayardo Benavidez Blandon. Bayardo owns a 10-acre farm in the town of El Carmen and grows several different crops, including cardamom, fruit trees and cacao. The El Carmen bean comes from his farm as well as about a dozen small farms owned by his family in and around the town. The baba is placed on local buses for transport to Cacao Bisiesto, where they’re fermented and custom dried for Goodnow Farms.
During GoodNows many trips to meet Giff and Jose they were more and more impressed with the farmers interest and intimate knowledge of cacao post harvest practices, accumulating from years of working with cacao at origin. They’re also very committed to paying a premium for the beans they receive from local farmers, and to educating farmers on the best ways to farm and propagate their cacao.
GoodNow worked closely with Cacao Bisisesto to develop a custom drying approach to highlight the bright flavors of this bean. And as ever, they’ve used their own press to press their own cocoa butter, creating a bar that really is “two ingredients only”
The bar has a wonderful melt, and distinctive flavour notes of dried raisins, burnt caramel and well roasted black treacle. Tom recommends that this bar be enjoyed on it’s own – or with a glass of great wine (his recommendation, and favourite, being a cabernet red wine)