Many people were happy to bring 2020 to an end. However, I wanted to savor the joy of the Christmas season despite the challenges that the year may have brought. This Christmas season was uniquely special because I got to celebrate it “Trini” style as I received cacao beans from the Finca Dos Vistas team in Aripo, Trinidad and their drinking chocolate called 1525. While it was in the low 40’s (fahrenheit) here in Vancouver, Washington, this Trinidad gift allowed me to have a warm and memorable tropical Trini Christmas and New Year!
This was a very clean and consistent batch of beans. They weren’t dusty, nor did they have dried pulp stuck to the shell. The beans had a lovely reddish amber color and were consistent in size. There were no cracked beans to be found, which was great since I normally have to throw some away when I do my preliminary sifting of the batches I receive. And, who likes to throw away precious cacao beans? Secondly, upon opening the bag my olfactory senses were treated to the beans’ beautifully rich sweet fermented aroma with a nuance of honey.
While I do not advocate consuming unroasted cacao beans, I couldn’t help but try them before they were roasted. There was no bitterness and no acidity. It simply had a nice fruity yet nutty flavor. So far, so good!
I played with different roasting temperatures and times. The first batch of beans I roasted at a higher temperature for a shorter period of time and it yielded bright sweet red fruit notes with a slight astringent finish akin to that of a raw unroasted hazelnut. When I roasted them at a lower temperature for a longer duration I ended up with mild tropical fruit flavors with predominant nutty notes like roasted peanut and hazelnut. The flavor profile was a lovely representation of the diverse natural beauty of Trinidad.
As I mentioned in some of my past blog posts, cacao beans have a wonderful host of flavors and are delicious to nibble on. Eating them led me to think about how best to pair them with food items to highlight their unique characteristics.
So, what to pair with the Finca Dos Vistas beans? If you are looking for items with a similar flavor profile, you can’t go wrong with tropical fruits like banana and pineapple. Along these lines, I recently came across an interesting malt scotch that I was excited to see how it paired with the Finca Dos Vistas beans - The Glenlevit Caribbean Reserve. Their website states:
“To create whisky with a tropical feel, our makers finished a portion of our smooth whisky in barrels that previously held Caribbean rum. The result is a well balanced and exceptionally smooth whisky. Single malt, meet summer.”
This scotch seemed rather appropriate given it’s Carribean roots, wouldn’t you say? It had an incredibly tropical fruit nose and tasted like I was drinking bananas and pineapple drenched in caramel. This scotch paired wonderfully and really brought out the rich nutty flavor of the beans.
You may also want to consider some type of stone fruit as well. I couldn’t get fresh apricots and peaches at this time of year, so I settled for dried fruit. Although dried fruit wasn’t my first choice, I wasn’t disappointed as they allowed me to experience appealing flavors. The beans toned down the tartness of the apricot and brought out its natural sweetness, while the peach highlighted the distinct nutty character of the beans.
If you’re looking for a way to experience the joys of Trinidad from home, the Finca Dos Vistas beans are a great way to pleasantly immerse your senses and have a tasty “Trini” getaway.