A Brand New Chocolate? Well... Kinda

Recently, we've heard rumors about a brand new chocolate with rather extreme qualities... but it turns out that you can't believe everything you read!

Back in May 2011, a writer for Time Magazine's online Newsfeed department published an article gushing about a brand new chocolate made from cocoa beans the size of footballs.

Football-sized beans? Now that's extreme! He goes on to say that the beans grow on a type of cacao tree thought to have been "lost forever," and compares this to finding a unique type of grape that produces an exciting new wine. Apparently, this bean offers better-tasting chocolate that's less bitter than most.

Whoa There, Partner!

But let's back this horse up, because sadly, the article misreported a few things. We hope you didn't fall for the hype.

As exciting as the idea of football-sized cocoa beans is to most of us, it's clear that the writer didn't get his facts straight. For one thing (as several sardonic commenters pointed out), he apparently mistook the bean for the pod it comes in. A cacao pod is the size of a football, more or less, and holds up to 50 beans.

If the beans themselves were that big, you'd need a forklift to handle the pods. And imagine how big the tree would need to be!

Oh well, one beautiful dream shot down. A sad day indeed for extreme chocolatedom.

Furthermore...

This and other inaccuracies in the Time article escaped into the blogosphere, where they were repeated ad nauseum, irresponsibly raising the hopes of chocolate extremos everywhere. Among other things, the writer also indicated that this "new" type of chocolate was previously thought to be extinct.

The New York Times, on the other hand, got the story right. Not only that, they covered it four months before Time's misinformed riff on reality. The NYT writer made it clear that it was the pod that was football-sized, and that no one ever really considered the bean variety to be extinct.

The Real Deal

They NYT story did point out that the bean is quite rare in its pure form, though hybrids are common. The rediscovered Nacional bean is a variant of the Forastero, one of the three primary types of cacao beans. The pure stock mostly succumbed to disease decades ago.

They also noted that the newly discovered Nacional trees hail from Peru and grow at an unusually high elevation of 3,500+ feet, whereas they had originally been mostly native to Ecuador at elevations of less than 2,000 feet.

Then too, many of the beans are white, rather the normal purple, and produce chocolate that's much mellower and less bitter than normal raw chocolate. So while this Nacional mutation is not a brand new chocolate per se, it's unique and, arguably, extreme in its own way!

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