Peru Awajun - Organic - Direct Trade 2024

Origin: Peru
Region:  Northern Amazonas
Type: Native and criollo varieties
Year: 2024

The aroma is a lovely mix of sweetness and dry resinous wood.

The first impression is upon taking a bite is sweetness with a backdrop of tangy red fruits and prunes.   The acidity is pronounced but the bitterness and astringency is fully in check, although leaning slightly to the bitter side due to the restrained chocolate level.  This is pretty common or at least not uncommon in lighter criollo stock as these are.  The overall impression is one of restrained understatement. 

This is an outlier that is either going to have you loving it or passing it by.  If you love interesting flavors with different flavors revealing themselves at different levels of sweetness, then this is the droid you are looking for. 

The preparation is perfect on this lot. Very even and no debris to speak of.

This cacao comes from inside the Amazon Jungle. It particularly comes from the “Amazonas” department of Peru, which is in the north.The Awajún Cacao is harvested from farmers traditional to the area. These farmers are mainly from the Awajún tribes and the Huambisa tribes. Traditionally the men in the tribe are the providers: hunters and fishermen – they sell their catch and bring the money to the family. Their role is to go hunt/fish. The women had two roles - take care of the farming/cooking and the kids (It was a very ‘macho’ society in this sense…but it’s now changing). Cocoa was never commercialized in this area, but in the past few years this variety was discovered by outside of the Amazonas… and has been growing in popularity.

Different governmental projects are investing in programs and courses to increase the community’s knowledge on cacao and how to farm/ferment/dry it. The women in these communities are being empowered by the cocoa at a very fast pace as it is them that know how to farm, ferment and dry it and it is now them that are bringing in more of the money for their families. It is them that are teaching the men how to farm.

The fermentation is done in sweet wooden boxed (mostly “Tornillo” wood, which is a local wood variety. “Tornillo” means ‘screw’ in Spanish).  Fermenting box orientation is mostly in an escalator system, if not in linear level rows.Fermenting is done for 6 days - with rotation of the beans done every day after the first 2 days.<

Roasting something that is pretty light seems to always give people trouble.  The thought (except it is wrong) is that light tasting beans should be roasted lightly.  In short, I couldn't disagree more.  It is light because that is all it has to give, not because it needs light treatment.  If you roast a bean like this too lightly or gently, you are apt to simply not develop the flavor that is there.  And the same goes for floral notes.  Don't be concerned about the floral notes going away in the roast.  Floral notes don't act that way.  So what should you do?  Well, you should roast it as aggressively as you can, with this one caveat.  Don't damage the bean.  Roast it with a sure, strong hand, but keep an nose out for sharp aromas (initial acidity of vinegar aside) and only dial back the power if you note those sharp aromas.  So, yes, you should treat this a little more gentle but that is not the same as roasting it gently.  Get the difference?  That all said, it does tend to like a moderately low end of roast temperature, in the upper 240s or lower 250s.  The main thing to keep in mind is the lower you go, the longer you need to go to rid the bean of raw astringency.

Drum Roasting

The roast profile for my evaluation was 12:50/15:10/20:00 @ 254 F.  The EOR was just a little lower than some taking into account its moderate fruit and lower chocolate levels.  Also, I kept the EOR and ramps a little lower so that peanut does not go bitter.  If you want to really lean into the bright and vibrant flavors try X/3.0/6.0 @ 242 F.

Behmor 2000AB

If you are using a Behmor, P1 to start with 2 lb will be just fine.  Be ready though to turn the power down as you start to note sharp aromas, probably pretty early on, say 12-14 minutes.   When it turns sharper near the end of the count down, you are done.  If it isn't there yet, add a bit more time (the C button for Continue, will reset your timer to 3:10) waiting for the turn of aroma.

Oven Roasting

This method is moderately predictable, repeatable and although not as dynamic and controllable as a drum roaster, does a good enough job.

You will need an IR thermometer and should roast 2 lb of beans. If you roast less, reduce your preheat to 325 F.  Don't roast more.

  • Preheat your oven to 350 F. 
  • Place your cocoa beans in a single layer on a baking sheet and into the oven.
  • Stir the beans at 5 minutes and check the temperature. 
  • Continue roasting until the surface temperature reads 205-215 F (it may well vary across the beans).  At that point, turn your oven down 10-15 F above your target EOR, in this case 250 + ~15 = 270 and continue to roast, stirring every 5 minutes until approximately 250 F. 

Again, there will be variation but the beauty of this method is having turned the oven down it is difficult to over roast.  If you do find your roast is progressing too fast, adjust accordingly, starting at 325 F and/or changing your target to 250 F.  Overall you may well roast 30-40 minutes.  The important part here is to get good momentum going in a hot oven and then basically coasting to finish.