Fine Flavour Cocoa


There are two distinct, broad categories of cocoa beans in the world market: Fine Flavour Cocoa (FFC) and Bulk Cocoa (BC). While there is no set of universally acceptable parameters that differentiate FFC from BC, there are general differences between the two markets worth noting as summarized in the table above.

The main factors that separate both markets are source and quality.  Generally, FFC are produced from top quality criollo or trinitario varieties and used in fine chocolates; while BC are produced from forastero varieties and used in ordinary chocolate. There is an exclusive list of countries with designated fine, flavour status that meet stringent criteria set by ICCO’s (International Cocoa Organization) panel of industry experts. So far, 17 countries have been given the fine flavour status.


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Cocoa content can be as little as 12% in a bulk milk chocolate product but as much as 99% in a specialty dark chocolate bar. The higher the cocoa content, the more important the quality of the cocoa becomes to the final product flavour. In chocolate markets across the world, recent trends are seeing darker chocolate and higher-quality confections become growing sectors of the market. While demand for FFC is soaring, its production has steadily declined in recent years because most research has been focused on creating hybrids that are higher-yielding and more pest-resistant. The trinitario and criollo varieties, while renowned for their fine flavour notes, are typically less vigorous and lower yielding that the forastero hybrids used in bulk cocoa. Although buyers are often willing to pay double or triple the price of BC for FFC, these premiums often fail to reach farmers and thus provide little incentive for farmers to maintain less-productive varieties.

Oro aims to promote the cultivation of fine flavour cocoa in the Philippines. We believe that with sufficient volume, proper post-harvest processing and rigorous quality control and traceability, FFC can deliver significant value for farmers. We are currently working in partnership with farmers and cooperatives across the country to improve methods of cultivation and fermentation. We are also one of the buyers in the country to pledge different price premiums based on variety and quality. In addition, we are committed to spreading greater awareness and appreciation for fine, flavour cocoa to encourage everyone to join us in building a sustainable FFC local industry that can soon compete with the top quality cocoa beans in the world.

  (L-R):   Engr. Edwin Banquerigo (  ARD DTI Davao);   Kelly Go (  Oro   Managing Director); Marceline Alcantara (ARD DTI IV-A).

(L-R): Engr. Edwin Banquerigo (ARD DTI Davao); Kelly Go (Oro Managing Director); Marceline Alcantara (ARD DTI IV-A).

  Participants at the Regional Cacao Industry Convergence for CALABARZON.

Participants at the Regional Cacao Industry Convergence for CALABARZON.

In fact, one of our Managing Directors, Kelly Go, gave a presentation about this exact topic at the Regional Cacao Industry Convergence for CALABARZON on Aug 17, 2016. It was only then that we found out that San Jose, Batangas was the exact location where cacao was first planted in 1670. Many of the farmers at the conference showed great enthusiasm to turn CALABARZON into the fine, flavour capital of the coutnry. Slowly yet surely, we will uncover more about our long history of cacao and place the Philippines on the map as a producer of FFC!

A Brief History of Cacao in Las Islas Filipinas

Theobroma cacao, one of the oldest cultivated plants, is a small (4-8 meters tall) perennial tree crop that originated in the Amazon basin and traveled as far north as Mexico. According to some historical accounts, cacao first travelled outside of its American homeland in 1670 from Acapulco, Mexico to the Philippines aboard Manila galleons[1]. The first cacao planted in the Philippines was pure Criollo, the rarest and most prized variety of cacao today. With the cocoa belt located approximately within 20° of the equator, the Philippines is truly an ideal place for growing cacao. During the period of Spanish colonization, Filipinos started growing cacao trees primarily in Laguna, Cebu and Bohol and not long thereafter, started making and drinking their own form of hot chocolate known as tsokolate, which is made from discs or tablets of ground cocoa nibs with sugar known as tablea or sikwate.

Due to its long history in the Philippines, tablea (i.e. the local equivalent of cocoa liquor) has become an integral part of Filipino culture. The practice of making tsokolate from tablea with a wooden mixing implement called a batidor is a tradition often passed from one generation to another. While the production of tablea is and always should be an important part of our heritage, the country can stand to benefit more from this key global commodity by rehabilitating our native varieties and investing in technology in order to improve the quality of our products. Knowing this, Oro Filipinas has worked in partnership with farmers and industry experts to design a sustainable solution that guarantees quality in an effort to produce one of the best chocolate from the Philippines.

[1] Source: Blanco, Manuel, and Andrés Naves. Flora De Filipinas. Manila: Plana, 1877. Print.