Besides variety, also season and ripening stage have a major influence on fruit pulp aroma of cacao (Theobroma cacao L.)
More than 1000 different cacao varieties are described. Only few are considered as fine or flavour cocoas, meaning they have the potential to develop special flavour characteristics after appropriate fermenta-tion and drying. It is assumed that aroma compounds located in the fruit pulp migrate into the seed during fermentation. We studied the fine aroma potential of five cacao varieties selected at CATIE, Costa Rica, by analysing aroma compounds in their fresh fruit pulps using Headspace SPME-GCMS. Pulps of unripe, ripe and overripe fruits harvested in the dry and rainy season, respectively, were compared to the control genotypes EET 62 and SCA-6, both known for high amounts of fine aromas described as e.g. “fruity”, “floral” or “spicy”. All genotypes contained a basic content of the two dominating esters 2-pentanol acetate and 2-heptanol acetate, combined with a mixture of aroma-active compounds with small peak areas that form the variety-specific aroma character. Total aroma diversity and intensity increased during ripening. Aroma profiles were more diverse when fruits ripened during the dry season, whereas aroma intensity was higher in the rainy season. Thus, the fruit and environmental condi-tions prior to harvest can already play a decisive role for the aroma potential of the cacao pulp. Due to their aroma profiles, the varieties from CATIE can be classified as fine or flavour cocoas.
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