Working Group on the Development of
International Standards for
the Assessment of Cocoa Quality
and Flavours

News - Bioversity International just published a dedicated website for the details on the development of the International Standards. You can download the first draft protocols.

Please visit:

Stakeholders of the cocoa value chain urgently need to establish accepted, credible and verifiable protocols for assessing and communicating about cocoa quality and flavour in order to facilitate comparison among samples, provide feedback to improve post-harvest processes for different cocoa genetics, and enable farmers to understand and present to potential buyers the value proposition of their cocoa.

A Working Group on the Development of International Standards for the Assessment of Cocoa Quality and Flavour was set up in 2015. The Working Group coordinated by Bioversity International has the following Goal and Objectives:

• A clear communication throughout the value chain - (cocoa producers, bean buyers/traders, chocolate makers and other users) – using a common language.

• To identify the intrinsic flavour attributes and characteristics (flavour potential) of the beans when beans are converted into chocolate.
• To unlock the value and empower producers and buyers – so users can decide how to use the beans.
• For targeted marketing flavour customization – to meet customers’ needs.

Target users
• Cocoa value chain actors: from cocoa producers, bean buyers/traders, chocolate makers to consumers.

Members of the Working Group:

  1. AMACACAO /CUNAKakaw: Juan Francisco Mollinedo - Asociacion Mesoamericana de Cacao y Chocolate /CUNAKakaw, Guatemala

  2. BARRY CALLEBAUT: Renata Januszewska, Barry Callebaut, Belgium

  3. BELCOLADE/PURATOS: Julien Simonis - Belcolade/Puratos, Belgium

  4. CAF/ILAC: Federico Vignati - Iniciativa Latinoamericana del Cacao, Peru

  5. CoEx: Brigitte Laliberté - Bioversity International/CacaoNet/Cocoa of Excellence Programme- Coordinator of the WG, Italy

  6. CRC: Darin Sukha - Cocoa Research Centre, University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago

  7. ECOM: Daniel Domingo - ECOM, USA

  8. CDP: Mey Choy Paz - USAID-Equal Exchange-TCHO Cooperative Development Programme, USA

  9. FCCI: Carla Martin - Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute, USA

  10. FCIA: Bill Guyton, Fine Chocolate Industry Association, USA

  11. GUITTARD: John Kehoe - Guittard Chocolate, USA

  12. ICCO: Charlotte Martin - International Cocoa Organization, Côte d'Ivoire

  13. IICCT: Martin Christy - International Institute of Chocolate & Cacao Tasting, UK

  14. LWR: Carolina Aguilar - Lutheran World Relief, USA

  15. LWR: Rick Peyser - Lutheran World Relief, USA

  16. SEGUINE/GUITTARD: Ed Seguine - Seguine Cacao, Cocoa and Chocolate/Guittard Chocolate, USA

  17. TCHO: Brad Kintzer, TCHO, USA

  18. ULaM: Nubia Martinez - Universidad LaMolina, Peru

  19. VALRHONA: Pierre Costet – Valrhona, France

  20. WCF: Paul Macek - World Cocoa Foundation, USA

The Working Group was set up in 2015 to address the urgent need for the actors across the cocoa value chain for accepted, credible and verifiable protocols for assessing and communicating about cocoa quality and flavour using a common language. The Working Group aims to be inclusive and ensure that final products are global public goods for use by all the stakeholders of the cocoa value chain.

The initial work led by Dr. Darin Sukha from CRC, supported by LWR under Cacao Movil, the United States Department of State and Swiss Development Cooperation was to carry out a review of existing standards on cocoa quality and flavour and from other crops. A first proposal of international standards was developed titled: ‘Elements of a harmonized international standard for cocoa quality and flavour assessment’ (Sukha, D., 2016). The proposal was reviewed in two broad consultations in Managua (September 2017) and Paris (October 2017) organized by the CoEx Programme with support from LWR, AMACACAO, Christian Aid and Catholic Relief Services (CRS). The initial review, the first proposal and the report from the consultations in Managua and Paris of 2017 are accessible here:

In June 2018, a one-year project funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and coordinated by Penn State University (PSU) was approved that included a component on the development of the international standards and more specifically to fund a research assistant at Bioversity International and contribution to a consultation towards the finalization of the first draft of the standards. In October 2018, another USDA project coordinated by LWR titled Maximizing Opportunities for the Coffee and Cocoa Sector of the Americas (MOCCA) was approved for 3 years, to finalize and implement the standards in six Latin American countries: Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Peru. This project will start in mid-2019.

The initial proposal was substantially reorganized based on the recommendations of the consultation and individual protocols developed for the Working Group members’ review in advance of their meeting in Paris, 31 October to 2 November 2018. The meeting was organized by Bioversity International with support from the USDA/PSU, LWR, CoEx and all participating institutes. The in-depth review of the draft protocols, detailed feedback, agreements on the further development of the standards, and discussions on strategic issues for long-term sustainability are documented in the report accessible above.

Content of the International Standards for Assessment of Cocoa Quality and Flavour:
· Introduction, objective and scope of the standards
· Acknowledgments of contributions and support
· Protocols for the following process:

1. Sampling of bagged and bulk cocoa beans
2. External aroma and appearance of whole and cut beans (cut test)
3. Coarse/pre-grinding cocoa nibs
4. Liquefying cocoa mass
5. Tempering and moulding chocolate
6. Roasting cocoa beans
7. Mixing, refining and conching chocolate
8. Chocolate formulation
9. Sensory evaluation area and sample preparation
10. Coarse powder sensory evaluation
11. Cocoa liquor sensory evaluation
12. Chocolate sensory evaluation
13. Moisture content of beans
14. Bean count, weight and cleaning loss
15. Breaking and winnowing cocoa beans
16. Cocoa butter content
17. Storage and aging of cocoa products
18. Food safety considerations
19. Measurement of contaminants (physical, microbiological and chemical contaminants)
20. Micronizing infrared for food safety

· Annexes: Terms and Definitions, References, Acronyms

The draft of these protocols will be made available publicly shortly.

Proposed Next steps:

  • Review the updated protocols by Working Group members.

  • Coordination of Task Forces on key technical issues.

  • Review from additional experts and institutes.

  • Production of the first draft version of the protocols by mid-2019.

  • Finalization of the standards by end of 2019.

  • Implementation of the standards broadly including in the countries of the MOCCA project.

  • On-going review and consultations.

    For more information, please contact the coordinator of the Working Group, Brigitte Laliberté at: and Dolores Alvarado at:

*Top photo from the left: 1), 2) Seguine Cacao Cocoa & Chocolate Advisors, 3), 4) *