OUR PROCESS

PART ONE: IN ORIGIN

GROW

THEOBROMA CACAO WHICH ROUGHLY TRANSLATES TO “FOOD OF THE GODS” IS A TREE THAT IS GROWN AROUND THE WORLD ROUGHLY BETWEEN THE TROPIC OF CANCER AND THE TROPIC OF CAPRICORN. NATIVE TO THE UPPER AMAZON REGION OF PERU, AND ORIGINALLY CULTIVATED BY THE MAYANS AND AZTEC CULTURES, THE CACAO TREE IS THE BASIS FOR ALL THE CHOCOLATE PRODUCED WORLDWIDE. NOT ALL CACAO IS CREATED EQUAL HOWEVER. GENETICS AND GROWING CONDITIONS GO HAND IN HAND TO IMPACT THE POTENTIAL QUALITY OF THE BEANS. OF ALL THE CACAO GROWN IN THE WORLD, ABOUT 1% IS CONSIDERED “FINE” OR “FLAVOR GRADE.” WE SEARCH FAR AND WIDE FOR THAT 1% TO USE FOR OUR UNIQUE SINGLE ORIGIN CHOCOLATE BARS.

HARVEST

CACAO PODS DEVELOP FROM THE TINY POLLINATED FLOWERS OF THE TREE. IT TAKES APPROXIMATELY 140 DAYS FOR THE PODS TO FULLY MATURE AFTER POLLINATION. IT IS CRITICAL THAT THE PODS ARE HARVESTED AT THEIR PEAK OF RIPENESS. IF THEY ARE HARVESTED TOO EARLY, THERE IS NOT ENOUGH SUGAR IN THE PULP TO DRIVE A GOOD FERMENTATION; TOO LATE AND THE BEANS CAN GERMINATE IN THE POD RENDERING THEM USELESS. THE WINDOW FOR PERFECT RIPENESS CAN BE AS NARROW AS 7-10 DAYS. ONCE RIPE, THE PODS ARE CAREFULLY CUT FROM THE TREES BY HAND AND COLLECTED INTO HEAPS TO BE CRACKED OPEN AND HAVE THE BEANS REMOVED. THIS STEP IS TYPICALLY DONE IN THE FIELD AND THE EMPTY PODS LEFT TO DECOMPOSE BACK INTO THE SOIL PROVIDING NUTRIENTS TO FEED THE TREES FUTURE GROWTH.

FERMENT

FERMENTATION IS HANDS DOWN ONE OF THE MOST CRITICAL STEPS IN THE ENTIRE CHOCOLATE MAKING PROCESS. WITHOUT PROPER FERMENTATION, THE COCOA BEANS ARE COMPLETELY DEVOID OF THE WONDERFULLY COMPLEX ARRAY OF FLAVORS THAT ARE DISTINCTLY “CHOCOLATEY.” THE FRESHLY HARVESTED BEANS, STILL COVERED IN A WET SUGARY PULP, ARE COLLECTED IN HEAPS OR BOXES TO NATURALLY FERMENT FOR 3-7 DAYS. FERMENTATION FACILITATES A COMPLEX ARRAY OF CHEMICAL REACTIONS THAT NOT ONLY KILL THE SEED AND PREVENT IT FROM GERMINATING, BUT ALSO DEVELOP ALL THE FLAVOR PRECURSORS REQUIRED FOR AN OUTSTANDING CHOCOLATE BAR. THIS PROCESS IS DEPENDANT ON THE SKILL OF THE FARMER, AND DICTATES THE FUTURE POTENTIAL OF THE CACAO. WE RELY HEAVILY ON THE SKILL OF THE FARMERS WE WORK WITH TO PROVIDE US WITH A SOLID FOUNDATION WE CAN BUILD ON.

DRY

THE NEXT PIVOTAL PROCESS IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE COCOA BEAN IS DRYING. THIS IS THE STEP THAT CAN TAKE AN AVERAGE COCOA BEAN AND MAKE IT SING. AS MOISTURE IS REDUCED, FERMENTATION BEGINS TO SLOW DOWN, BUT THE FLAVOR AND COLOR OF THE BEAN CONTINUE TO DEVELOP AND CHANGE. SLOW AND CAREFUL SUN DRYING CAN GREATLY REDUCE ACIDITY IN THE BEAN AS WELL AS DEVELOPING THE SIGNATURE BROWN COLOR OF THE FINISHED CHOCOLATE. THIS 5-7 DAY PROCESS IS COMPLETE WHEN THE MOISTURE CONTENT OF THE BEAN REACHES 6-8%; HIGHER THAN THAT, AND THE BEANS WILL DEVELOP INTERNAL MOLD THAT WILL RENDER THEM USELESS. THE BEANS ARE THEN BAGGED UP AND ARE READY FOR EXPORT.



EXPORT

THE NOW BAGGED COCOA BEANS ARE TYPICALLY STORED IN WAREHOUSES IN-COUNTRY WAITING FOR A LARGE ENOUGH VOLUME TO FILL A CONTAINER FOR SHIPMENT. WE WORK WITH SEVERAL DIFFERENT BEAN BROKERS TO GET THE FERMENTED AND DRIED CACAO TO OUR DOORSTEP. WE HAVE CHOSEN OUR SUPPLY CHAIN PARTNERS CAREFULLY TO INSURE COMPLETE TRANSPARENCY THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE PROCESS OF EXPORT/ TRANSPORT/ IMPORT. BECAUSE THE CACAO PASSES THROUGH SO MANY HANDS DURING THIS TIME, IT IS CRITICALLY IMPORTANT TO VERIFY THAT PEOPLE ARE PAID FAIRLY THROUGHOUT, STARTING WITH THE PRICE PAID AT FARM GATE. AFTER A PROCESS THAT CAN TAKE MONTHS, THE BEANS ARRIVE AND ARE READY FOR THEIR DRASTIC TRANSFORMATION.  

PART TWO: IN FACTORY

SOrt & CLEAN

THIS IS THE FIRST INTERACTION WE HAVE WITH THE FLAVOR OF THE BEANS. THROUGH THE ROASTING PROCESS A COMPLICATED SET OF CHEMICAL REACTIONS NOT ONLY HELPS DEVELOP THE CHOCOLATE FLAVOR OF THE BEAN, BUT ALSO EXPELS, OR TEMPERS, THE BITTER NOTES OF THE CACAO. EACH BEAN IS DELICATELY ROASTED IN OUR RESTORED AND MODIFIED ROYAL #5 COFFEE BEAN ROASTER. WE TAKE TIME TO DEVELOP A UNIQUE ROAST PROFILE FOR EACH BEAN WE USE AND OFTEN BLEND ROAST PROFILES IN A SINGLE BATCH TO UNIQUELY SHAPE THE FLAVOR OF THE CHOCOLATE. ROASTING ALSO HELPS TO REDUCE THE MOISTURE CONTENT OF THE BEANS AND LOOSEN THE HUSK FROM THE NIB.

roast

THIS IS THE FIRST INTERACTION WE HAVE WITH THE FLAVOR OF THE BEANS. THROUGH THE ROASTING PROCESS A COMPLICATED SET OF CHEMICAL REACTIONS NOT ONLY HELPS DEVELOP THE CHOCOLATE FLAVOR OF THE BEAN, BUT ALSO HELPS TO EXPEL, OR TEMPER, THE BITTER NOTES IN THE CACAO. EACH BEAN IS DELICATELY ROASTED IN OUR RESTORED AND MODIFIED ROYAL #5 COFFEE BEAN ROASTER. WE TAKE TIME TO DEVELOP A UNIQUE ROAST PROFILE FOR EACH BEAN WE USE AND OFTEN BLEND ROAST PROFILES IN A SINGLE BATCH TO UNIQUELY SHAPE THE FLAVOR OF THE CHOCOLATE. ROASTING ALSO HELPS TO REDUCE THE MOISTURE CONTENT OF THE BEANS AND LOOSEN THE HUSK FROM THE NIB.

winnow

THE NEXT STEP IS TO REMOVE THE HUSK FROM THE ROASTED AND COOLED COCOA BEAN. WE ACHIEVE THIS BY FIRST CRACKING THE BEANS INTO SMALL PIECES. USING VACUUM PRESSURE WE ARE THEN ABLE TO SUCK THE LIGHTER HUSK OFF OF THE HEAVIER OR MORE DENSE NIB. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT ALL THE HUSK IS REMOVED AS IT CAN LEAD TO OFF FLAVORS IN THE CHOCOLATE. THE NIB IS COLLECTED AND IS NOW READY FOR MAKING CHOCOLATE WHILE THE HUSK IS USED FOR GARDEN MULCH.

 
 

refinE

THE NIBS AND SUGAR ARE NOW READY TO BEGIN THEIR TRANSFORMATION INTO CHOCOLATE. FIRST, THE NIBS ARE GROUND USING A STONE MELANGEUR. THIS INITIAL GRINDING NOT ONLY BEGINS TO REDUCE THE PARTICLE SIZE OF THE NIBS BUT IT BEGINS THE RELEASE OF COCOA BUTTER. THE GROUND NIBS (CALLED CHOCOLATE LIQUOR) ARE NOW READY FOR THE SUGAR TO BE ADDED. THE SUGAR AND LIQUOR ARE ALLOWED TO MIX AND FURTHER GRIND UNTIL THEY ARE READY FOR THE NEXT STEP.

 
 

mill

THE VISCOSITY AND FLOW PROPERTIES OF CHOCOLATE ARE A FUNCTION OF MANY INTERRELATED VARIABLES, ONE OF WHICH IS PARTICLE SIZE. THE SUGAR HAS A VERY COARSE AND HARD CRYSTALLINE STRUCTURE IN CONTRAST TO THE SOFT AND FIBROUS NIB. USING A THREE-ROLL MILL WE ARE ABLE TO ACCURATELY AND PRECISELY GRIND THE COARSE CHOCOLATE MASS INTO A SMOOTH PASTE. NOT ONLY IS THE PARTICLE SIZE REDUCED, BUT THE NEWLY BROKEN SOLID PARTICLE SURFACES ARE COATED WITH COCOA BUTTER. OUR MILLING STAGE IS CRITICAL TO GIVING OUR CHOCOLATE A SILKY MOUTH FEEL AND DELICATE MELT.

 
 
 

conchE

 

AFTER THE CHOCOLATE HAS BEEN MILLED IT IS NOW TIME TO BE CONCHED. THE MILLED CHOCOLATE CONTAINS PARTICLES THAT ARE OF PERFECT SIZE BUT NOT PERFECT SHAPE. AS THE SUGAR AND COCOA SOLIDS ARE VIOLENTLY SHEERED APART IN THE ROLL MILL THE NEWLY GROUND SUGAR PARTICLES ARE COARSE AND HAVE SHARP EDGES. NOT ONLY THIS, BUT THE FLAVOR OF THE CHOCOLATE WILL BE ON THE BRIGHTER SIDE, STILL RETAINING MANY OF THE INITIAL BITTER NOTES. CONCHING, IN GENERAL TERMS, IS AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF AGITATION, STIRRING, OR AERATION UNDER HEAT, ALLOWING THE CHOCOLATE FLAVOR TO MATURE AND DEVELOP. THIS GENERALLY TAKES BETWEEN 24 AND 72 HOURS BUT CAN BE SHORTER OR LONGER DEPENDING ON THE CHOCOLATE. AFTER PROPER CONCHING THE FLAVOR NOTES OF THE CHOCOLATE ARE AT THEIR PEAK, AND THE CHOCOLATE TAKES ON A GLOSSY, SILKY SMOOTH APPEARANCE.

 

temper & MOLD

BY NOW THE CHOCOLATE HAS UNDERGONE A LOT AND IT IS TIME FOR A BRIEF REST. WE AGE OUR CHOCOLATE FOR TWO TO FOUR WEEKS WHILE THE FLAVOR CONTINUES TO MATURE. AT THIS POINT THE FLAVOR CHANGES BY SUBTLE DEGREES RATHER THAN THE DRASTIC CHANGES OF THE EARLIER PROCESS. AFTER THE REST WE MELT THE CHOCOLATE AND IT IS NOW READY FOR TEMPERING. ENTIRE CHAPTERS IN TEXTBOOKS ARE DEVOTED TO THE ELABORATE PROCESS OF TEMPERING. TO OVER-SIMPLIFY IT, COCOA BUTTER IS POLYMORPHIC, MEANING IT FORMS DISTINCT CRYSTALLINE STRUCTURES AT DIFFERENT TEMPERATURES. WE ARE TRYING TO ISOLATE A SPECIFIC CRYSTAL STRUCTURE THAT GIVES CHOCOLATE ITS WONDERFUL SHEEN, SNAP AND MELT PROPERTIES. WE USE A SOPHISTICATED MACHINE TO HELP US DO THIS ACCURATELY. ONCE WE HAVE ACHIEVED TEMPER, THE CHOCOLATE IS DEPOSITED INTO BAR MOLDS AND VIBRATED TO ELIMINATE AS MANY BUBBLES IN THE CHOCOLATE AS POSSIBLE.

 

WRAP & ENJOY

FINALLY, THE BARS ARE WRAPPED AND PACKAGED. IT IS IMPORTANT TO US THAT THE PACKAGING REFLECTS THE CRAFTSMANSHIP THAT WENT INTO MAKING THE BAR. EACH ONE OF OUR ENVELOPES IS HAND LETTERPRESSED USING VINTAGE PRINTING PRESSES WE RESTORED OURSELVES.

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