What does it take to make truly, healthy chocolates? Is it just about traceability? Is it just about building a community of cocoa farmers? Is it the post-harvest process which is key to bringing out that chocolatey flavor? Or is it the chocolate-maker’s skill which tempers and brings out that nice shiny coat?
Here at Co Chocolat, we believe that great chocolates is a mélange of all these things and more. Below we summarize the complex process how chocolates are made from our farm-to-bar!
1. Proper cacao farming protocols farmers are educated: what seedlings to plant, the genetics, where we plant, how we plant, how we take care of the seedlings, etc. This is where our jobs as cacao doctors start!
2. Growing the cacao trees into healthy, productive cacao trees. This is where your cacao doctors are busiest visiting farms and helping farmers grow healthy trees. It’s also the time when cacao trees are rehabilitated.
3. Harvesting the time to gather the cacao beans and where our farmers are happiest!
4. Fermentation the most important post-harvest process the beans go through. This is the step where we develop the chocolate flavor and aroma that make us all fall in love with chocolates. Usually, when beans are properly fermented, cacao beans may give fruity, citrusy, spicy, flowery flavors that are naturally inherent flavors in cacao. When beans have these wonderful flavors, the chocolate maker need not mask the chocolate with lots of sugar, vanilla and milk. This is why fine-flavor chocolates (as opposed to mass-produced chocolates) are generally healthier.
5. Drying after fermentation, we dry the beans to retain approximately 6-7% of moisture, not more and not less. When beans are improperly dried, it runs the risk of developing molds which then makes it unfit for food consumption; or what some companies do unfortunately is that they over-roast the beans to kill the molds, and to remove any trace of moldy taste.
6. Handsorting, Testing and Cleaning we segregate the good, the bad and the ugly. Anyway who loves ugly? 😊 At Co, we use only the best beans to make all our chocolate products.
7. Roasting beans are allowed to go through the Maillard reaction.
*Maillard reaction is one of the most important flavour producing reactions in cooking. It is a reaction that gives browned food its distinctive food flavour.
Like Coffee, chocolates also have roasting profiles. At Co we prefer the slow medium roast. Roasting kills bacteria and removes whatever moisture is left so that the husk easily separates from the nibs when we crack. The process of roasting also contributes to the development of fine chocolate flavor. Cacao beans are quite sensitive, it easily absorbs aroma and flavor from its environment. When beans are over roasted, the natural inherent flavors of cacao evaporates, or transforms due to the maillard reaction.
8. Cracking and Winnowing separating the husk from the nibs.
*Nibs are the fermented, dried and (most often found in the market) roasted bits found in the cacao beans after the husk or the shell has been removed after winnowing.
9. Grinding we grind the beans to become smaller particles, and usually, this is where you start to see the oil of the nibs come out.
* After grinding, the product is now technically called cocoa liquor, but it is without alcohol!
10. Adding of ingredients at Co, the hero of the chocolate is the CACAO. We don’t mask the flavor of cacao by adding too much sugar, milk or even vanilla. We normally add fruits, nuts, superfood and other wonderful, healthy ingredients. We’re not afraid to make our superfood cacao a megafood when we add other superfood ingredients. And in our experience having a diabetic mother, when sugar is kept to a minimum, chocolates are healthier and are more flavorful.
12. Refining we refine the chocolate into fine particles so our taste buds are able enjoy the chocolate flavor properly. This is also the stage where the texture of the chocolate is developed.
13. Conching we mix the chocolate for another 24-48 hours - letting the volatile flavors of the chocolate evaporate.
14. Tempering this is the processing of bringing the chocolate into the temperature that is conducive to forming the desired cocoa butter crystals, giving the chocolate bar the shiny appearance and snap
15. Molding pouring our tempered chocolate into chocolate bars
Finally, chocolat from Co farm to bar! So next time you pick up a farm-to-bar chocolate, think of the complex yet loving process poured into that delicious bar and enjoy every bite with gusto!
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