Chocolate 101

THE PLANTATION

Cacao trees grow 20 degrees north and south of the equator.  About 90% of the world’s cacao is grown in Africa.

Do you know where your beans come from?
Not a lot of companies can say this, but we have a direct relationship with our grower, a vertical supply chain where we choose to have transparency to show how the beans are grown, harvested, fermented, and dried.  It took Patricia 5 years to develop a relationship with a grower.  “Many companies didn’t want to divulge the information of exactly what region the beans were coming from, even how they were fermented and if the beans were roasted.  I found that very odd.  Why do you need to be so secretive about the beans unless you are hiding something?  It’s not easy to make chocolate and to develop a sustainable relationship with a grower.”  We are fortunate to have partnered up with a family-owned plantation in Tabasco, Mexico.  The grower isn’t producing quantity, but quality.  The grower understands each tree, how and when to pick the pods, the weather conditions during the maturation cycle and uses all the information for ideal fermentation.   These pesticide-free beans come from cacao trees that cover 29 acres.  This plantation is over 100 years old with robust cacao trees and is also a small hub for much research and development for different varieties of cacao – non GMO.  This is a true terroir region for cacao as this was the original cacao-producing areas during the Mayan and Aztec period.  Our grower uses pesticide-free methods of fumigating their cacao trees.  A mixture of garlic, vinegar and water serve as a natural pesticide that is sprayed on the trees.  And…There is no child slavery – a much longer and important topic.

CACAO PODS

If you haven’t seen a cacao pod, it is unlike how you imagined.  The pods are 5-12 inches in length and are oblong shaped. They have a very short thick stems and attach themselves to the trunk of the tree instead of the branch.
Almost all pods, when they are ripe turn from light green to yellow.   The pods have a bumpy thick outer texture.  But don’t let the looks deceive you, because what is inside is the heart of chocolate.

CACAO BEANS

This is where the beans begin to develop flavor and color.  Our beans are slightly fermented to give it a nice taste without too much acidity.   Most cacao used for candy chocolate are fermented  4 to 7 days which can produce quite a bit of acidity.  With more acidity requires more machinery processing to allow the acids to evaporate which is usually done by conching.  After the beans are fermented, they are then dried by sun or with large blowers.  Our beans are dried by sun at the plantation for an average about 5 days, depending on the weather.  Once dried, they are ready to be bagged and shipped.

FROM BEAN TO BAR

There are about 18 companies in the US that make chocolate from bean-to-bar.  Most of them are large industrial manufacturers like Hersheys, Cargill, and Nestle to name a few.

We stone grind our chocolate using lava stones just how it was done over 2000 years ago.  It’s minimally processed to maintain the purity and nutritional value.  Our chocolate is made fresh every week. We don’t use any flavorings, extracts or additional cacao butter.  It is 100% whole bean chocolate using whole ingredients.  Our process involves:

  1. Fermentation – Fermentation is important in the process of taste.  Our beans are specially fermented anywhere between 2-3 days.
  2. Drying – Our grower spreads the cacao beans on his plantation and dries them under the sun.
  3. Winnowing – Deshelling and breaking the cacao beans into small pieces called cacao nibs.
  4. Roasting – We lightly roast our nibs.
  5. Stone Grinding – We use lava stones to grind the cacao nibs into cacao liquor.  We don’t add additional cacao butter, flavorings or soy lecithin or other ingredients to mask up the true flavor of the cacao.  We only use the natural cacao butter from the beans.  Why mess up what nature gave us?
  6. Cooling – We then spread the chocolate on sheet pans which is all done by hand.  Chocolate will solidify at room temperature.  That’s why when you open a bag of chocolate, there are several pieces of chocolate that come in different shapes and sizes.  It’s like opening a pack of baseball cards.  It’s a surprise waiting for you.

Since we don’t temper or conch the chocolate, it’s best eaten within a couple of months.  For more information on storage and how long the chocolate will last please read the FAQs.