This story begins in the hot and humid jungles near the equator. Cacao pods are happiest here in the shade. All cacao beans are not created equal however, some have great flavour potential and if treated well along the way become great chocolate & some beans have no such destiny. Our first job is to search out the special ones.
The farmer carefully picks the ripe cocoa pods scooping out the beans & pulp into wooden boxes. The beans ferment for 2-8 days developing characteristic flavours. When fermentation is complete, the farmer spreads the beans out to dry in the sun. The dry beans are then shipped in 60 kg jute bags to chocolate makers like us all over the world.
Every little bean gets a once over to make sure they make the cut. We remove any weird shaped beans, sticks, stones any other little bits that may have hitched a ride on the journey over.
A classic vintage cacao bean roaster cleverly named Scirocco is used to gently roast the beans with a stream of superheated air. Cacao beans are roasted to different degrees depending on origin. This is where we can make good cacao taste like magic. The temperature and time of roasting has a big effect on the final finished chocolate
The roasted cacao beans are cooled and then passed through our winnower which removes the shell and leaves us with cacao nibs, the raw material for making chocolate. Some of the shells go on to be used as garden mulch, or can be used by brewers to add chocolate notes to beer.
The cacao nibs and sugar are crushed to a thick paste by the heavy granite rollers in our 80 year old vintage melangeur. The slow grinding releases the cacao’s mind-blowing aroma . These melangeurs are difficult to find but we managed to track one down. It was originally in use in Barcelona and has been lovingly restored.
The melangeur produces a rough paste of cocoa and sugar that must be transferred to our ball mill for further refining. The goal of this refining step is to reduce the size of the cocoa and sugar particles to an imperceptibly tiny 20 microns.
The next step is to conch the refined chocolate mass. The conch is a machine designed to heat, mix and aerate the chocolate. We do this just enough to remove unwanted bitter and sour flavours but not so much that we remove all the unique flavours that have been developed up to this point. This is where the magic happens.
Before we mold the chocolate into bars the chocolate must be tempered. This involves melting and cooling the chocolate to promote the proper crystallization of the cocoa butter molecules. This final step ensures that our bars have a shiny flawless finish and a nice snap when we finally break the bar to taste it!