Dear chocolate lovers,
We’d like to take you behind the scenes and deep into the adventure of bean-to-bar chocolate making.
As few people know, chocolate comes from a fruit: the Theobroma cacao pod. The cacao pod interior contains cacao beans, from which all chocolate products originate.
Our cacao pods are organically cultivated and ethically-sourced from family-owned farms across Latin America and the Caribbean. Before chocolate reaches our shelves, a lot of hard work is dedicated to the intricate process of growing, harvesting, and processing cacao on the farms. The art of chocolate making and cacao harvesting go hand in hand and have an equal impact on the quality of the final chocolate product. We maintain close relationships with the farmers we work with and highly respect and admire their expertise.
Once the cacao pod is harvested from the tree, it is cut open to reveal beans covered in a mildly-sweet white flesh. The beans are taken out of the pod and stripped of their white pulp through a meticulous 3 to 7-day process of fermentation using yeasts and naturally-occurring bacteria. Fermentation determines the final flavor of the bean, making it a crucial first step in the chocolate making process. When fermentation is complete, the beans are transferred to a sunny area to dry and halt the bacteria-induced fermentation process.
The dried and fermented beans are shipped from the farm in large burlap sacks directly to our chocolate factory, and this is where our chocolate making journey begins in Little Havana.
- SORTING: When we receive the beans, the first thing we do is sort them. Sometimes, objects such as rocks, twigs, or beans of unsatisfactory quality can be found in the sacks. In order to keep them out of chocolate and to preserve our machinery, which is not built to process sharp and unfamiliar objects, we carefully hand remove all non-cacao objects from the mix and are left with the best dried cacao beans that pass our quality test.
- ROASTING: Our sorted beans are placed onto large baking trays and oven-roasted at just the right temperature. The flavor profile of the bean is expressed at this stage. Once the acidity of the bean left over from fermentation is released in the initial roasting stages, the flavor emerges and is greatly impacted by roasting time and temperature. All beans require different roasting formulas, making this a fun experimental stage.
- CRACKING & WINNOWING: When the beans are perfectly roasted, we begin the next step: cracking and winnowing. During the roasting process, a paper-thin outer shell called the “husk” that covers the bean slightly puffs up and loosens its grip on the bean. The husk must be fully removed to expose the bean. To do so, we insert the beans into a machine that cracks the bean, forces the husk off, and separates the bean from the lightweight husk using a vacuum mechanism. A simpler way to do this at home is to crack the beans with a hammer and blow away the fallen husks with a hairdryer.
- CONCHING & REFINING: We then puree the cracked beans, called cacao nibs, to create a thick 100% cacao paste. Our thick paste, which resembles brownie batter when complete, is then placed in a melanger (a machine which further grinds our beans), where it conches and refines for 48-96 hours. The nibs are turned into cacao liquor, and eventually, after spending at least 24 hours in the melanger grinding and aerating, cane sugar, milk, or cocoa butter are added as needed, depending on the chocolate we are making. No preservatives or additives are involved here! Cheap chocolate is filled with oils and chemicals and that makes us sad.
- MOLDING & TEMPERING: When the liquor is sufficiently refined, and its consistency is smooth and supple, we mold the chocolate and let it rest for 24 hours. The last step in our process is called tempering. We heat the molded chocolate until it melts again. Through a calculated series of heating and cooling to the right temperature, we perfect our chocolate to have the perfect “snap” and shine!
As chocolate makers who produce chocolate straight from cocoa beans, our greatest satisfaction is sharing the true origins of chocolate, starting with the cacao fruit, and allowing people to taste real chocolate, without the additives found in most generic store-bought chocolate. While most think there are only two chocolate varieties, milk or dark, we are proud to showcase the versatility of the cacao bean which can carry diverse flavor notes ranging from fruity and tart to nutty and floral. We hope you enjoy our chocolates as much as we enjoy making them!