With the recent launch of our first “bean to bar” chocolate, we have understandably had a lot of questions surrounding this term from our customers about why this is such an important step for us and a premium product. Read on to find out more…
Chocolate-making, a brief summary
On the whole, packaged chocolate that you buy in stores (everything from artisan brands to supermarket brands) is made from ready-made chocolate that is purchased from wholesale suppliers. The chocolate is received by the maker and is melted, tempered and repurposed to make chocolate that we all know and love.
Before this point, chocolate starts out life as a cocoa (or cacao) pod that is generally grown in equatorial climates, the cocoa pod will generally contain anywhere between 20 and 50 beans, with approximately 400 of these being required to make a single pound of chocolate (anywhere between 800 and 900 beans to yield a kilogram of chocolate). The beans are fermented for up to a week and then dried in the sun for up to a fortnight before being shipped to various factories around the globe (almost 5 million metric tons in 2012), where they are roasted and dishevelled to produce cocoa nibs.
The resulting nibs are then ground to create a cocoa paste (or chocolate liquor) and is then mixed with extra cocoa butter and sugar (and sometimes other ingredients such as lecithin, to act as an emulsifier). This mix is then conched and tempered to make the chocolate that you buy and consume today.
Understandably all of this is a massively long process that requires a lot of time, expertise and specialist equipment, which is why many of today’s chocolate suppliers purchase chocolate in bulk that can then be tempered and repurposed to make a variety of delicious chocolates with a smaller investment.
So, what is bean to bar?
Bean to Bar is a term that describes where chocolate producers are purchasing the cocoa nibs directly from harvesters and grounding them at source, effectively making the chocolate from scratch in-house. This method allows the chocolatier to choose the origin and style of the cocoa and control the entire chocolate-making process, much like picking a fine wine, as every harvester will have their own style and every region will produce a different taste based on the environment that the cocoa grows in.
Our first bean to bar chocolate is made from Madagascar cocoa nibs that grow in close proximity to the Sambirano River. The trade winds and nearby Tsaratanana mountain range create a kind of micro-climate for this area, perfect for cocoa and during the rainy season, the river floods and deposits fertile alluvia along the banks.
Once we have received the cocoa nibs, we grind them slowly over a 48-hour period to create a cocoa paste, mix this with cocoa butter & caster sugar, and finally, adding some soya lecithin to act as an emulsifier. The resulting bar is a smooth and modern-classic chocolate that features hints of red fruits and lingering cocoa finish with a minimum 65% cocoa solids content.
View our Bean to Bar range online, or come in to our store at 6, Mill Street.