12 Steps to Making Bean-to-Bar Chocolate
Step 1 - It’s harvest time!
Twice a year the pods are harvested. As most farmers own a small parcel of land, they usually form cooperatives which operate a central cacao processing plant for the benefit of all farmers.
Step 2 – Bean fermentation & Drying
The cacao pods are cracked open for the beans to be collected and placed into large covered bins to allow fermentation. Every day, the beans are mixed and transferred to another bin until the optimum fermentation is reached.
This the most crucial part in making fine, high-grade chocolate. The beans must be carefully fermented to bring out the richness and the best flavours. For chocolate makers, finding properly fermented cacao beans is critically important. After fermentation, the beans are sundried, then bagged and shipped to chocolate makers around the world.
Step 3 – Hand Sorting
Believe it! Each cacao bean is visually inspected and scrutinized. Those slightly cracked, or looking a bit moldy are discarded without a second look. This ensures that only the best beans are used for our chocolate, which translates into a superior quality and the most flavourful chocolate.
Step 4 – Roasting
The beans are then roasted just enough to develop the optimum flavour for that terroir. Temperature and roasting duration greatly affects the taste of the finished chocolate. When we receive a new shipment, we make numerous micro-batches using different roasting profiles for each batch, until our taste buds indicate which roasting treatment is the best for this bean origin.
Step 5 – Cracking and Winnowing
The beans have a thin shell which must be removed, so we crack open the beans with a mechanical cracker to expose the delicious cacao nibs. The nibs and husks are then slowly poured into a winnower which is made out of various tubing and valves and is connected to a vacuum. It is a messy job!
Step 6 – Grinding the cacao nibs
Grinding turns the cacao nibs down into chocolate liquor (there is no alcohol into chocolate liquor, it’s just the name of chocolate at this point in the manufacturing process). There is roughly 50% cacao butter in the cacao nibs and that butter is packed with big flavours! The friction during the grinding process creates just enough heat to melt the cacao butter, so the whole chocolate mass liquefies during the process.
Step 7 – Refining & Conching
The refiner has large granite stones which further crushes the chocolate liquor. Chocolate makers at this point add extra cacao butter, sugar, or any other ingredients in their chocolate.
During the conching process, each chocolate molecule gets rounded and coated in its own cacao butter. We also add just enough organic cane sugar (and coconut milk powder if we’re making milk chocolate) to complement the flavour of that origin.
This process takes three days and is the most exciting! The whole place smells like chocolate while the conching turns the chocolate liquor into luxurious creamy chocolate.
Step 8 - Aging
At this point, the chocolate is wrapped, labelled and stored for aging. We believe this allows the chocolate to develop a deeper flavour.
That’s where the chocolate maker’s job ends!
Most people don’t know this, but chocolatiers do not make their own chocolate. Chocolatiers purchase ready-made chocolate usually from large chocolate manufactures in Europe to make their chocolates confections or just melt it to make chocolate bars.
At Petite Patrie chocolate, we focus on making fine chocolate. The fine organic cacao beans we use have a wide range of flavours for you to discover! We are also continuing our training to become chocolatiers through Ecole Chocolat, the Chocolate Academy and the prestigious Squires Kitchen in England, learning from one of the world best, Master Chocolatier Mark Tilling!
Step 9 - Tempering
Tempering chocolate is anything but easy! First we melt the chocolate completely then quickly cool it off on a marble slab to an exact temperature then brings the temperature back up slightly.
This process changes the melting point of your chocolate to the temperature of your mouth! It also gives the chocolate that satisfying snap when you break a piece off and adorns its surface a beautiful sheen closely associated to fine chocolate. Tempering also stabilizes the chocolate and improves its shelf-life.
Step 10 – Moulding
We can now pour the chocolate into our chocolate bar moulds. The molds are gently vibrated to remove trapped air bubbles. The chocolate is then cooled and demoulded onto trays.
There is excitement in the air when the perfectly tempered chocolate is revealed!
Step 11 – Wrapping Time!
At last, the chocolate is ready for wrapping. We take pride as we hand wrap your fine chocolate bars with the care and devotion they deserve:
First, the chocolate goes into an eco-clear compostable resealable sleeve to ensure your chocolate is well protected at all times, even after you've started nibbling.
We are very proud to be working with a local printer who uses FSC certified paper for our smartly designed outer wrapper. What's more? The ink and coating used are vegetable based! Excellent for the environment and no off-gases smell anywhere near your fine chocolate!
Step 12 – How to store your fine chocolate?
Enjoying high-quality chocolate is an experience like no other. The flavours are rich and complex and should be enjoyed over a few days.
One piece is often enough as the flavours lingers in your mouth, long after it was tasted.
For optimum freshness, keep your chocolate well sealed at room temperature, away from sunlight and strong smells such as spices or perfumes. Chocolate can last for years!
It is suggested that your chocolate be consumed within a year as the flavourful notes tend to slowly disappear after that time.