The Process

Hilly with Bon Bean's Chocolatier, Domantas Uzpalis
CREATING GOOD CHOCOLATE FROM TREE TO BAR
THE ORIGINS OF THE BEANS
 
Experts generally agree that the Theobroma Cacao shrub originated in the tropical Andes foothills, in the amazon rainforest. Today it is found 20º below and above the equator (not only in Peru!) and the trees thrive in rich soil, shady, hot and humid conditions.
 
Cacao is a sophisticated crop and like wine, it’s flavour is affected by“terroir”or the environmental conditions it is subject to. Very often knowledge about cultivation is passed on from generation to generation and is specific to the terroir. This is why the farmers have such an important role to play and why they deserve to be honoured.
 
The beans we use are from Peru and are  the criollo variety. They are heirloom beans, which are generally defined as a pre-industrialised cultivar with a superior genetic advantage.
 
The cacao trees grow flowers which then turn into the fruit of the tree. These come in the form of pods. Pods contain between 20 and 30 beans that are surrounded by a white pulp.
 
DEVELOPING FLAVOUR AND AROMA
 
The first two stages of chocolate-making happen on site in Peru: these are the fermentation and drying stages. These are key stages and essential to the development of flavour in the beans.
 
The initial quality of the beans, combined with these two necessary processes are key factors in the development of flavour.
 Fermentation is where the beans and pulp are heaped or boxed up and left to dry for 4 to 7 days. The temperature raises to 45ºC – 50ºC around the third day and helps blitz bacteria, remove tannins and astringency and develop the first subtle flavours. Farmers monitor the process to ensure that fermentation is consistent.
 
Then the drying process is helped along by the sun and natural warmth in the air. The beans are spread into a thin layer on the ground and left until they have less than 10% moisture in then.
 
BEAN TO BAR
 
Then they are shipped directly to our chocolatier as dried beans. This accounts for the bean-to-bar name that is used for this type of chocolate.
 
First the beans are hand sorted and then roasted in a large rotating drum. This air roasting is gentler than using a roaster or grilling the beans.
 
The beans are then winnowed to separate the husks from the nibs and the nibs are stone-ground to make the cacao liquor. The coconut sugar is added at this stage.
 
We skip the conching stage  for greater bioactivity. 
 
Tempering is an essential step required to stabilise the chocolate and ensure the finished result is shiny and has a good snap when broken. We temper to a maximum of 42˚C. Why? The same reason as above, to preserve the bioactive quality and greatest nutritional value possible.
 
The chocolate is now the canvas for our creativity.