In the San Martin region of Peru, we harvest the cacao seeds between the months of April and November, after rains have subsided and the fruit has matured. The cacao fruit develops through shades of dark red and purple before turning to golden yellow. There’s a small window between under-ripe and germinating where our farmers feel and smell the fruit to identify its readiness for harvesting. The seeds and pulp are then scooped out and separated from the husk and the seeds are sorted for fermentation.
For the fermentation process we place the beans, along with their pulp into natural wooden enclosures and monitor their progress very carefully. After an initial 24 hour period, the beans are turned to introduce oxygen into the chemical process and improve uniformity throughout the fermentation process which can cause the beans to attain a heat of 50°C. We monitor the beans carefully during the next several days to watch for the signs that tell us the process is completed.
The cacao beans are spread across large netted tables outdoors and left to dry in the ambient tropical temperatures for up to a week. We analyse the beans for humidity levels and turn them occasionally to uniform the drying process and when the beans are perfectly dry they are moved to the warehouse ready for the next step.
There are several inspections throughout the cacao process, but the post fermentation inspection is the most important. We can analyse the quality of the beans, which we do by guillotining a selection of the beans and visually inspecting the internal architecture, applying a chemical analysis and taste testing to ensure the beans have successfully fermented and dried. We also process the beans and carry out a secondary taste test on the final liquor.
The roasting methods are the most delicate practices for a chocolatier, the temperature and duration are subtly perfected through rigorous experimentation to produce the result that best represents the brand. The heating process is carried out in ovens designed to uniformly heat the beans, give a delicate consistency ready for cracking.
CRACKING & WINNOWING
The beans are now separated from their husks, the method is first to crack them into smaller chips and then separate the husks with a machine that vacuums the lighter shell leaving behind pure chocolate nibs. We sell nibs and also tuck them inside one of our 70% cacao bars.
GRINDING & CONCHING
Our cacao nibs are now ground with stone rollers until the powder transforms into a smooth unrefined chocolate liquor. Different cacao beans have different quantities of cacao solids and cacao butter, the natural fat in cacao beans. We ensure that the ratio is ideal for our fine chocolate.
Tempering is a controlled process of raising, lowering and raising again the temperature of the chocolate to organise the crystals and create the optimum texture and feel to the bar. The smooth finish and the crispness of the bar are determined at this stage before the chocolate is poured into molds, set and packaged for delivery to our customers.