How We Make Sensational Chocolate
For lots of folks, chocolate is a sweet treat…
They enjoy it. But they don’t think too much about where it came from or what went into making it.
We were part of that group, too… until we tried chocolate that blew our minds. It tasted fresh. It felt different in our mouths. And the flavors were new and unexpected.
One taste and we couldn’t go back to our old chocolate. So we had to dig deeper…
We learned that what most people think of as chocolate has very little cacao in it. In the U.S., “chocolate” only needs to contain 10% cacao in order to earn the name. And a lot of popular brands use only that much in their milk chocolate bars.
Whether milk or dark chocolate, though, big manufacturers’ main concerns are uniformity and a low-cost process.
At the other end of the spectrum, the best craft chocolate makers are artists. They focus on creating a unique and flavorful chocolate-tasting experience.
We’re glad that you’re reading this, by the way. It means that you, too, are interested in digging deeper. And we know you’ll enjoy your chocolate a lot more once you do.
Plus, the inevitable outcome of digging deeper is sinking your taste buds into sensational chocolate… whether it comes from us at The Latest Batch or somewhere else. And that is a very good thing.
So let’s get started…
Chocolate is one of the most complex foods on Earth. It contains at least 500 flavor compounds (more than twice the number found in red wines). And making it requires just about every type of food processing that exists.
From the time the cacao pods (which are fruits) are removed from the trees, up to a month of straight processing time may be needed to turn its seeds into chocolate.
Our goal at The Latest Batch is to bring out the best flavors of the finest Costa Rican beans we can find. This starts with strong relationships, both with the farmers who manage the land and the processors who handle fermenting and drying…
POST-HARVEST: FERMENTATION AND DRYING
Cacao seeds need to be fermented and dried in the country of origin, just after the cacao pods are opened.
Some experts say that as much as 70% of a chocolate’s flavor come from fermentation. The cacao undergoes its most complex changes during this process… So it requires knowledge, experience, and precision, which are hard to find. For fine flavor chocolate, good fermentation is critical.
Drying is also extremely important to flavor development. If done too quickly, it doesn’t allow the fermenting process to taper off and will lock in undesirable flavors. If done too slowly, the beans can mold and rot. Sun drying cacao in the tropics requires constant expert attention.
After these two steps, cacao seeds are often called “beans.”
Once our beans make it to the chocolate making lab, we like to age them for six months to a year (and sometimes longer). This helps to reveal the beans’ full flavor.
Then, our chocolate maker Jay touches every bean at least once. We hand sort and clean them, removing flat beans, clumped beans, broken beans, and misshapen beans. These beans have off flavors caused by uneven fermentation and what would soon be uneven roasting.
Only the highest quality beans make through to the next steps…