While living in Mexico and working at a small beach resort at the Southern tip of Baja California as Executive Chefs, we fell in love with the flavors and soul of Mexican chocolate. We enjoyed many wonderful hours experimenting with the many ways we could bring out the flavors through various techniques and ingredients. It wasn’t long before we created a great “bean to bar” craft chocolate recipe. We felt we had created something special.
Once we returned home to Sonoma County we decided to start our chocolate making business with all of the love and passion that fine chocolate deserves.
We produce over 1,200 chocolate bars per week in our production studio in Windsor using local ingredients whenever possible including: Clover Dairy, Petaluma Hill Dairy, Merchant & Miller Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Wolf Coffee. We also have our printing done in Sonoma County.
The cocoa beans we use are sourced from the Lachua region from farmers’ associations of growers in Guatemala and from another farmers’ association in Haiti.
Please enjoy all of our deep chocolate flavors!
Our chocolate making process begins with sourcing cacao (cocoa beans) from various parts of the world. Cacao is grown 20 degrees north and south of the equator. Much like wine grapes, the terroirs of the cacao (where it is grown/climate/minerals in the soil) play a major role in the flavor of chocolate. Cacao grown in Haiti tastes very different from cacao grown in Guatemala and the Philippines.
We work with an amazing company, Uncommon Cacao, to source ultra-premium grade organic beans. They operate their business with Transparent Trade, financial transparency, which is a step beyond Fair Trade guidelines. Once harvested, the cacao goes through a fermentation and drying process to further develop the natural flavors. The cacao is packed into large burlap bags and shipped around the world.
We receive the fermented/dried cacao at our little factory here in Sonoma County. The first step is roasting, which is much like roasting coffee. It is very precise. Time and temperature are closely monitored and adjusted during the roasting process.
Crushing & Winnowing
Once the beans have been roasted, we must remove their husk or outer skin. This is done by funneling the beans through our winnower, a Volo-made machine, which separates the lighter weight husk from the heavier nibs. Nibs are what become chocolate.
Refining & Conching
The nibs are poured into our refiners along with organic raw sugar, organic cocoa butter, and other ingredients, depending on what variety we are making. In the refiner, two processes are happening simultaneously. The ingredients are being finely ground to a tiny small particle size which results in very creamy, non-gritty chocolate. While the chocolate is refining for 48 hours, it is also conching. Conching takes place when heat and air flow help to evaporate the bitter esters of chocolate.
The chocolate is drained from the conche refiner, strained, and poured into a tempering machine. Tempering is a heating and cooling process that crystalizes the chocolate. Tempered chocolate is shiny and snaps when you break it apart. Untempered chocolate is grainy, dull and just crumbles. The chocolate must be tempered before being formed into bars.
We “deposit” measured quantities of the tempered chocolate into our bar molds. For bars with “inclusions” like caramel, nuts & dried fruit, it is added at this point of the process.
We use a horizontal flow wrapper that individually wraps each bar in a cellulose film that is fully compostable. NO PLASTIC! The wrapped bars are then placed in an outer envelope and ready for sale. *The artwork on the labels are photographs of quilts made by Cathy Shanahan, a renowned textile artist, and Jeff’s Aunt!
Making fine chocolate is an art, and we believe every aspect of our product should reflect that, from the packaging to the product inside. When we started imagining the outer wrapper for our chocolate bars, we wanted to create something that was completely unique. We ultimately found what we were looking for right under our noses: a quilted wall-hanging that Jeff's aunt made in a color palette of cream, orange and brown. With its complex modern design and hand-dyed fabric, it was perfectly unique and captured the art of each of our handmade chocolate bars.
CATHY SHANAHAN: artist’s statement
I live in the circles and cycles of the creative process. It begins with the ups of inspiration and imagining followed by the joys of problem solving and watching the piece develop. Once I've had the inspiration and done the imagining, I have to start with a piece of fabric on my working wall. From then on the work becomes a joyful response to what happens on that wall. Finally comes the construction, the feel of the fabric, thread, beads, all the tactile properties of this medium. Here the process can become almost a chore, but the piece will sing to me, push me forward. At this point the inspirations and the imagining begin anew, bubbling and percolating in my mind. On to the next cycle.
I want my pieces to grab the viewer. I want the piece to draw a person from the far side of the room right up until their nose almost touches the art. And then I want to reward them with surprises. I hope they smile.
Cathy creates her beautiful and imaginative pieces in her studio. She resides in Healdsburg with her cat, Tabitha. We are thrilled she has given us permission to use her art for our labels. Cathy is also Jeff Mall's aunt.