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!