Importing Cocoa Beans
The cocoa tree Theobroma cacao grows only in tropical areas 20° north and south of the equator—which means most cocoa comes from developing countries. We import our cocoa beans from producers who farm sustainably and use fair labor practices. We pay those producers a higher price than they would receive by producing the commodity cocoa used by Big Chocolate.
We hand sort each bag of cocoa beans to ensure only the best ones are used in our chocolate.
Roasting cocoa beans changes their chemistry and helps bring out their fine flavors. This is, therefore, one of the most important steps in making chocolate. Since each bean variety is different, we can’t roast each one in the same way. We experiment with different temperatures, roasting times, and degree of roast to find the combination that will best enhance a cocoa variety’s natural flavors.
Cracking and Winnowing
The cocoa bean has a flavorful kernel—containing cocoa solids and cocoa butter—surrounded by a tough and bitter husk. To remove the husk, we gently crack the roasted cocoa beans and use a current of air to winnow the husk pieces from the broken kernels—now called “nibs.”
Refining and Conching
Now we stone grind the cocoa nibs to liquify the cocoa butter and reduce the size of the cocoa particles. We then add organic cane sugar and continue refining until it is silky smooth. We refine until the cocoa particles are around 15 microns (that’s 0.0006 inches). Conching is the process of heating and mixing the chocolate to further develop its flavors and aromas. Conching time varies depending on the cocoa bean variety and how it was roasted.
After refining and conching, we pour the chocolate into large blocks and let them rest for several weeks. This helps the flavors and aromas in the cocoa particles to infuse into the surrounding cocoa butter, which mellows the flavors and allows them to release in your mouth faster.
Did you know that chocolate is a crystalline structure of cocoa butter suspending cocoa solids and sugar? Tempering is the process of heating and cooling the chocolate to form the best crystal forms. This gives a nice shiny surface, a good snap, and better flavor release.
When the chocolate is properly tempered, we’ll mold it into bars or use it to dip truffles, caramels, cremes and other delicious confections.
We hand wrap each bar to seal in the flavor and keep out moisture, and carefully pack the bars for delivery to you.