Chocolate starts with cacao.
Where does cacao come from?
Cacao pods are a fruit that grow on trees. The beans that are inside of these pods are what we use to make chocolate, but they have to undergo quite the transformation first.
Cacao pods come in a variety of colors and flavors. These flavors depend on where and how the cacao is grown, including factors like altitude, climate, and surrounding vegetation. Cacao beans from one region might taste tart and fruity once roasted, while from another region they may be more nutty and earthy. These unique flavors find expression in the final chocolate, and you’ll definitely be able to taste the difference between beans from different origins.
Fermenting and Drying Beans
After harvesting, farmers split the cacao pods open and scoop out the cacao beans. There are about 20-40 beans in each pod. The cacao beans are covered in a white sugary pulp, which tastes a bit like lemonade. The sugar that’s in this pulp is food for the microbes that cause fermentation. They consume the sugar and produce lactic acid.
This process is crucial in the flavor development of cacao beans, and plays a significant role in the taste of the final chocolate. Without fermentation, our chocolate wouldn’t taste anything like it does.
Shipping and Receiving Beans
Once dryed, both cacao and coffee beans are gathered for shipping. Some co-ops gather beans from different farms in the area, others have their own farm that they gather beans from. All of the co-ops and farms we work with pay premiums to the farmers they gather beans from, ensuring it’s worthwhile for farmers.
Beans are bagged in large jute sacks which then get shipped overseas to our chocolate and coffee factory in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Pictured here is Co-founder Jeff in Cameroon, standing next to jute bags full of coffee.
From Bean to Bar
Finished products are only as good as the ingredients used to make them. That’s why we ethically source well-grown beans from some of the best cacao and coffee farms and coops in the world. Every origin of bean has unique and distinct flavors that we bring out through roasting.
Our coffee is roasted carefully to bring out the nuanced flavors of the beans — even a few degrees makes a big difference! Fun fact: light roasts have more caffeine than dark roasts. This is because the longer you roast coffee, the more caffeine is roasted out of it. Once roasted, the coffee is ready to be bagged.
Cacao is roasted in a similar way to coffee, but at a lower temperature and about twice as long. Both are roasted in our big roaster that’s featured below. Unlike coffee, once roasted cacao has a ways to go before it turns into chocolate.
After roasting, the cacao beans are still covered by a husk that must be removed to ensure consistent texture and flavor. This process of removing this husk from the cacao bean is called winnowing. Once complete, only the inside of the bean remains. These are known as “cocoa nibs” and are what we use to make chocolate.
This is where the real magic begins: transforming raw cacao into tasty chocolate. Our stone grinders run for 3-4 days (yes really!) per batch to carefully refine the raw cacao nibs and organic cane sugar into delicious liquid chocolate, which we cool into large blocks to let it age.
Tempering and Molding
Tempering is the process of heating and cooling chocolate so that it crystalizes into a stable form. This gives each bar a beautiful sheen, sharp snap upon breaking, and temperature stability so our chocolate melts on your tongue (not in the wrapper!).
In this step, liquid chocolate is poured into molds, and inclusions (such as blueberries) are hand-sprinkled on top.
Unmold and Wrap
It takes about 30 minutes for chocolate to cool in the mold. Once cooled, the chocolate can be removed. We then wrap each bar by hand in gold foil, and then hand-wrap in the paper box wrapper. You now have a finished chocolate bar!