Process: Bean to Bar
We are one of the few bean to bar chocolate makers that produces in the origin country. This enables us to:
- Foster deeper and more direct relationships with the farmers, and the cacao tree itself
- Source ingredients in a hyper local and seasonal way
- Employ more people in the cacao origin country
- Influence the growing chocolate industry within Nicaragua
- Contribute to the cultural development of San Juan del Sur as a destination for high quality artisanal products
This more direct, localized farm to bar process gives rise to a variety of other downstream benefits that we continue to learn about every day, here in Nicaragua. We also host educational workshops as well as farm and kitchen tours that contribute to our local tourism industry.
Check our part of our process in this short video below:
Curious for a bit more detail? What follows is a step by step version of what happens from bean to bar, all right here in Nicaragua.
The beginning of the process for making fine chocolate is the most important step, it’s in the beans. We are proud to work directly with Ingemann Cacao farmers who cultivate rare varieties of cacao indigenous to Nicaragua. Rate genetics have been studied and grafted to produce the finest flavor profiles.
Farmers receive free training and visits from qualified technicians. We’ve visited their farms and know that they grow cacao trees naturally with no chemicals, insecticides, pesticides, fungicides, nothing extra. The trees are watered by the rains and pruned lightly by hand.
Ingemann Cacao farmers harvest cacao beans and deliver at farm gate to ease logistical costs. Prior to receiving the cacao from the farmers, a series of strict quality control metrics are measured including pH, Brix content, and temperature. Wet mass is placed into wooden fermentation boxes where post-harvest processing begins.
Fermentation boxes full of wet mass are transported to a central processing facility. Cacao seeds continue to ferment in a cascade system where essential flavor precursors become available. The fermentation of cacao is one of the most complex biological processes in relation to other ferments.
Cacao is dried on custom made drying platforms optimized for flavor development and hygiene.
A variety of quality control practices are applied to each lot of beans including things like temperature, cut test, humidity level, size of the beans, tastings, etc. Every sack of cacao can be traced back to the specific farm it came from.
We travel across Nicaragua to receive cacao beans from Ingemann at their facilities. Sometimes, we get a chance to head up to the farms and spend time with the producers too.
Each micro-batch of cacao beans is hand sorted, removing all undeveloped beans or debris that may have gotten into the sample.
Cacao beans are lightly roasted in micro-batches in a custom-built roaster, with a carefully monitored temperature evolution process. This begins by high temperature heat sterilizing the beans then carefully lowering the temperature to continue roasting to the point where essential oils are not evaporated. This means that the chocolate flavor may be retained in the beans and the eventual chocolate that will come from them. This lighter roasting process also helps amplify some of the health benefits of cocoa.
Out of the roaster, cacao beans are placed on a fan-driven cooling tray to quickly stop the roasting process.
Cacao beans have a hard outer shell that must be removed. This process is known as winnowing. We use a machine developed specifically for artisanal chocolate makers to crack the beans and remove the husk resulting in clean cacao nibs.
Cacao nibs are loaded into a black stone grinder, sometimes with cane sugar and other ingredients, to be ground for 24-48 hours. The first part of this process reduces the particles down to smaller than 15 microns, enough to feel like smooth silk on the tongue.
The second part of grinding process is known as conching. This helps to evaporate some of the stronger tasting flavors, which brings the subtler notes into balance for the finished chocolate. The result of this step is referred to as chocolate paste or chocolate liquor (not the alcoholic kind)
The chocolate paste is then tempered through a disciplined heating and cooling process that creates the ideal crystal formation in the chocolate and gives it the shine, and snap that we look for in a fine chocolate bar.
Tempered chocolate paste is poured into artistically designed molds.
Carefully sourced and hand prepared inclusions are added into chocolate bars.
The bars are placed into a refrigeration system, to quickly cool and set the tempering process.
Once settled, molds are removed from refrigeration and chocolate bars are meticulously de-molded.
Once cooled each bar is hand wrapped into a heat resistant gold wrapper and placed into a beautiful locally sourced high quality paper package.
Packaged chocolate bars are carefully delivered to Managua where they embark on a climate controlled journey to you.
You see Oro Chocolate for sale.
It’s your turn.