We are one of the few bean to bar chocolate makers that makes chocolate in the origin country. This comes with a whole host of challenges, but its worth it because by doing the value add transformation in Nicaragua, we get to:
- Foster deeper and more direct relationships with the farmers, and the cacao tree
- Source ingredients in a hyper local and seasonal way
- Employ more people in the cacao origin country
- Contribute the growing chocolate industry within Nicaragua
This more direct, localized farm to bar process gives rise to a variety of supply chain synergies. We also host farm and kitchen tours, followed by surf lessons (optional).
The beginning of the process for making fine chocolate is the most important step, it’s in the beans. We work with producers who cultivate rare varieties of cacao indigenous to Nicaragua. Unique 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.
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 purchase fermented and dried beans from our producers. Each micro-batch of cacao beans is then hand sorted, removing all undeveloped beans or debris that may have gotten into the sample.
Cacao beans are lightly roasted in micro-batches, with a carefully monitored taste evolution process. This is a highly subjective step where much of the flavor development happens.
Cacao beans have a hard outer shell that must be removed for chocolate making. This process is known as winnowing. The husk is great for making cacao tea or for composting into the garden.
Cacao nibs are loaded into a stone grinder, sometimes with cane sugar and other ingredients, to be ground for 24-72 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 chocolate is then tempered through a disciplined heating and cooling process that creates the ideal crystal formation in the chocolate resulting in that shine and snap that we all love in a quality chocolate bar.
Tempered chocolate is poured into molds, and then placed into the fridge for cooling and settling. Once settled, the chocolate is removed from refrigeration and finishes forming and is then carefully demolded.
Each bar is hand wrapped into a heat resistant gold wrapper and placed into a locally designed custom package.
Packaged chocolate bars make a carefully climate controlled journey to a retailer near you.
You eat all the chocolate.