by Darlene Duncan
Almost everyone enjoys good chocolate; however, few know or understand what goes into creating that luscious, mouthwatering delight. From the tree to retail is a long, labor intense journey.
I won’t bore you with all the details, instead I’ll give you a brief overview of the process from beginning to end.
First you have to have a cocoa tree. These grow best in tropical areas where there is a lot of shade and sufficient water, but not too much water. Too much water leads to root rot. Basically, cocoa trees grow within ten degrees either side of the equator.
Now that we have a plantation of cocoa trees growing in the right climate, we will have to wait five years before the first crop is ready.
The next step is to harvest the pods. This must be done carefully or the tree can be damaged, making it more susceptible to disease and cocoa trees are disease prone enough without any help.
Once the pods are off the tree they need to be split open so you can access the cocoa beans. Each pod averages 40 cocoa beans, some more some less. The best method for splitting the pod is to hit it with a wooden club. To split the pod in half your aim needs to be accurate as you whack it in the central area. Using a machete means you run the risk of damaging the beans.
Five days of fermentation in specialized boxes is followed by one to two weeks drying in the sun. Then comes the roasting, winnowing, milling and alkalization.
The above is a brief and very general overview of the process of creating the chocolate that is then used to create the end retail product. Keep in mind that it takes several hundred processed beans to create a single pound of chocolate.
This pound of chocolate isn’t the end product. The end product is created at the hands of a chocolatier. Preferably a chocolatier who is fussy about the chocolate they start with and even fussier about they what they do with that chocolate.
Sappho Chocolates is fortunate in that our chocolatier, Kathryn Neel, is very fussy about the chocolates she creates. Everything is taken into consideration in creating the final product, from the chocolate she begins with, to the physical appearance, flavor and mouthfeel* of the final product.
The Greeks named chocolate Theobroma, “Food of the Gods”. Sappho Chocolates does its best to make sure our chocolates live up to that name.
*For those of you unfamiliar with the word mouthfeel. It means what you would expect it to mean. Mouthfeel is all about how the chocolate feels in your mouth. Is it smooth and creamy? Is it coarse and grainy?