Great chocolate can only be made by using exceptional cacao. We’re really proud of our chocolate bars and owe so much to the dedicated work of the people who came before us in the process of making our chocolate; the cacao farmers at the origins from which we source. To find out more about this, please see our Origins page.
Here we talk about what happens once we receive our beans after an exciting delivery; our favourite day in the workshop!
The first stage for us is to hand sort each batch of cacao to remove any unwanted or damaged beans, ensuring that we consistently only use the best quality beans.
Next we roast in micro-lots using our small but mighty little rotating drum oven, which started life intended as a coffee bean roaster. Humble it may be, however it does allow us to manage our roasting profiles to suit the style and nuance of each bean while affording us the flexibility to adjust time and temperature to develop the profiles we want. We’re also big fans of using a rotating drum oven as the constant movement exposes each bean to an even roast. This means we can consistently roast each bean variety to develop the flavours and aromas we want to express in the final bar. Once we have a roasted bean, this is allowed to cool fully and we then go through a two phase process referred to as ‘crack and winnow’.
3. Crack & Winnow
Cracking breaks the cacao bean (or seed) up into small pieces that include the outer shell or husk. The shell of the cacao bean isn’t wanted to make chocolate (though it has a number of uses including as an organic fertiliser), so the winnow phase is a process that separates the shell from the rest of broken bean, which is known as the nib. We do this using a simple set up that involves a network of pipes and a vacuum to suck up and away the lighter shell and allow the heavier nibs to fall into a separate compartment ready for the next phase.
4. Grind & Conch
Once we have the nibs, it’s time to grind and conch them. We do this to refine or reduce the particle size of the nib, so that when made into a chocolate bar, it’s deliciously smooth and has no ‘gritty’ texture. This is a lengthy process and typically takes between 24-72 hours of continuous conching in a granite stone grinder, also known as a melanger. It’s during this phase, that we add our other ingredients; organic unrefined cane sugar, organic cocoa butter and, in our milk bars, milk powder.
This is a fascinating process as the constant friction caused by the movement of the nibs through the granite stone wheels of the melanger, mechanically reduces the size of the particles and also generates heat, resulting in the release of the cocoa butter naturally contained within the cacao nib. This creates a wonderful churn of liquid chocolate that continuously meanders over, under and round the melanger wheels, which helps drive off some of the volatile acids present in the bean that can negatively impact on the final flavour. This is a constant balancing act for us, as getting the right acidity really helps highlight some of the wonderful nuances in our beautiful beans.
The final three phases before wrapping are ageing, tempering and moulding into bars. We think it’s safe to say that tempering would be the one thing that gives chocolate makers the most headaches! Nick is a fairly cool tempered chocolate maker, but let’s just say this can occasionally make a grown man cry!
The process of tempering is essentially creating the best temperature conditions within the chocolate for a particular type of crystal (type V or 5) present in the cocoa butter to form together and crystallise in formation. Once this is achieved, you’ve found your sweet spot, which results in a smooth and glossy chocolate bar with the perfect snap, bite and melt in the mouth.
Type V crystals are the most desirable as they form with good gloss, texture and snap, which are the physical characteristics of really well tempered chocolate and are also understood to lock in flavour as their crystalline structure is stable and prevents the migration of fat that occurs in untempered chocolate and commonly referred to as ‘fat bloom’. While this is undesirable for the finished bars, if aged in this way, it can help develop the flavour profile by allowing volatile compounds to evaporate over time. We do this for some of our origins as feel that ageing in this way before tempering has a positive impact on the final flavour of our bars.
Our chocolate bars are sustainably wrapped in compostable glassine envelopes made from wood pulp and sealed with a compostable sticker. Our Green Door Chocolate boxes are printed with vegetable-based inks and can be composted or recycled in your usual paper/card recycling. Or keep forever!