Swedish Cocoa - Swedish Bean to bar
HOW IS CHOCOLATE MADE?
At Svenska Kakao, we believe that the bean-to-bar movement is all about prioritizing quality over quantity. Rather than relying on cheap, blended cacao sourced from various regions, we work directly with producers to source the highest quality cacao at premium prices. We are passionate about telling the story of where our chocolate comes from and showcasing the unique flavors and characteristics of each individual cacao bean that we use in our chocolate bars.
THE CACAO FRUIT
It all starts with the Theobroma cacao tree, which translates to "food of the gods" and is grown in regions around the equator. rNative to the upper Amazon region of Peru and originally cultivated by the Mayans and Aztec cultures, the cacao tree is the foundation for all chocolate produced worldwide. However, not all cacao is created equal. Genetics and growing conditions play a significant role in the potential quality of the beans and we search far and wide for that top grade to use in our unique single-origin chocolate bars.
The first half of the process plays out at origin by our producers. Harvesting cacao pods is the first critical step in the process of producing high-quality chocolate. The pods develop from tiny pollinated flowers on the cacao tree, and it takes approximately 140 days for the pods to fully mature after pollination. It's crucial to harvest the pods at their peak ripeness. If harvested too early, there won't be enough sugar in the pulp to drive a good fermentation. If harvested too late, the beans can germinate in the pod, rendering them useless. The window for perfect ripeness can be as narrow as 7-10 days. Once ripe, the pods are carefully cut from the trees by hand and collected into heaps to be cracked open, and the beans are removed. This process is typically done in the field, and the empty pods are left to decompose back into the soil, providing nutrients to feed future tree growth.
Fermentation is hands down one of the most critical steps in the entire chocolate-making process. Without proper fermentation, cocoa beans are devoid of the wonderfully complex array of flavors that make chocolate distinctively "chocolatey." The freshly harvested beans, still covered in a wet sugary pulp, are collected in heaps or boxes to naturally ferment for 3-7 days. Fermentation facilitates a complex array of chemical reactions that not only kill the seed and prevent it from germinating but also develop all the flavor precursors required for an outstanding chocolate bar. This process is dependent on the skill of the farmer and dictates the future potential of the cacao. We rely heavily on the expertise of the producers we work with to provide us with a solid foundation that we can build upon.
Drying is the next pivotal process in the development of the cocoa bean. This is the step that can take an average cocoa bean and make it sing. As moisture is reduced, fermentation begins to slow down, but the flavor and color of the bean continue to develop and change. Slow and careful sun-drying can greatly reduce acidity in the bean, as well as developing the signature brown color of the finished chocolate. This 5-7 day process is complete when the moisture content of the bean reaches 6-8%. Higher than that, and the beans will develop internal mold that will render them useless. The beans are then sorted and bagged up and are ready for export.
When the cacao arrives at the factory our job starts. Firstly, we hand sort every bean that is roasted to ensure quality and proper size. After that comes the first and most crucial step in unleashing the unique flavor of each cacao bean is the roasting process. Through this intricate process, a complex set of chemical reactions takes place that not only develops the delicious chocolate flavor of the bean but also tempers and removes the bitter notes. At Svenska Kakao, we delicately roast each bean in our rotation convection ovens. We take the time to craft a distinctive roasting profile for each bean and often blend roasting profiles to produce a one-of-a-kind flavor for our chocolate. Properly executing this step is second in importance only to sourcing, as it is essential to achieving delicious chocolate. Each bean origin is roasted differently according to its flavor profile, allowing us to maximize the unique flavor of each bean.
The next step is to remove the husk from the roasted and cooled cocoa bean. We crack the beans into small pieces and use air to remove the lighter husk from the heavier or more dense nib. Removing all the husk is vital, as it can lead to off-flavors in the chocolate. The nib is collected and ready for making chocolate, while the husk is used for tea or sometimes even garden mulch.
The transformation of the nibs and sugar into chocolate begins with grinding the nibs into a rough paste. This initial grinding reduces the particle size of the nibs and begins the release of cocoa butter. The ground nibs, also known as chocolate liquor, are now ready for the sugar to be added. The sugar and liquor are allowed to mix and further grind until they are ready for the next step.
At this stage, the viscosity and flow properties of chocolate are a function of many interrelated variables, one of which is particle size. Sugar has a coarse and hard crystalline structure in contrast to the soft and fibrous nib. The cacao paste is loaded into a ball mill and refined using the friction of 40,000 thermal-hardened steel balls.
After milling the chocolate, the next step is conching. The milled chocolate contains particles of perfect size but not perfect shape. The flavor of the chocolate will be on the brighter side, still retaining many of the initial bitter notes. Conching is a prolonged period of agitation, stirring, or aeration under heat that allows the chocolate flavor to mature and develop. This process generally takes between 24 and 72 hours, but the duration can be shorter or longer depending on the chocolate. Proper conching brings out the flavor notes of the chocolate at their peak, giving the chocolate a glossy, silky-smooth appearance.
TEMPERING & MOLDING
The chocolate has undergone a lot by this stage and needs a brief rest. After the rest, the chocolate is melted and ready for tempering. Tempering is an elaborate process involving isolating a specific crystalline structure of cocoa butter that gives chocolate its wonderful sheen, snap, and melt properties. We use a sophisticated machine to achieve accurate tempering. Once we have achieved temper, the chocolate is deposited into bar molds and vibrated to eliminate as many bubbles in the chocolate as possible.
At Svenska Kakao we believe in letting the flavors of the beans shine, and we strive to create chocolate that will celebrate its unique origin.