Fabrication begins when the dried cacao beans (which are actually seeds that grow in pods) arrive at the factory. Batches of beans are sorted, roasted, winnowed and then ground into chocolate. At this stage, organic cane sugar from the Green Cane Project in Brazil is added, and, for milk chocolate, dried organic whole milk from Manitoba. After about a month of aging, this chocolate is melted, tempered and moulded into bars.
The cacao beans are scooped out of their burlap bags, weighed, and then placed on large trays where they are sorted in order to remove anything that will not make good chocolate: foreign matter, broken beans, flat beans and double beans (two beans stuck together). The beans we get from our brokers are, by and large, very clean, but some sorting is always needed.
The roasting stage is the first opportunity for chocolate makers to develop the flavour of a particular batch of chocolate, and it is also the most influential step in guiding the final flavour of the batch. Depending on the cacao’s inborn flavour, light roasting will preserve acidic notes, while a heavier roast will develop darker chocolate flavours. At regular times during the roasting, individual beans are removed from the oven, cracked open, and tasted to determine the moment when roasting should stop so that the chocolate will have the best flavour balance.
Cracking and Winnowing
What we usually refer to as 'cacao beans' are actually seeds that grow inside the cacao pod, which is the fruit of the Theobroma Cacao, or the cacao tree. Like other seeds, such as sunflower seeds, the shells of cacao seeds are inedible, so it’s necessary to separate the shells from the edible parts—the cacao nibs. For this, we use a combination of two machines, one that shatters the roasted seeds and shells while another (the winnower) sucks the shell fragments into a large plastic box while the heavier nibs fall through a pipe into a bucket. The nibs will go on to the crushing machine while the shell fragments (which have a strong chocolate flavour) will be used in drinks or baking.
Formulating and Refining
Once the winnowing is done, it’s time to make chocolate! Based on the taste of the roasted nibs, for each batch the best ratio of cacao to sugar will be decided. For instance, 74% cacao to 26% sugar or 80% cacao to 20% sugar. At this point the portion of nibs that will be in the batch and the quantity of organic sugar to be added is weighed out. The nibs go into a machine called a melanger, which is a large stainless steel bucket inside of which two grinding wheels rotate. As the wheels turn and the bucket rotates, nibs are poured in, scoop by scoop. The nibs are crushed ever smaller until, after about a day, the chocolate changes from a lumpy mixture to a shiny smooth paste. The sugar is then added and the machine continues its work for the next 4 to 5 days. Finally, the smooth, shiny chocolate is poured into large blocks and rested for about a month.
Tempering, Molding, and Wrapping
This is the last stage of our process, the stage that completes the cacao's magical transformation. Chocolate tempering is an important and precise process that involves melting the chocolate to 115ºF, letting it cool to 82ºF, then bringing the temperature back up to 89ºF, at which point the chocolate is in temper. This means that when it sets it will be glossy, it will not melt in your fingers, it will crack with an audible snap, and, as it slowly melts in your mouth, its flavour notes will be revealed. Once the chocolate has been tempered, it is poured into molds and after it solidifies, it is wrapped by hand, ready for you to enjoy!