Every Chocolate Has its Character
August 11 Artisan Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, Kulbeans Comment
Have you ever wondered why chocolate tastes the way it does?
Why a little nibble of one chocolate bar makes you smile in contentment and other makes you go like "oh noooo i don't like it" ?
The answer is - chocolate is a complex food and every dark chocolate bar has it has its own peculiar character.
This character is formed from many factors. First factor is genetic of course. The botanical classification is extremely broad. There are 4 main genetic types and numerous disputes among botanists and scientists about them.
Second factor is terroir which is an influence of climate, soil and other plants around the crop.
Third is the fermentation technique. And this is when human factor starts first impacting the taste of the future chocolate bars. The impact defined by the duration and technique farmers use on their beans. During our cacao hunts we have seen various methods - starting from beans just being out there on the ground, to baskets and heaps covered and lined by plantain leaves, to modern, temperature controlled fermentation facilities.
So when cacao beans finally get into the hands of the chocolate maker, its character is already shaped by genetic heritage, terroir, farmers who fermented it, but it is yet to be defined by the chocolate maker.
Today at K'UL we were roasting a batch of our Haitian beans and also experimenting with new beans from Nicaragua. Roasting is crucial to future chocolate flavor and has the same importance in chocolate as it has in coffee. Unlike coffee, which roasts anywhere from 400-460 F, cocoa beans need more gentle treatment. It roasts anywhere from 190 to 325 F (as we have heard, but although we never go so high) for the duration of 5 to 35 minutes. And - there are NO RULES or any rigid and defined approach. It all depends on the chocolate maker's palate, perception, experience and personal preferences. Chocolate makers usually start to roast at a lower temperature and then taste the beans every 5 to 10 minutes to feel the flavor and amount of remaining acid to make the important decision - how long should the roast last? How high in temperature to go? This is when the character and mood of the chocolate maker becomes part of the flavor profile and this is exactly why two batches of chocolate even from the same beans are never going to taste exactly the same.
This is why small batch craft chocolate is an adventure. Its flexibility in terms of production process allows chocolate makers to bring in beans with interesting genetic heritage, curated and handled with love and respect by growers, and then put effort and attention into carving these cacao beans into chocolate with personality and character.