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In 2019, I had conducted a bean to bar tasting workshop where I highlighted the entire bean to bar process and in the end we tasted cacao nibs, cacao butter, our single origin bars and inclusion bars.
In Q&A, a lady asked me why do we call ourselves artisanal chocolates when we rely on machines to process cacao to chocolate.
This was a good question and after collecting my thoughts, I answered, “While machines achieve a certain parameter, its up to us, as craftsmen, to control when to stop/start those machines”. The lady was puzzled, however, it made sense in my head before I said it. I elaborated further to address her still unanswered question.
Any for-profit chocolate maker, big or small, has to rely on machines. Whether it be a roaster, a cracker, winnower, stone melanger, conche, temperer (debatable, since it can be done by hand), molder, refrigerator and finally packer (by hand or machine).
So, out of the above 9 steps highlighted above, you can avoid machines in tempering phase, molding or in packing phase. Hence, 6 out of the 9 steps require some sort of “machine”. In addition, when you have grown in size, you can’t possibly temper by hand; its time consuming and inconsistent. Just because a chocolate bar is tempered by hand does not mean the chocolate makers “artisanal” appeal has gone for a toss. This same chocolate maker will still have to rely on machines to roast, crack, winnow, refine & conche, and refrigerate the chocolate that’s being tempered by hand.
In my opinion, the art of chocolate making is in several things. Its knowing how to work/process the high quality cacao beans into chocolate. Mind you, the bean profile changes from season to season, hence utmost attention is given to each step to ensure we bring out those nuanced profiles in chocolate.
The art lies in roasting, it takes experience to know at what temperatures to roast a particular batch, and for how long. A roasting machine will only adhere to the parameters set by the chocolate maker.
The art lies in refining and conching. One needs to have a knack to judge if it’s time to be removed for the melanger or the conche. Too early and its slightly acidic, too late and you’ve lost the fruity and floral notes of the bean.
The art lies in knowing the balance of sugar to add in chocolate. Also in knowing what inclusions work best with your chocolate.
At Binge, we have grown a certain size, and have started focusing on consistency, in all parameters, to make sure we are profitable and that the business can sustain itself.
What remains fairly consistent from one batch to another, is the size & weight of the bar, balance of sugar to cacao, low shell content, particle size of chocolate (20-22 microns) and the temper of chocolate.
What remains fairly inconsistent from one batch to another, is the profile of cacao bean, fat content, roast & conch profile.