Hello and good day!
In the Netflix documentary Bitter Chocolate, part of the Rotten series, the head of marketing for a huge multi-national, industrial chocolate making company says one of the most revealing things.
They ask him what makes their chocolate so great. Now mind you, this is the head guy in charge of pitching the product. He is in charge of the company line.
His response is that they make the smoothest chocolate on the market. It is super velvety and buttery. He also points to the consistency of their product.
They have the most cutting edge technology available and that allows them produce a texture and mouthfeel that is unmatched.This is what they hang their hat on. They can use their machines to produce massive amounts of extremely smooth chocolate.
I don't like that. I don't like it one bit.Don't get me wrong. Mouth feel is important.
That is one of the reasons why we are so passionate about our chocolate making partner Max Felchlin AG.Felchlin is a 120 year Swiss chocolate maker. And the Swiss are fanatical about smoothness and mouth feel.
I'll put the mouth feel of any of our Fortunato No. 4 chocolates up against any other chocolate in the world.
We may not be number 1, but we wouldn't look like rookies either. Of course texture is important. But to my mind, it isn't more important than flavor. If you want to tell somebody why your chocolate is the best, flavor should be a part of that discussion.
Unfortunately, most big industrial companies can't tout flavor as one of their key selling points, because the cacao they use is inherently not going to be the best flavor wise.
I'm not making the claim that the cacao we use is the absolute best tasting in the world. Taste is subjective.
Each chocolate lover has to decide for themselves.
We are partial to the cacao we use, but there are many, many, many great sources of cacao all over the world.There are too many good cacao origins for me to even put a list together. It would be too long.
You'd probably have to list at least one region from literally every single cacao growing country.However, those cacaos are not the ones making it into industrial chocolate on the whole. To see what I mean by that, lets take a look at several of the factors needed to source a really great tasting cacao.
First, you should consider genetics. The genome of a cacao determines its flavor profile.Most modern hybrid industrial cacaos have been bred for productivity and disease resistance, not flavor.
It is primarily these modern hybrids that are planted on the high volume farms which supply the industrial chocolate supply chain Which brings me to my next point.
Second, you have to look at terrior.Has the jungle been clear cut for plantation cacao farming? Or is the cacao growing in an agroforestry environment, surrounded by ecological diversity, and receiving its nutrients from healthy, nourished soil?
Is the cacao well adapted to it's environment? Does it live in symbiosis with the other plant and animal life? Or are the trees growing on a monocrop farm, in soil that is being strip mined and that needs constant doses of chemical fertilizer to maintain the productivity of trees?
Third, you need to look at post harvest processing.
Is the processing being done in an organized and professional manner? Are metrics being checked several times daily to make sure that the cacao is fermenting properly?
Fermenting and genetics are probably the two biggest factors that determine flavor in the country of origin.Poor fermentation ensures that the cacao will taste bad, even if the genetics are great and the terroir is healthy.
We are obsessive about fermentation and drying. That is why we centralize this in a facility that we operate.
Almost all cacao in industrial chocolate is fermented by individual farmers on their own farms.They don't have the capital to build a proper set up. They have the technical education to manage the process correctly.
And they don't have the time to do it right. Nor do they get paid more for doing it well, so there is little incentive.Ultimately, the quality of the cacao doesn't really matter for mass produced chocolate.
For the same reason that most coffee you buy in the grocery store is dark roasted.It you are just going to douse it with cream and sugar anyhow, what does it matter what the coffee tastes like?
I've had the opportunity to spend some time with world class coffee experts and every single one made it clear to me that in order to truly taste the flavor of a coffee, it needs to be light roasted.
However if the genetics aren't good, or if the post harvest processing of a coffee isn't done right, all of the imperfections will be more obvious in a light roast. With a dark roast, you just taste the roast.
Load it up with other non coffee ingredients and it really doesn't matter how good the coffee is.
Same with chocolate.
If the cacao is destined to be dark roasted and loaded down with vanilla and sugar, you don't need good cacao. You'll have the recognizable flavor of dark roasted cacao and then you'll get your taste buds lit up by the sugar and the vanilla. And of course you'll get that all important smooth texture....
This all came to my mind yesterday when I had a quiet moment alone with our 68% dark chocolate. It is a simple chocolate, just three ingredients. Organic cacao, organic sugar, and a little added cocoa butter for smoothness.
This is something that almost no industrial chocolate company would be willing or able to sell....a simple 2 or 3 ingredient dark chocolate.
You can only produce and sell this if the cacao is handled well at the origin.
If you are buying massive quantities willy nilly, you will always have to hide the flavor of the cacao itself.
By the way, even our milk chocolates are quite simple compared to other milk chocolates on the market. But getting the ingredients in milk chocolate to bind into a solid mass is a little more tricky.
Here is my conclusion from thinking through all of this. For something to be both simple and very good, the ingredients must be of high quality.
This applies to food and it also applies to people. I think it applies to everything in life.
It applies to elegant mathematical equations as well. For a mathematical equation to be both profoundly useful and simply expressed, the thinking that led to the equation must be extremely deep.
For a person to by genuinely happy, to give every person they meet a simple, warm, smile. To be able to act in a simple and resilient way when facing adversity...
Their inner life must be extremely well prepared and meticulously cultivated. The simple goodness of the result comes from a lot of hard work behind the scenes.
To carry the metaphor back to chocolate, you can try to paper over the result with outward appearance, smoothness, and expensive machinery. But the if the fundamentals are bad, you'll need to add complexity.
Simple quality requires tremendous legwork and thought at the ground level. It requires a deep concern with the fundamentals.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!