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Little Chocolate Details

Little Chocolate Details



Hello and good day!

No plan ever comes off exactly as you wish it would.

That is a fact of life and pretending that it isn't only leads to heartache and suffering.

In my opinion, the much wiser and more pragmatic approach is to steel yourself in advance of any undertaking, tempering your mind with an expectation that you will have to overcome a bunch of unexpected obstacles.

This way, when the obstacles make their appearance, as they surely will, you've already felt, and accustomed yourself to, the corresponding negative feelings.

As a result of these imaginings in advance, you don't become overwhelmed with emotion in the moment, and you are able to carry on with the necessary work.

There are a lot of little details that go into making delicious chocolate.

Over the last fifteen years we've identified many variables and built processes to manage them.

The work stars out on cacao farms.

You want to harvest fruit at its correct ripeness.

If a cacao pod is still green when it is cut off the tree, the beans will be overly acidic, and the sugary mucilage won't be liquid or sweet enough to facilitate a proper ferment.

On the other hand, if you harvest the pod after it has passed through yellow and become golden brown, the seeds will be rotted on the inside.

We prefer that cacao pods be broken open on a rock rather than cut with a machete.

Farmers prefer to use a machete because they are extremely dexterous with machetes, but no matter how adept they are, they inevitably slice seeds inside the pod, causing the seeds to ferment incorrectly.

I could go on and on listing all the details we keep track of.

As it pertains to quality breakdowns during the harvest itself, see the first photo above.

This is what we call the pre-selection.

When the cacao buying team comes back in the evening after being out on farms all day, our processing team goes through the day's harvest with a fine-tooth comb.

We do a high-level separation of rotten cacao out on farms.

During the pre-selection we are looking for additional rotten cacao that fell through the cracks, seeds sliced by machetes, germinating cacao with roots sticking out, husks, pieces of the internal placenta that holds seeds in place inside the pod, and any other debris that we don't want in our chocolate such as pebbles or small insects.

We mix the discard from this selection in with the rotten cacao that we separate on farms.We throw it all on the ground in a blob to dry under the sun. Then we sell it to an industrial cacao buyer a few days later.

They are happy to buy it and we are happy to sell it and it ends up in your mainstream industrial chocolate.

The pre- in pre-selection refers to putting the cacao in fermentation boxes.

After this selection is done, our cacao begins the fermentation process.

We do yet another selection after fermentation, but I won't go into detail on that now.

Long story short, we select out 5 times between buying cacao on a farm and exporting cacao for use in making chocolate.

The point of mentioning all this is to show that it wouldn't make any sense to deny the possibility of rotten cacao and debris slipping through the cracks.

It always does, always has, and always will.

We recognize this reality and plan accordingly.

The second photo above is of three pallets of chocolate from the shipment that we just received. The good news is that our chocolate made it in the nick of time.

We were ten days away from running out of our 36% milk chocolate.

This was one of the most surprising shipments yet.

From Switzerland, the shipment traveled to Antwerp, Belgium.

It was supposed to sail straight to the Port of Houston, but instead it first went to a port in France and then to a port in Germany.

That has never happened before.

The reason given for the detours was the need to consolidate loads.

This is a sign that global demand for shipping is decreasing.

When the shipment finally made it to Houston, it was cleared in record time.

It cleared so fast that it caught us off guard. Tip of the cap to the port of Houston.

That's why we like coming through Houston. They operate very efficiently.

The truck shot straight from Houston and showed up a day early to our storage facility.

We didn't realize that our pallet jack was leaking fluid, so I had to make an emergency dash to an equipment rental business here in town.

I shoved the pallet jack into the hatchback of my beat up old Rav4 and hightailed it over to my brother Brian who was managing the unloading.

As an aside, I drive a beat up old Rav4 specifically because I find myself doing this kind of thing quite frequently. Whatever car I drive is destined for a beating.

When the pallets came down from the freight truck, we saw something frightening and brand new.

Our chocolate making partner in Switzerland vastly overloaded the pallets.

We've never seen this before.

If you are loading and unloading pallets with a forklift, you wouldn't notice.

But we don't use a forklift.

We order a cargo truck with a liftgate and then we pallet jack the pallets into place.

A normal pallet would have five rows of boxes stacked, six at most.

Several pallets were stacked eight and ten rows high.

The pallets with 8 rows weighed 2,100 pounds each.

The pallets with 10 rows weighed 2,600 pounds.

That much weight breaks the supports underneath the pallets and that much height causes the stack to lean menacingly.

That is a lot of weight to have tipping in your direction.

What should have taken an hour and been something very simple, turned into a multi-hour fiasco.

Thankfully, we are so used to things going wrong, that we were able to take it in stride.

We'll have a better plan ready if this happens again next time.

It is a little strange to be thankful that you have a high tolerance for mishaps.

It can only mean that you've dealt with a lot of crap over the years.

It's not something that most people would consider a blessing.

Did you ever see a parent in the store with a child who is throwing a temper tantrum?

They're on the ground wailing with snot and tears gushing out.

New parents try to reason with the child, or they begin to scold.

Either approach only drags out the spectacle.

A seasoned parent walks stoically away, and the child comes running after them.

You walk the munchkin into a private place where you can settle the score without ruining everybody else's good time.

You only develop that level of self-control by living through many public tantrums.

Anyhow, all's well that ends well.

We have enough chocolate to get us through the holiday season and the weather will be cool in most of the country starting next week.

There will unquestionably be obstacles to overcome as we get into our busy time of year, and you can count on your friends here at Fortunato Chocolate to knock them down one at a time.

We hope that you can do the same with whatever challenges you have to face.

Thank you so much for your time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!


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