Hello and good day!
For fifteen years now, our company has pursued the goal of making world class chocolate.
Taste is subjective and nobody can claim to make the world's best chocolate.
By world class, we mean that if you taste test our chocolate against the best chocolates in the world, it would be obvious that we belong in the conversation.
The "why" behind that goal has always been to pay our cacao farm partners in the district of Huarango in northern Peru, far, far higher prices than they could otherwise fetch.
The "how" for achieving the "why" is to make chocolate good enough to be considered fine flavored, thereby allowing us to charge prices sufficient to pass premiums back through the supply chain to the farm families
Along those lines, we buy only a single variety of cacao called pure Nacional. We buy it because its genetics give it the potential for producing very delicious chocolate.
See the first photo above.
That is the fellow our company is named after, Don Fortunato Colala.
We buy from 500 small family cacao farms, just like Fortunato's.
Our company carries out all of the post-harvest processing of the cacao we buy in our centralized post-harvest processing facility.
We're one of the few companies in the world that makes chocolate with cacao they've purchased direct from farmers and processed themselves.
I could write all day about the various little post-harvest processing details we monitor. I'll outline just a few here.
Take a look at the second photo above. Those are cacao fermentation boxes. We use Laurel wood and tongue and groove construction to build the boxes.Both details were the results of iteration and chosen for a reason.
Twice per day, we pull samples from every single box to check pH and heat. Inside a fermentation box, the cacao progresses at varying rates, depending on a seed's location within the box. Cacao at the bottom of the box is more insulated and has less exposure to oxygen.
It turns out that the best way to produce uniform processing results is through randomizing where any seed might be in the box at any given time.
In the background of the second picture above you can see a cart lined with a black plastic tarp. We wheel that cart up next to every box, every single day. Our team scoops out cacao into the cart. We hand mix the cacao and then scoop it back into the boxes.
Fermentation takes anywhere from 5 - 7 days depending on a number of factors.
The ripeness of the fruit when it is harvested will affect the sugar content of the mucilage that surrounds the seeds inside their pods. Mucilage sugar levels in turn impact the rapidity of the ferment.
Environmental yeast levels vary from year to year depending on a whole bunch of factors. I don't have space to list more of the variables that sway just the fermentation portion of post-harvest processing. But there are many, many more.
We measure heat and pH from 15 different spots inside of each box every day. We take five samples from the top, five from the middle, and five from the bottom. When measurements show every location in the box converging on optimal results, we know we are on the right track.
If we aren't seeing the results we want, we can make adjustments. We can adjust the quantity of fermenting cacao in a particular box. We can stir more than once to expose the cacao to additional oxygen and environmental yeast. We can allow the ferment to go longer or cut it short depending on the data.
This is just a sliver of what it takes out in cacao country to initiate the process of making world class chocolate.
From Peru, we send our cacao to Switzerland to have our chocolate made by Max Felchlin AG, a 110-year-old Swiss chocolate manufacturer. I'm already running long, so I can't go into complete detail here about how we initially made the decision to work with Felchlin.
But the main thing I want to tell you about is in the third picture above. Felchlin has refurbished vintage conches in their factory. Conching is the last step in the chocolate making process.
Its purpose is to distribute fat evenly throughout the chocolate so that flavor will be consistent from bite to bite, and also the act of sloshing liquid chocolate over a heating element evaporates out remaining acidity created during fermentation.
The modern version of a conche is a vertical metal cylinder with a tray around the outside. Boiling water is piped into the tray as the heating element and the process takes 6 - 10 hours.
The vintage conches at Felchlin were built in 1879 and are heated by friction. Conching takes 60 hours on the old machines This gives chocolate makers a chance to taste and make adjustments in order to produce optimal results, which mirrors our fermentation protocol.
We've been asked many times why we don't make chocolate in Peru or the United States and the answer is that we have yet to find a company in the US or Peru who can make chocolate as delicious as what Felchlin can make for us.
Since our "how" is to produce world class chocolate so that we can achieve our "why" of supporting our cacao farm partners in Peru, we are obliged to make the best chocolate we are capable of making.
This was all a primer to state something that I state every year on this day.
We don't do black Friday discounts.
Through a chance series of events, we figured out in 2020, after 12 years in business, that if we sell our chocolate direct to customers in the United States, we can offer a world class chocolate for about the same price per ounce as a mid-range bar of chocolate in the grocery store.
It is easy to understand why. Every item in the grocery store costs roughly three times what the manufacturer sells it for.
First, they sell it to a distributor.
The distributor sells it to the retailer.
Then the retailer sells it to you.
We don't do that.
We only sell direct.
As such, we can pass on savings, and we offer the lowest price we can possibly offer all year long. There is no space left in there for discounting.
And frankly, we'd rather be your everyday chocolate than a once per year chocolate anyhow, and that requires affordability.
I'm really running long now, so I have to start wrapping up.
Take a look at the fourth picture above.
I just put a new product online. Our key lime cookie milk chocolate bar is extremely popular in our retail shops.
Like all of our confections, the recipe springs straight from the mind of our talented and prolific chocolatier Javier Valencia.
And as is the case with all of our products, these bars are made lovingly by hand in our chocolate kitchen in Issaquah, Washington by our wonderful production team.
We dehydrate key limes and infuse our 36% milk chocolate with them. I strongly believe that the combination of acidity and milk chocolate is a match made in heaven.
Sweet, creamy, acidic. It is an excellent expression of balance. We add chocolate cookies for texture. What you end up with is a chocolate key lime pie in a bar, with the cookies as the crust.
The last thing I will say is this.
It is not easy to produce a product that both serious foodies and 8-year-old children can get on board with.
This bar does that.
Foodies appreciate the quality ingredients, balance of flavors, and creativity.
Kids love this bar because it is flat out delicious.
Fun fact, it is my 8-year-old son Levi's favorite product.
He frequently saves up his money to buy one of these bars and he is such a sweet kid that he shares with his brothers and parents back home.
We love you Levi!
If you'd like to consider one of our key lime milk chocolate cookie bars, simply click the link below. You will find it all the way at the bottom of the page.
Thank you so much for time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!
Follow us on Instagram - @fortunatonochocolate