Hello and good day!
Well.....I've allowed myself to go down a rabbit hole.
I've spent a bunch of time recently going back through the thousands of photos and pictures we have of cacao and chocolate processing.
And I think that I am going to start uploading all of our old videos to Vimeo, one at a time, and sharing them with you all.
This will let you see with your own eyes what it is like to harvest and process cacao and make chocolate.
You'll see the heavy jungle rains beating down on the plastic coverings over our cacao drying beds, even while the sun is shining brightly in the background.
You'll see and hear the mud splattering off of motorcycle wheels as our crew makes their way out to remote cacao farms.
You'll hear interviews with cacao farmers.
And you will see our process in minute detail.
You'll also see me and my bro sweating and doing some dirty work.
Today's video is of a process we call "pre-drying".
It was the brain child of my brother Brian.
During the cacao fermentation process, a lot of vinegar and alcohol is created.
After fermentation, you generally take fermented cacao and lay it out under the sun to dry.
During the drying process, a thin shell is created around the cacao bean as the fermented, brown mucilage dries and hardens.
But there is a problem with this arrangement.
If you take cacao straight to the drying stage after fermentation, a lot of vinegar and acidity gets trapped inside the shell.
Down the line, this will lead to an astringent, acidic, sour chocolate.
The antidote to this to roast the crap out of the cacao at high heat, such that all of the natural flavors disappear.
You can then rebuild the "chocolate" flavor with artificial flavorings.
But if you want to actually taste the cacao and all it has to offer, we feel that an additional step is needed before the drying stage.
It used to be that we were very secretive about this step.
We thought that it gave us a competitive advantage.
We wouldn't even let visitors go in the room where it occurred, so they wouldn't see what we were doing.
We thought for certain that somebody would steal this knowledge from us.
But after several years, we came to see that we were being foolish.
In the first place, most cacao processing is done so haphazardly, that even if people found out about the process, it is highly unlikely that they would institute it.
In the second place, and more importantly, we've developed more of an abundance mindset as the years go on.
The more good chocolate there is in the world, the better.
There are enough chocolate lovers out there to support, many, many, many good chocolate companies.
So here is what we do in the "pre-dry" phase.
We take cacao out of the fermentation boxes and put it on tables that we've built in a cool, shady room.
We pile the cacao in a way that lets the cacao breathe.
This gives the cacao a chance to "de-gas".
Vinegar and alcohol dissipate.
We leave cacao in this state for several days and move the cacao around frequently, several times daily, timed by a stop watch.
We do this all day, every day.
This gives each cacao bean a chance to be in various places throughout the pile.
In between mixing, we cover the cacao with mesh so that animals or weird creatures do get into the cacao piles.
Of course the mesh needs to be breathable so as to not detour the degassing.
Here is the video so you can see for yourself what this looks like.