Hello and good day!
At the beginning of Anna Karenina, Tolstoy has a famous line about the difference between happy and unhappy families. He writes, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
This notion can be applied to just about any successful endeavor. Because as far as I can tell, there are really only two steps needed to achieve most goals.
Spend the time and energy needed to learn the details of a successful outcome. Then, execute on the details. People and families and organizations who do these two things consistently will tend to get what they are after.
From my experience, it is the time and energy required to even know what the heck you are supposed to be doing in the first place that is the hard part.
Once you know what to do, you just do it.
Acknowledging your ignorance and conducting a focused search for truth is something that a lot of people don't want to do. Especially if the search takes years and years.
Most people don't know what it takes to hold a good marriage together when they first get married. Most people don't know how to be a good parent when they first have kids. Most business owners don't even really know what their customers want until 3 or 4 years in. You have to intentionally seek out the success criteria if you want things to turn out well.
One of the comments we get from our wonderful chocolate customers all the time is that we've spoiled them for other chocolate.
I can relate to this because we've spoiled ourselves for other chocolate as well. From time to time, I come across another company's chocolate that I genuinely enjoy. But it doesn't happen often.
Most chocolate companies either haven't taken the time to learn the success criteria for a delicious chocolate or they refuse to execute.
It took us a solid 3 to 4 years to really nail it down. That was just to fully understand all the details of a good outcome. Then we had to build processes around the details. Then we had to manage the processes. We are still managing the processes to this day.
Here are some of the details we had to learn in order to make a chocolate that spoils people for other chocolate.
Good cacao is necessary. Good cacao means that the genetic variety must have the inherent genetic potential for delicious flavor.
The terroir where cacao trees grow must be healthy and well cared for and the trees must be maintained properly and regularly.
Cacao should be harvested at the proper ripeness, as determined by the color of the pod.
It is important to separate rotten cacao from perfectly ripe cacao on harvest day.
We are one of the only companies we know of that separates out rotten cacao from clean cacao on individual farms. No rotten cacao makes it into our chocolate.
Cacao should begin its fermentation process the same day it is harvested. This is when the sugary mucilage that surrounds cacao seeds in the pod is at its thickest and most abundant and this helps for success in fermentation. Fermentation is what gives chocolate its chocolate flavor.
The wooden fermentation boxes should be of the right height and width and the correct wood should be used. Cacao should be completely fermented but not over fermented. Under fermented cacao is acidic and funky. Over fermented cacao tastes rotten and hammy and funky.
To properly ferment cacao, cacao must be mixed regularly for aeriation and also to ensure a consistent ferment across every single cacao bean. Several chemical measures should be taken and recorded every day for every lot. These chemical measurements tell you if your cacao is on the correct trajectory and whether any remedial actions need to be taken.
After fermentation, cacao needs to rest for a day before going out under the sun to dry.
Drying cacao must be measured with a meter for moisture content. You can only take drying cacao out of the sun once the exact moisture is reached and when it is reached, you must act quickly to take the cacao off of the dryer beds.
Cacao should be shipped in food grade jute bags.At the port of export, cacao should not be left sitting on the dock exposed to the air. Port air tends to be fishy and salty and if your cacao absorbs these aromas, it can have an adverse effect.
The inside of the shipping container should be lined with heat resistant material and bags filled with moisture absorbing beads should be hung all along the container's ceiling.
Weather patterns, yeast volume in the air, and soil conditions can all make a difference.
Prior to making chocolate, a tasting panel must analyze the cacao to understand the unique flavor characteristics of the year's harvest.Once the cacao's flavor is well understood, a recipe and roasting profile must be decided upon.
In our case, there are standard recipes and roasting profiles already developed, but they may be adjusted slightly from year to year to produce an optimal result based on the specific nature of the year's harvest.
Roast is the most important part of developing flavor in the chocolate making process. Too light of a roast won't bring out the full flavor potential of the cacao. Too dark of a roast will overwhelm the flavor of the cacao and all you will taste is the roast and not the cacao.
High powered mills that grind cacao to a certain micron level will determine texture. Deodorized cocoa butter can be added to make the chocolate smoother and creamier and easier to work with. Texture and ease of use are especially important for professional cooks, chefs, and chocolatiers.
Finally, when shipping chocolate, you must be extremely cognizant of the temperature along the entire shipping route. If it is too hot anywhere along the line, we have to ship our chocolate in a refrigerated container.
This is just a smattering of the details we manage day in and day out, year after year, to make delicious chocolate.
There is much more that I have omitted due to lack of space.
Now that we know what to do, it is up to us to decide if we will execute or not and that decision will determine our success. There are a million ways for us to mess it up. But only one way for things to turn out happily.
Thank you so much for your time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!
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