Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Getting our Chocolate Fix in Grenada!

Loving chocolate as we do, we were excited to find out there is a famous chocolate factory in Grenada! The Grenada Chocolate Factory is the smallest chocolate factory in the world! As part of our island tour of Grenada with Cutty, our Grenadian tour guide, we were able to see the chocolate-making up close.  Though the factory is small in size, the chocolate produced is large on taste.  

Photo Credit: Grenada Chocolate Company website
The Grenada Chocolate Company makes organic dark chocolate from bean to bar with cocoa grown by a farmer cooperative on the tiny island
of Grenada (tree-to-bar) that sells its cacao directly to the company. Rare Trinitario cocoa beans are grown by members of the Grenada Organic Cocoa Farmers’ Cooperative. The cocoa trees grow on small farms in the rain forest, protected by nutmeg, banana and mango trees. Harvesting is done year-round as the cocoa pods are ready, and the beans go up the hill to the Grenada Chocolate Company's small solar-powered factory to be made into chocolate.

The first thing we noticed when we arrived was the tantalizing aroma of chocolate! We leapt out of the bus and ran toward the building, with visions of chocolate bars dancing in our heads.  

We were given a tour of the chocolate factory, located in a small house, by Edmond Brown, a chocolate maker and tour guide extraordinaire. Vintage and handmade machinery is used to meet the requirements of small-batch chocolate making, while solar energy powers the machines, including the ancient cocoa-roaster.

Here are the steps in the chocolate making process:

Credit: Grenada Chocolate Company website

We saw the process from the roasting phase to the molding phase, and more importantly, the tasting phase.

The process begins with roasting the cocoa beans. The roaster is an antique from Germany called the Barth Roaster.  The proper degree of roast is essential. Too heavy or too light a roast of beans will not produce tasty chocolate and the margin is small. Roasting cocoa consequently requires close attention and a keen sense of taste and smell of the roaster operator.

Next is the winnowing phase. Roasted cocoa beans are poured from the top floor of the house through a chute on the top of the winnowing/grinding machine. Winnowing is the process of removing the outer shell from the cocoa beans. The machine then grinds the cocoa beans.

Here are the ground cocoa beans which will be transferred to another room for the next process. 

Mixing with Sugar: Sugar is well mixed into the liquid cocoa using a machine called a melangeur. Both the sugar and cocoa solid particles are ground down smaller and smaller while more and more fat is released from the cocoa.  The sugar/cocoa mixture becomes smoother and remains a thick liquid known as chocolate “paste,” now ready for the refining and conching process to follow.

Refining is the final grinding of all particles in the liquid chocolate together to produce an even extremely smooth texture in which no grit can be detected on one’s tongue or pallet.

Conching is a long process of intense mixing, agitating, and aerating of heated liquid chocolate. During this long process various off-flavored, bitter substances as well as water vapor evaporate away from the chocolate. The long intense mixing action assures complete coating of every solid particle with cocoa butter, giving the chocolate a well developed and delicious flavor and texture.

The chocolate is now ready for the final phase of preparation. A machine called a tempering kettle has a built-in depositor that allows a set volume of chocolate to be delivered each time it is activated so the bars are consistent in size. The filled molds are placed on a vibration table, which shakes the chocolate for a few seconds allowing it to evenly fill the mold cavity and release air bubbles. Kimon Thomas, chocolate maker, is shown removing the molds to be placed on cooling racks to solidify. After about twenty minutes the molds are turned upside down to release the finished solid chocolate bars which are then wrapped by hand in our special packaging and put away to age.  It is very important to age chocolate for several weeks before selling because, as with most fermented foods, the flavors change drastically during this period. Chocolate takes on its full level of desired wonderful taste only after this aging period. Divine!

Finally, the best part of the tour... the chocolate tasting! Cutty, our island tour guide is shown setting out the various bowls containing chocolate. We tasted organic chocolate bars of 60%, 71%, 82% and 100% cacao, as well as 60% with nibs and 71% with sea salt.  It was fun to compare the taste all of the chocolates side by side. The 100% was very bitter and is used for cooking only.  I liked the 71% and the 82% the best.  The 60% with nibs had little bits of crunchy bits and the 71% had sea salt on the bottom.  Good, but not my favorite. 

Chocolate tasters in action! 

Cutty was a very fine tour guide indeed to include this delightful experience in our island tour! We plan to take a trip to the Belmont Estate to see where the cocoa is grown and harvested. Stay Tuned!

No comments: