31 Mar 2016
Tan Bun Skrati: growing and processing…
Terroir, fermenting and drying
Each of the gardens gives the trees in it a specific terroir. The process to bring that out in the flavour profile of the chocolate is truly an art. It is best compared to the way small wine makers work their vines and grapes. We now harvest from around 100 trees: 50 old ones (up to 60 years old) and 50 young ones (3 years old). We care for both the tree and the fruit, do the whole processing from beginning to end. From tree to bar.
This enables us much greater control in steering taste over traditional bean-to-bar chocolate making (both artisan and industrial). Again – like in winemaking – terroir and post-harvest treatment are essential in flavour development. We find fermenting and drying to be the key steps. When these are carried out improper, later roasting and grinding degrades to correcting off-flavours, where they should be further steps in bringing out the fortes of the intrinsic flavours. But when the post-harvesting is done with care, the cacao will tolerate a low roast and a short grind. The more refined, lighter notes like blossoms, flowers and white fruit are retained, pleasantly complementing those of nuts and deep cacao.
That’s why we ferment and dry in micro batches. This way we can monitor and control temperature, aeration and humidity with great precision. Wet beans are fermented in boxes. Yeasts occurring naturally on the skin of the pods start up the process, later to be taken over by airborne acetobacter bacteria that enter the heaps of beans when they are turned.
Controlled indoor drying mellows the cacao. Insect-free drying enables the storage of beans for years in their best possible condition. We can let the beans age naturally – without having to resort to the use of pesticides – to fully develop their intrinsic flavour profile.
As growing country chocolate makers, our beans are not transported over long distances and therefore don’t have to be fumigated. No chemicals are used during the production process either. The Pre-Columbian way of processing brought to present-day standards thus ensures the production of high-quality cacao which retains all of it’s beneficent nutrients.