Craft Chocolate: Why Buy It?

Why should you spend a little more to buy quality craft chocolate?

It’s a fair question, though we here at Patric Chocolate wonder, why wouldn’t you buy great craft chocolate? But we’re a little biased.   Below are just a few reasons that fine craft chocolate (like ours!) is some of the best food in the culinary world.

  • There are so many flavor components! While trying to understand what gives chocolate its flavor, food scientists have classified more than 600 different aromatic constituents. These components make chocolate one of the most complex of any food or beverage in the world, and this doesn’t even include the delicate flavor balance of slight acidity and sweetness that we taste as a bit of chocolate melts across the tongue. Woah!

 

  • Fermentation is key. Chocolate is made from fermented cacao seeds. This fermentation, as with any fermented food, adds complexity of flavor that doesn’t exist in the raw material, just like with wine, beer, and cheese.

 

  • Fermentation AND roasting is a winning combo. Chocolate is made from fermented, roasted cacao seeds. The roasting process adds additional flavors and helps create and strengthen the quintessential and inimitable “chocolaty” note. Flavor technologists have been trying to mimic chocolate’s flavor for many years and still have not come up with an acceptable substitute. (Chocolate is one of only a handful of foods that are both fermented and roasted, which is a large part of the reason chocolate is so complex.)

 

  • Origin matters. Different origin chocolates made with beans from one country, or even one farm, like our 67% Madagascar bar, can have as many differences as similarities, just like single-bean coffees, which is why the flavor profiles of different chocolates can seem like night and day. For example, some may be intensely fruity, while others are quite earthy with notes of tobacco.  Of course, if two or more  flavorful beans are blended together, like we do in our 70% Signature Blend, the results can be just as complex, but in new and intriguing ways.

 

  • Time matters. From freshly harvested seed to finished bar, chocolate can take longer to make than some types of beer, with the entire process lasting at least several weeks, and that doesn’t even take into account the time it takes to load them onto a boat and get them to our craft chocolate workshop!

 

Knowing these things, Patric Chocolate works hard to create a product that is as interesting and delicious as possible. So, though craft chocolate is often appreciated in small quantities, we won’t judge you for being unable to resist more than one bite of our enticing bars!

How it Was Made: The Limited-Edition Red Coconut Curry Bar (or) Dang! that’s good

The three of us at Patric Chocolate spend just as much time brainstorming new chocolate bars as we do producing our classics. The Limited-Edition chocolate bars have been a fun and delicious outlet for us to keep the creativity flowing as they continually challenge us to bring you the most exciting new flavors. A big part of the challenge is sourcing the best ingredients that enhance and highlight our incredible chocolate.

Chiles and spice are not necessarily groundbreaking in the chocolate world these days, but it’s a combination we especially love. Our daily lunches here are usually accompanied by jalapeno this or Sriracha that so it’s not a stretch of the imagination for any of us, but we wanted to take it a little further.

Fruity and spicy? Sweet and spicy? Spicy and spicy? We had a lot of ideas and then it hit us…

The Red Coconut Curry Bar!

But figuring out a way to convey such complex and distinct flavors through chocolate took a lot of time to work out, because lucky for all of you, we were not about to dump a bottle of fish sauce into our refiners.

A large part of our ingredient search was the coconut. First we tried toasting our own coconut.  Then we ordered a lot of coconut from other companies– a lot doesn’t actually begin to cover it– we ordered shredded coconut, coconut chips, raw coconut, toasted coconut, sweetened and unsweetened coconut, and we tried blending coconut oil into the chocolate too.  Nothing excited us.  But then, we struck gold.

“Dang!” exclaimed Aimee as she munched on a handful of toasted, sweet & salted coconut chips?  “Why are these so good?  What makes them so much better than the others?”

“Dang!” shouted Sara, “these coconut chips are unreal!”

The key was coconut from a company called “Dang.”

We went with Dang coconut, because it was the tastiest coconut we had ever tasted. “Dang” is a new company based in San Francisco, and also happens to be the name of the owner’s mother, who grew up in Thailand. This flavorful Thai coconut is Gluten-Free, perfectly sweet, and has a wonderful crunchy texture from its light roast, with just a hint of salt. The crunch of this coconut is the perfect match for the bite of this bar. We know that you’ll enjoy our latest blend of dark chocolate, Dang coconut, spicy chiles, ginger, and pure lemongrass & lime essences in this chocolaty version of a Thai favorite.  We’ll be surprised if you don’t exclaim “Dang!” yourself.

See you in the chocolate bar aisle,

Alan “Patric” McClure
Founder & Head Chocolate Maker

Working at Patric Chocolate: Guest Blogger Ilene

I started working for Patric Chocolate when I moved to Columbia about seven months ago. As a self-professed dark chocolate lover, I was looking forward to my new gig, though I would quickly learn I didn’t quite realize what I was getting myself into. It didn’t take long to recognize that my narrow view of fine dark chocolate and the reality of it were quite different. Below I shall relay my thoughts and experiences here at the factory (my coming of age story, if you will) in an informal blog for your reading pleasure:

Read more

The Chemistry of Chocolate Part 2: General Cocoa Bean Chemistry

Chocolate doesn’t just grow on trees. Well, actually it does…kind of. Chocolate is made from the fermented and dried seeds–often called cocoa beans–of a fruit, a large berry in fact, that grows on a tropical tree between approximately 20ºN and 20ºS. It was once commonly thought that two subspecies of cacao trees existed, Theobroma cacao ssp. cacao—commonly called Criollo—and Theobroma cacao ssp. sphaerocarpum—commonly called Forastero. However, more recent research suggests that the idea of two separate subspecies is incorrect, since though Criollo and Forastero populations certainly have differing phenotypes, they are sometimes far more similar than different, with some Criollo and Forastero populations being much more alike than either is similar to various hybrid populations. We will touch on this issue more in this installment of The Chemistry of Chocolate, as it is quite relevant to the chemistry-based role that genetics can play on the flavor of cacao. First, however, let it be noted that it is common in the chocolate industry, and especially in chocolate marketing within the industry, to talk about the following three categories of cacao: Criollo, Forastero, and Trinitario.

We have already seen the terms Criollo and Forastero, and the name “Trinitario” stems from the hybridized trees of Criollo and Forastero parentage in Trinidad following a “blast”—either disease-based or hurricane-based—in the first half of the 18th century. Because the name Trinitario had relevance in speaking of the first well-known hybrids of cacao, it gradually also came to be used in a generic sense by many people, for almost any hybrid, despite the fact that many hybrids have nothing to do with Trinidad as their origin. Therefore, though in Trinidad there is still said to be true Trinitario cacao, in the sense of it being closely genetically related to the original, and though some of this cacao was spread to other geographical regions, the term is generally more confusing than it is helpful. For this reason, I will not use the term Trinitario, but will use the more generic term “hybrid,” which, though leaving much to be desired, since it lacks the specificity needed to delineate the hundreds—at least—of cacao hybrids that now exist, will serve the purposes of the Chemistry of Chocolate series just fine. Finally, then, for ease of discussion, we can generally say that there are three main categories of cacao: Criollo, Forastero, and hybrids, and within each group there are certainly countless populations with divergences in phenotypes and flavor profiles of prepared samples, and this means that none of these categories can be seen as a single homogeneous “variety.” However, there are also some general rules that can be stated, which are gleaned from a study of the various populations that are generally seen as fitting within the three categories listed above. Let us first discuss Criollo.

We know that Criollo cacao was historically cultivated by the Olmecs–perhaps as early as 1000 BCE– and then the Maya in Central America and Southern Mexico, and it is likely that these Central American cacao populations had originally come from populations in western Venezuela and the surrounding areas, where such Criollo populations continue to exist, though often in slightly hybridized forms. Interestingly, Criollo matures more slowly, produces fewer fruit, and has low disease and pest resistance. With all of these seemingly negative qualities related to Criollo, one might wonder why the Olmecs and those pre-historic peoples who came before them even bothered to propogate it. The answer is likely in the flavor, in that the Criollo cacao populations are generally particularly nutty, mild, lacking bitterness and astringency, and therefore are often more subtle and pleasing as regards flavor. This being the probable case, despite the drawbacks of such cacao, it gradually came to be favored by certain indigenous peoples of Central America, finally making its way from its likely origin in Venezuela, up to Guatemala, Belize and southern Mexico. The underlying chemical reasons for the flavor of the Criollo cacao, which are related to the genetics of this type, are also quite interesting, and will give us a foundation for dealing with the chemistry of the other cacao types.

One clue that helps to unlock the mystery of the general flavor differences between categories of cacao, is that while Criollo seeds have white interiors prior to fermentation and drying, Forastero seeds have purple interiors. The missing purple chemical in Criollo is the same one that colors polyphenol-rich blueberries: a flavonoid bound to a sugar that, when taken as a whole, is called an anthocyanin glycoside. Though this compound itself is not thought to be bitter or astringent, it has been noted that where it is present in cacao, certain other flavonoids are present as well, and in higher amounts than in cacao with no purple pigment. These other flavonoids, such as catechin and epicatechin, tend to be bitter in their simpler non-complexed form, and in their complexed forms, somewhat less bitter but more astringent. Astringency is a dry/puckery feeling in the mouth caused by the higher molecular weight flavonoid polymers–often referred to as tannins–reacting with protein in the saliva and on the tongue, and though always present in cacao, in excess, the sensation can be quite unpleasant.

Interestingly, not only does the relative lack of these particular flavonoids lead to a less harsh product in the case of Criollo, which has about 2/3 of the amount that Forastero has, but the balance of flavor is shifted even further, as other flavor notes within the cacao become more noticeable in the absence of the flavonoid harshness. Therefore nutty, fruity and other positive qualities of the cacao tend to be more noticeable. However, flavonoids aren’t the only bitter chemicals that are present in Forastero. Theobromine, an alkaloid related to caffeine, is also quite bitter, and present in perceptible quantities in Forastero. We will touch upon theobromine in more depth when discussing roasting later in the series, where it will have a large role to play. Another potential difference between Forastero and Criollo cacao, though the amounts of data present to support it are still limited, is that Criollo or Criollo-heavy hybrids may generally have more free amino acids in their composition. This could well play a role regarding flavor differences between Criollo and Forastero during roasting, a possibility that we will also discuss later in this series.

As for hybrids, they can have many different combinations of the above Criollo and Forastero traits. They can seem remarkably similar to Criollo, with only slightly bitter and astringent, very light, pink cotyledons, or they can seem far more like Forastero, with purple, more bitter seeds, and sometimes hybrids can actually include many more bitter and astringent compounds than even average Forastero populations. Hybrids can, thus, not be lumped into one category for the sake of flavor description or internal seed chemical composition, especially since the degree of variation within the whole range of hybrid populations far exceeds variation within Criollo and Forastero populations. This is one reason why, though all three terms–Forastero, Criollo, and hybrid–can be tricky in terms of usage, almost always requiring a bit of supplementary definition, the aforementioned term “Trinitario” is almost useless unless very clearly defined. That said, Criollo also risks becoming a useless term as some people have tended to refer to any hybrid with some amount of noticeable Criollo parentage as Criollo, when, as a hybrid, it obviously cannot be. It is reasonable, therefore, to want to know the whole story behind someone’s usage of the terms Criollo or Trinitario before taking them at face value.

Moving on–so far we have taken a brief look at what role genetics can play in terms of determining cacao chemistry and flavor, but though genetics play a large role regarding cacao flavor, due to flavonoid, theobromine, and, potentially, free amino acid levels, the environment and climate in which the cacao trees grow also substantially impact the chemistry of the cacao seeds and therefore their flavor. As with all fruit trees, the health of the tree itself is important, and so weather patterns that impact temperature, rainfall, humidity and solar radiation levels all play a role in the flavor of the seeds within the cacao fruit. In addition to these various climactic conditions, soil-type, other plant species growing in close proximity–for example shade trees or leguminous atmospheric nitrogen-fixing plants–and even mycorrhizal fungi in the soil that have a symbiotic relationship with cacao, all make substantial impacts on the health, and therefore the cellular chemistry, of the tree and its fruit. In fact, all of these conditions could arguably be combined underneath a single umbrella-term that the French call “terroir”, a word that one normally hears used in relation to grape vineyards and wine. However, it is equally applicable to other crops, and cacao among them. Terroir is responsible, to quite a degree, for the flavor of cacao that comes from different regions, origins, or even given plots of land within regions. Additionally, the various impacts that terroir can have on cacao stretch beyond the growing location and reach into post-harvest processing, as each location, or origin, has different microbial populations that impact the chemistry and flavor of the cacao in dramatic ways. The next part of the Chemistry of Chocolate series, therefore, will delve into this realm of post-harvest processing, as we cover harvest, fermentation, and drying.

Global Threat to Fine Chocolate Revealed:

Scientists have discovered a molecule that some believe may lead to the destruction of fine chocolate. The molecule (left), known as 4-Hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde, and with the empirical formula C8H8O3 is white and needle-like in appearance, and has been found, often in large quantities, in cheap chocolate, though it is also to be found in fine chocolate in varying quantities. When this molecule is present in small numbers it poses little risk to the destruction of fine chocolate, but in much larger quantities can lead to the constriction of muscles in the throat and nausea in some individuals.

Alright, enough kidding around, the molecule above is simply vanillin, the major constituent of vanilla, which, as most people know, is quite common in chocolate. What spurred this satire was a combination of a few conversations that I have recently had that have gotten me thinking about vanilla in relation to chocolate even more than I had in the past. So, I decided to explicitly state my position on vanilla, which is as follows:

I don’t put vanilla in Patric Chocolate. My philosophy is to choose cacao that is of such quality that it tastes delicious with only small amounts of pure cane sugar. Sugar, while certainly adding a component of sweetness to chocolate that is not present in the source cacao, is not aromatic, and therefore does not interfere with the aroma of the cacao as do aromatic substances. Aroma, as we know from the post about chocolate appreciation a few weeks ago, is the largest component of the perception of flavor of any food, and so makes quite an impact on the overall flavor of chocolate. With this in mind, small quantities of sugar, by helping to balance bitter and acid tastes in the cacao, actually allow the full bouquet of the cacao to shine in all of its delicious glory. Vanilla, on the other hand, which adds its own set of aromatic notes to the mix, based mostly on vanillin, but also upon a number of other compounds–some of which can seem minty or citrusy– muddies the waters of the chocolate as the aroma of the cacao itself becomes confused and hard to decipher.

Of course, this is the opinion of only one chocolate maker in a field of many who do use vanilla. So it is fair to wonder if I have wandered too far off the beaten track in my rejection of vanilla. All that I can say is to trust your own mouth and your own nose. Next time you taste a fine chocolate bar without vanilla (they are rare, but do exist), pay attention to the clarity of the tastes and aromas. Note the beauty of the experience. Then, taste some chocolate with vanilla in it and ask yourself if the experience of the chocolate has been helped or hampered by the addition of the vanilla. You might just surprise yourself with your own answer.

Fine chocolate lovers of the world unite; In cacao we trust!

Alan McClure
Patric Chocolate

Note: I realize that there will always be chocolate makers and chocolate lovers who prefer vanilla in their chocolate, that this is a subjective preference, and that quantity of vanilla certainly does matter; I respect all of this. My goal in this post is really to make the case that though historically we have added vanilla to our chocolate in the West, making it normal and accepted, it is not necessarily the case that it actually enhances the flavor of fine chocolate made with excellent quality cacao, and that its addition to such products may, to some extent, be a cultural holdover.

The Chemistry of Chocolate: An Introduction

Photo: A cacao fruit containing white, pulp-covered cacao seeds. Though the pulp is sweet and tart, the inner seed itself– there is a blown up inset of one of them cut in half– which is what is eventually ground into chocolate, is quite bitter and un-chocolate-like. (click the photo to enlarge)

Chocolate has perhaps the most complex flavor of any food in the world. This is due to the chemical makeup of the cacao (or cocoa beans) with which the chocolate is made, but also to the very complicated processes to which the cacao is subjected, including harvest, fermentation, drying, roasting, refining, conching, aging and tempering. These processes ultimately lead to a food with a flavor that is so chemically complex—with the running count now numbering over 600 possible volatile compounds–that scientists cannot even tell us exactly which compounds give chocolate its magnificent, delectable and unmistakable “chocolateness.” Researchers think that this quintessential chocolate note is probably due to a multiplicity of chemicals, or maybe that it is due only to a handful of chemicals that are present in very small quantities–but since they have very low odor thresholds, are nevertheless quite important–or maybe that it is due to both; how’s that for clarity? And so it is, that at the start of the 21st century, as we find ourselves capable of regularly flying into space, cloning plants and animals, and building supercomputers the size of wristwatches, we still don’t yet understand the essence of chocolate.

However, even though there is so much we don’t yet know about chocolate, we do know one thing: Chocolate is delicious, and many people, if asked to choose between their favorite chocolate and any other beloved food, would not hesitate to choose the item made from the fruit of a plant that Carolus Linnaeus deemed Theobroma, or “Food of the gods”—yes, chocolate (Theobroma cacao in full). Yet despite the fact that cacao has such a delicious sounding name, in reality, cacao just off the tree tastes quite bitter, astringent, otherwise harsh and not chocolaty in the least. How can this little seed that initially tastes quite awful be chocolate’s number one ingredient?

The answer is to be found above in the title of this series. Indeed, every step of the chocolate-making process involves quite complex chemical changes within the cacao, and it is our control over the processes that cause these changes that eventually reveals to us a flavor of beauty: that of finished chocolate of course!

Over the next several months we will be looking in some detail at the various steps of chocolate making, starting with the cacao tree itself, as we discuss the chemistry involved in each step, and where applicable, the history of developments in cacao processing that have led to changes in the chemistry of the finished product. We will answer many chocolate-related chemistry questions along the way, and our answers will raise new questions, but in any case, by the end of this series readers will have a very good idea of the types of changes undergone by our friend cacao during its metamorphosis into chocolate. Let the fun begin…

Patric Chocolate’s Chocolate-Making Flowchart:

If one searches online, there are actually quite a few flowcharts that visually describe chocolate making from bean to bar. Many of these flowcharts attempt to show every permutation possible within the realm of chocolate making. This adds confusion because certainly not every possible process is relevant to every type of chocolate. So, we decided to create our own flowchart that narrows down the processes to only the steps utilized at Patric Chocolate to create fine dark chocolate from bean to bar.

For those of you who have read our post about Patric Chocolate’s production processes from late September, the content that has been translated into graphic format will already be familiar. However, explaining information graphically can certainly add clarity to a complicated process such as chocolate making, so hopefully many of you will find the flowchart to be helpful. There will be a bit of commentary after the chart.

The process starts in the upper left-hand corner and moves downward.


*Cacao “pods” are not true pods at all. You can read more about what they really are in a another Patric Chocolate post.

In the flowchart above, you will notice that sometimes we create cocoa liquor for the purpose of removing cocoa butter, which is then added to some chocolate. Not all chocolate needs extra cocoa butter, and in fact, adding extra cocoa butter can sometimes negatively impact the texture and the intensity of flavor chocolate. However, in cases where the chocolate percentage drops below 70%, extra cocoa butter must be added to the chocolate to maintain a luscious and smooth texture. In this case, it is important to note that we are adding cocoa butter that comes directly from the same cocoa beans from which the chocolate is made. Most of the time companies add inexpensive bulk cocoa butter that either does not share the same flavor profile, or has been deodorized, a process which weakens the overall flavor profile of the chocolate. Patric Chocolate will never use bulk cocoa butter, deodorized or otherwise.

One final note: Patric Chocolate begins the chocolate-making process at step five with cleaning the cacao by hand. Cacao must be harvested, fermented and dried in the country of its origin. This means that we can’t be entirely involved in every part of the first few steps. That being the case, we are, and have been, actively working to grow and strengthen relationships with small farmers so that we can better control these very important parts of of the chocolate making process.

Patric Chocolate: Sure, We Have a Chocolate-Making Bias (or) What IS a Chocolate Maker Anyway?

It has been mentioned in this blog before that only a handful of American companies actually make chocolate .This fact isn’t peculiar to the United States however, it may just as easily be applied to many other chocolate-making countries.

“What?” you may find yourself saying “But can it be true that the company behind the manufacture of my favorite organic, fair-trade, 70% dark chocolate may really not be the company whose name graces its label?” The reality is that you may have a better chance of striking gold in your own backyard than stumbling across a bar of chocolate made by the company who has branded it. Alright, maybe there is a little bit of exaggeration going on here, but the truth isn’t too far off, and if one looks to the labels of the chocolate bars in question for hints regarding whether this is truly the case, all that is likely to be found is further confusion.

Here are some examples of a few titles used by chocolate companies:

“Chocolate maker,” “chocolate manufacturer,” and “chocolatier.” And of course, if you add the word “artisan” to any of these, then you will find many additional combinations just by doing a simple Google search.

What does it mean, however, to use each of these labels? Does it mean that a company actually makes chocolate starting with cocoa beans and carries out every part of the complicated and lengthy chocolate-making process in their own facility, resulting, in the end, in a marketable chocolate product? Though certainly possible, it is not likely.

First, let us deal with the term “chocolatier.” Chocolatiers produce chocolate-based confections either manually or on an industrial scale. However, very rarely do they make the raw product—chocolate—that they use for these confections. There are quite a few chocolatiers, though, who blend different finished chocolates to create bars with intriguing and original profiles. And certainly, as long as these companies do not claim to be making their chocolate, then there is no room for complaint. Yet, there are dishonest individuals in every group.

An extreme example of this dishonesty occurred in recent memory, when one chocolatier, selling perhaps the most expensive chocolate per pound anywhere in the world (up to $2000/lb), had worded things in such a way that it seemed, by most accounts, that they did make their own chocolate. However, it was eventually discovered and brought to light, due to some careful sleuthing, that in fact they didn’t make their chocolate at all. The truth is, that the chocolate that they did use was being sold by its actual manufacturer for up to seventy-five or eighty times less per pound in bar form. Many people felt that this was more than misleading; they felt that it was unethical.

Dishonesty can be found anywhere, however, and there are also practices with which one could take issue regarding non-chocolatier companies who package chocolate bars without actually making their chocolate. This category actually includes the vast majority of chocolate companies, and there is a French term that can be applied to them: “fondeurs.” This word translates as chocolate “melters,” and it speaks to the actual process carried out by these companies: they melt and mold chocolate into bar form. Of course, just as with chocolatiers, there is nothing wrong with chocolate melters per se, and there are certainly some good-quality products produced by such companies, but the problem is that many of these companies choose marketing language that suggests that they do, in fact, make their own chocolate.

One might ask oneself, though, why it even matters who does and doesn’t make chocolate. After all, the most important aspect of chocolate is its flavor, the quality of chocolate defined as a combination of aroma, taste, and mouthfeel. And can’t chocolate bars blended by chocolatiers or packaged by melters taste amazing? Certainly, but part of taking chocolate more seriously, in an effort to better appreciate its complex flavor qualities, involves an attempt to understand the full process that led to its creation. This is the goal of a chocolate connoisseur or chocophile.

This learning process includes finding out what the origin of the cacao used in the chocolate is, what the chocolate-making philosophy of the company is, and how this impacts processes, (i.e., what is the roasting profile, how long was it conched, what type of refining setup is used, is it aged, etc.) among many other variables. To learn answers to these questions allows one to readily and accurately compare and contrast chocolates from various chocolate makers, the same chocolate maker, various countries, different styles, etc. All of this understanding, of course, leads to an even greater appreciation of an already delicious product. So, the bar that is at first just simply delicious, once it is understood how it was made and how it compares to other chocolates on many different levels, becomes either more or less impressive and flavorful as the case may be. The intellect certainly does come to bear on sense impressions, and what we do or don’t understand can alter the flavor of a product for better or worse.

In fact, the more that one learns about chocolate, the more that one’s previous preferences gradually come to be altered as new and more fulfilling chocolates are discovered.

Consequently, knowing if a company actually makes its chocolate is important, and, as we have seen, this knowledge may be able to impact flavor perception after all. But now comes the question: how do we know when a company makes its own chocolate? If it isn’t being advertised one way or the other, how can we tell? Furthermore, when a company says that it is a chocolate maker, can we actually know that this term has some pre-defined meaning? Unfortunately the answer seems to be no. This term and others are thrown about with such ease that it isn’t possible to tell much about companies that use them. Even companies that do make some of their own chocolate may outsource an even larger quantity of it. Another possibility is that one company roasts and refines the cacao, and then this product (cacao liquor) is then refined with added sugar in another location, molded and packaged. Similar confusion can exist with the word “artisan.” Though artisan chocolate makers certainly do exist, we can hardly take the word of them all when they use this term. Short of the English-speaking world bringing into common usage the French term “cacaofèvier,” which translates roughly as a “cocoa-beaner,” or a person who makes chocolate from cacao itself (bean to bar), finding the truth will take a bit of work, a bit of intellectual elbow grease, so to speak.

Luckily, this intellectual work also involves a great deal of chocolate tasting! One can be as organized or as laid-back as one would like in tasting various chocolates, and taking notes on them, but it is a good idea, when a new chocolate is discovered, not only to read up on it on the company’s web site or packaging, but also to visit chocolate review sites. One such site is Seventy Percent.com, another that I hear will soon be accessible to English speakers is www.theobroma-cacao.de and there are many other online resources that discuss chocolate companies, their methods, and their products. Even doing a Google search for the product and trying to find out what other people and web sites have to say about it can help. Finally, writing to the company in question can definitely have an impact. The more that companies see that consumers are concerned about all of the details behind their chocolate, the more the culture of secrecy in the chocolate world will have to melt away. Demand that chocolate companies, whether they make chocolate or not, be clear about their processes. They might not want to divulge every last detail, but their goal should be to educate chocolate consumers, not to keep them in the dark. Over time, one can hope that such openness in chocolate business will grow, and will lead to a more educated chocolate-loving public. After all, as an educated chocolate consumer, one receives far more pleasure from each bar than the average person, and who could complain about that?!

The More-Than-Chocolate-Making Process of Patric Chocolate:

There are only about 19 chocolate makers in the United States who actually start with cacao (cocoa beans) and follow the process through to finished chocolate, and only about 13 that are “bean to bar” chocolate makers.
However, there are even fewer chocolate makers who attempt to produce small batches of excellent quality chocolate based on a love for the craft and a deep philosophical conviction about how to take cacao and sugar and create a product that is the pinnacle of chocolate.

Such vision and skill is not a simple endeavor, and Patric Chocolate holds deep respect for such chocolate makers as colleagues and friends in the field. Yet, though such chocolate makers may all start with similar goals of making the best fine chocolate possible, still every serious chocolate maker creates quite different products as he/she necessarily follows his/her own unique taste regarding what flavors and textures ultimately result in the best product.

This situation leads to a wide range of high-quality, but yet quite distinctive, products from a variety of chocolate makers, and this diversity of end results is one of the beauties of a complex product such as fine dark chocolate, as it invites all of the countless chocolate connoisseurs and chocolate lovers to an exciting discovery of the multiplicity of these excellent products.

Some people may like all of these chocolates to varying degrees, but some people may have strong preferences for or against certain items. This is only natural, of course, and certainly one chocolate that may be considered the best in the world by one chocolate aficionado may be considered quite inadequate by another. This being the case, it would be a mistake to attempt to create a chocolate that everyone would like. In fact, there are companies who try to do just such a thing, creating chocolate based only on the tastes of the average consumer, and these are the mass-producers of the chocolate world. It isn’t difficult to think of one or two of these companies whose names can be seen in every grocery store or vending machine.

Companies like this create chocolate products that are analogous to the manufactured pop music of the corporate music world. Like such pop music, these chocolates are generally overly sweet, “easy,” and lacking almost any character whatsoever. Such chocolates are not interesting or worthy of more than just passing attention, and when one has finished eating one of them, it is hard to remember anything more about it than its sugar-laden nature. This type of chocolate is really the antithesis of the products created by serious chocolate makers here in the US and abroad.

Instead, serious chocolate makers look for character and beauty, and above all, an intriguing, persistent and delicious flavor that forces one to wake up and pay attention to the inspiring aromas and luscious mouthfeel. These chocolates are not soon forgotten, and creating fine dark chocolate bars such as these is the raison d’être of Patric Chocolate. However, as important as this preliminary philosophy is in the creation of fine dark chocolate, it is the process that this view spawns that holds even more importance. After all, a faulty process does not make excellent chocolate no matter how brilliant the philosophy behind it may be. So, it is of interest to Patric Chocolate to share our process of chocolate-making in an effort to better explain how our philosophy comes to assert itself regarding the fine cacao and pure cane sugar of which we make use, day in, and day out. Of course not every detail is revealed, but the broad outline of the process is all here and as a fellow chocolate lover, we think that you will find it to be of interest.

The Process:


Patric Chocolate begins with different types of fine cacao from superior terroirs that have been carefully fermented and sun-dried to make the various bars of the Patric Chocolate line. In some cases, chocolate maker Alan McClure has even met with the grower(s) of the cacao itself in order to discuss the post-harvest processing of the cacao in great detail. This process of connecting with small growers and forming alliances in order to improve cacao quality is ongoing.

Once the cacao is chosen for a particular bar, it is first hand-sifted and sorted to remove:

• Dust and silt
• Bean fragments
• Beans with cracked shells
• Cut beans as a result of removal from the pod
• Double or even triple beans, which have ended up stuck together during the previous drying process, and, therefore, may have negative flavor qualities
• Germinated beans that had not started fermenting soon enough after harvest
• Flat beans
• Too-small beans
• Non-cacao items such as leaves and/or twigs

After this painstaking cleaning process, the cacao is roasted in small batches with close attention to time and temperature curves, air-flow, aroma, flavor, and even the appearance and sound of the cacao, leading to the best roast possible for a given type of cacao.

The cacao is then cracked, classified by particle size, and finally winnowed (a process using controlled airflow) to remove the outer shell or “testa” of the cacao. During this process, the vast majority of the germ, or radicle, is removed. The germ is a tough and hard needle-shaped object, which is quite bitter, and has very little of the cocoa butter which gives fine chocolate its smooth and beautifully-melting qualities.

What is left after this process is a container of pure, shell-free nibs, the “nut” of the cocoa bean. This is 100% pure unground chocolate, which is delicious by itself, but it is only with the addition of small amounts of pure cane sugar and a long and complex refining process that these nibs begin to resemble fine chocolate.

First, Alan grinds the nibs in a customized granite-based refiner in order to reduce them to a paste, and then, with the addition of heat due to friction and external factors, into a thick and flowing liquid. At this point pure cane sugar is added, and the refiner mixes and grinds the liquid further until the particles of cacao and sugar become quite small.

Next, the heating and speed setting of the machine are carefully altered to allow a slow and constant conching of the liquid chocolate that continues for between four and five days. The reason for this protracted process is two-fold: Firstly, the texture of the chocolate continues to change as particles of sugar and cacao are reduced ever-so-slightly in size. These particles also come to be coated in a velvety layer of their own cocoa butter, thereby also improving the texture and modifying the innate harshness and bitterness of the chocolate’s flavor. The flavor of the chocolate is also impacted during the conching, in part, due to a slight, but constant, evaporation of volatile flavor components such as acetic acid, resulting in a less acidic and harsh flavor. As the chocolate aroma loses this acetic acid-harshness it also begins to smell like the luscious dark chocolate that we have all come love.

Finally, the chocolate seems ready, but it is only after Alan has aged it in large blocks and the flavors have further mellowed and developed, that it is melted, tempered (a controlled crystallization of the chocolate so that it has the proper mouth-feel and glossy sheen), and molded into bars. The glossy dark bars are then hand-wrapped in thick golden-foil and carefully slid into the unique Patric Chocolate package, highlighting, in word and image, the beauty of the product contained within.

Since the bars are molded regularly, and in small numbers, they never sit on shelves long before finally being enjoyed by one of our discriminating customers, and during storage, they are kept at a constant cool temperature in order to maintain their exquisite texture and sheen.

As can be seen, this process is not simply making chocolate as any large factory would, it is making chocolate with a love and respect, a passion, for the medium, with a goal to produce only the finest dark chocolate bars in the United States and Europe, and the result of this more-than-chocolate-making process is all in the aroma, taste, and feel of Patric Chocolate. We invite you to experience it for yourself.

Chocolate Process Media

Fine dark chocolate, in addition to being an exquisitely flavorful food, is also coming to be seen by more and more chocolate-lovers as an interesting product in its own right as regards the lengthy and difficult process used to make it. Due to this growing interest, there is more information on chocolate making on-line than ever before, some of it accurate, and some of it less so. In an effort to add something else of interest to what is already out there, Alan McClure, chocolate maker for Patric Chocolate, did a fairly recent in-depth interview with Terence Spies for his Cacaolab website. If you haven’t yet had the chance to read the two-part interview, it can be found here.

Those of you who have had a chance to read the interview, however, may have noted that it can be fairly technical in places. For some chocolate aficionados, this is exactly the type of information about chocolate making that they are very keen to read. However, many people less familiar with the chocolate-making process may have found themselves wishing that they had photos of different steps in order to help clarify a point here or there.

The importance of images in helping to explain a process, whether the images are live-action or captured as photos, cannot be underestimated, and Patric Chocolate, in a forthcoming redesign of its website, has taken this into consideration when making important layout decisions. However, we wanted to go even further than incorporating essential visual elements into our new site, so some time ago we decided that with the technology currently available that we should push things a few steps further.

Starting today, we will be working on capturing what is an incredibly interesting part of the chocolate-making process in a way that will allow everyone to see chocolate as it has perhaps never been seen before. In an effort not to spoil the surprise, we will say no more, but be sure to keep your eyes open for a very special addition to the current Patric Chocolate site even before the redesign is finished!