The Artisan Process
SCHARFFEN BERGER Chocolate Maker travels the world in search of the finest cacao beans, carefully selecting and blending beans from fabled cacao producing countries, including Madagascar, Indonesia, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Trinidad, Tanzania, Venezuela, Brazil, Panama, Vietnam, Grenada, Paupua New Guinea, Bali, Ghana and Peru. The specific flavors of each bean combine to create chocolate with balance and pleasing complexity—not unlike a fine wine.
Beans from each region are picked for their unique flavor characteristics—chocolate, fruit, spice, floral tobacco, leather, woody, earthy—and are specially roasted to bring out these notes. We blend these freshly roasted beans to produce our signature flavors, balanced and complex, highlighting the true, rich flavors of cacao.
Fermentation is essential to developing cacao’s chocolate flavor when the beans are roasted, along with the fruity notes that characterize fine cacao.
The fermentation process involves placing wet cacao beans in heaps or boxes covered with banana leaves or burlap. During the first 36 to 48 hours the process is anaerobic, which helps grow the yeasts that convert sugars to ethanol and break down the cell structure of the pulp. After 48 hours the cacao is aerated, which promotes the growth of lactic acid bacteria that convert the ethanol and remaining sugar to acetic and lactic acid. After fermentation the beans are spread in the sun and slowly dried to achieve optimum flavor development. Sunlight also helps to break down some of the acidity left in the beans after fermentation.
After fermentation, roasting is the single most important step in the SCHARFFEN BERGER process. We begin by cleaning the beans, then pasteurizing them using a combination of steam and pressure. The beans are then placed in the roaster and slowly brought up to the desired temperature. Each origin has its own specific roasting parameters, but since those times can vary each batch of beans must be carefully monitored to ensure it is roasted correctly. Our objective is to develop a fine chocolate flavor while preserving the natural fruitiness of the fine Trinitario cacao that gives our chocolate its signature flavor.
NEXT: Grind & Refine
Grind & Refine
After roasting, the beans are cooled, the shells are removed, and the resulting edible nibs are transferred to a granite roller—called a melangeur—where they are slowly ground into a paste called chocolate liquor. A century ago, most of the world’s chocolate was made this way. Today’s factories, however, use pin mills to rip the nibs apart at high speeds and temperatures. This violent process, while suitable for bulk cacao, destroys the nuanced flavor of the fine beans we use. Our slow melangeur process drives off the harsher acids, but retains the fruity and winy notes of the beans we’ve worked so hard to find.
The chocolate liquor is then transferred to a refiner conche along with crystal cane sugar and whole Bourbon vanilla beans, where it is mixed for about twenty-five hours. It is then transferred to a storage tank to await molding into bars.
NEXT: Temper & Finish
Temper & Finish
Prior to molding into bars, the refined chocolate must first be tempered. The cocoa butter in chocolate is a unique fat that can exist in six different crystal forms, of which only two are reasonably stable. Tempering is a process that lowers and then raises the chocolate temperature while mixing to assure the formation of stable crystals. This solidifies the chocolate, gives it a good gloss and snap, and helps it stay that way during storage.
One bite of our rich, flavorful chocolate reveals a depth of complex flavors—and reflects the attention and time and care we invest in every batch.