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Ray Major

About the Blogger

Ray Majors leads cacao development and sources the fine cacao used to produce SCHARFFEN BERGER Chocolate. His interest in cacao and sustainability began in West Africa where he saw cacao's potential to provide environmentally-friendly income to farmers. Ray also leads chocolate and confectionery optimization projects and our Cacao Center of Excellence program.

Ray has 34 years of experience making chocolate on five continents. He has received industry-wide recognition for cacao sourcing and flavor bean applications, and is a consultant for cocoa farmers and broker representatives. Ray also represents Hershey on the World Cocoa Foundation's Latin American Regional Sub-committee.

Aside from making the finest chocolate, his passion is the Amazon rainforest and how cacao can help reforest its ecosystem.

Chocolate Maker's Journal

A New Bar From Ghana Beans...

Posted on 4/6/2009 by Ray Major

Our long awaited Asante Bar is in production. When Brad, Peter and I tasted the final product it lived up to all of our expectations—even Peter's. I think Robert Steinberg would really be proud of this bar, in fact I believe he even participated in the original selection of the beans.

Ghana is famous for pure chocolate flavor. It has that baked brownie characteristic that for most of us define the word chocolate. Added to that is a super long finish that prolongs the pleasure. We use it in many of our blends because it is the perfect foil for the fruity and aromatic beans that are our usual signature. This particular bar begins by teasing the palate with black cherry and then it expands into pure chocolate with just a hint of raisins and tobacco. Even at 65% cacao there is not a trace of bitterness. It is a great eating chocolate and fantastic for baking and home candy making.

Ghana has a long tradition of cacao that began in 1879 when legend has it that a trader, Tetteh Quarshie, smuggled cacao beans out of the Portuguese controlled island of Fernando Pó and planted them in the Akwapim Mountains in what was then called the Gold Coast. These first plantings of cacao were of the Amelonado cultivar and originally came from the Bahia region of Brazil. Production in Ghana increased and spread across the country until by 1910 it was the world's leading producer of cacao. Since then cacao production in Ghana has seen its ups and downs, but today it produces over 700,000 metric tonnes per year and is second only to Côte d'Ivoire in the size of its crop.

The word Asante is the name of one of Ghana's largest cacao producing regions and also of the people who live there. The Asante belong to the Akan ethnic group and speak a language called Twi. They are great cacao farmers and pay special attention to fermentation and drying. They are a matrilineal society which means that descent is traced through the mother and many Asante women are cacao farmers. The king of the Asante is called the Asantehene and that was my recommendation for the name of our bar because it sure has a royal flavor—too bad it didn't fit on the label.

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