The selection of raw materials
The quality of raw materials is influenced by a wide range of factors. From the degrees of latitude where they grow, to the weather conditions during their growth, and further to the attitude of the farmer who cultivates them.
Raw materials with the best conditions have unique characteristics. And this uniqueness comes at a price. Because of their high quality, such raw materials are much more prone to diseases and need much more attention and care by growers. Such product is understandably rare; therefore, it is more expensive and economically unattractive to the majority. However, it is the only acceptable one for us.
Nevertheless, the raw material is only 50% of the total outcome. The other 50% depends on the chocolatier. This can be ruined in a few steps. That is the reason why our production process is long and elaborated to the micro-details.
*Most of the process is a secret, but still…
During the transport phase, raw materials can be destroyed. Sugar can become wet (coconut sugar is extremely hydrostatic). Cocoa can absorb unwanted odours from its surrounding (it is an extreme odour absorber). If raw materials are not properly dried in suitable moisture conditions, there is a hazard that mould may develop on them. Sugar and cocoa are less sensitive to temperature changes. Sugar and cocoa, if stored properly, have no shelf life. In case of hazelnuts, however, storage and transport are one of the most important stages. Hazelnuts can be stored for a maximum of one year (conditionally two years), and even here the right temperature and humidity are extremely important. Our vision is therefore to source hazelnuts locally (Slovenia, Croatia, Italy) and to de-shell the hazelnuts as late as possible before delivery (in other words, to store them in the shell for as long as possible to preserve their best characteristics).
There is even a process of cocoa “aging” at this stage (however, the real aging of the cocoa paste comes later), when we want to make an influence on the characteristics of the cocoa.
Cocoa is mass-produced by combining the most environmentally tolerant plant with the cocoa varieties that have the characteristics that are most acceptable on the market.
PROCESS OF PREPARATION
Each bag of cocoa beans is inspected before roasting. This is done not only to remove any damaged seeds, but also because some additional ‘elements’ (wood, textile, insects) may enter the bags during the transport, so it is essential to remove these intruding objects.
The hazelnuts are hand-picked after roasting. Damaged and old (black) hazelnuts are removed.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE ROASTING PROFILE
In our laboratory, we develop a roasting profile for each type of cocoa or hazelnut, depending on the size of the raw material and its purpose. For hazelnuts for sprinkling, the roasting profile is different from the one for hazelnuts for the pulp. However, the roasting profile for cocoa has been developed over several years. The aim is not to destroy the characteristics and nutritional value of the cocoa, but to develop the desired flavour. At this stage, the aim is to preserve all the characteristics of the cocoa and to remove the astringency.
Here we can already improve or worsen the result of a final product. All our raw materials are roasted at lower temperatures, in comparison to a common practice. This means that a much longer time is spent on roasting.
SHELLING, CRACKING AND WINNOWING OF COCOA AND HAZELNUTS
For cocoa, this is one of the most important processes. Firstly, cocoa must be crushed (we get nibs and shell mixed). Then, in a wind tunnel, the husk is removed by the law of physics (the lighter husk is blown off). If less than 99 % of the husk is removed from the final mass of nibs/grains, this affects the texture and the taste of a final product. If the smaller pieces of nibs/grains are blown away with the husk, we directly go into a financial damage, because we will end up with less usable mass of nibs/grains.
For hazelnuts, the husk is removed by using the special equipment (the husk has a major influence on the taste and texture).
Pre-conching is necessary for the development of flavour in certain cocoa varieties. This means removing unwanted odours and flavours by mixing the mass and air and playing with the temperature. The process is complicated because even half a degree of +/- can affect the smell and taste.
GRINDING OF RAW MATERIALS
Grinding to a fine hazelnut or cocoa paste by using specific machines.
A classic process (cupping), the same as for roasting coffee. It all depends on the sensory sensitivity of the roaster.
AGEING OF COCOA PASTE
To develop the flavour of certain cocoa, the paste is actually aged. The cocoa paste is left to rest in a specific atmosphere and, as with pre-condensation and conching, unwanted odours and flavours are removed over a period of time. The process is very precise and demanding, as even a few minor misadjustments can ruin the desired flavours and aromas.
What we can reveal for sure, is that we only add coarse coconut sugar to our products. We don’t use the pre-ground, cheaper kind, because they add starch from the cereals to protect it from sticking together. As a result, it contains amylopectin, which breaks down quickly and raises the sugar’s glycaemic index, meaning it can quickly increase blood sugar. We mill our sugar immediately before adding it.
We use only three ingredients (hazelnut, cocoa, and coconut sugar) in our premises, so the chances of contamination with other allergens, gluten and lactose are virtually zero. The source of our raw materials comes from growers who specialise in only one raw material, making contamination even less likely. We do NOT use emulsifiers or preservatives.
In terms of processing and raw material characteristics all our products are almost identical:
- HAZELNUT SPREAD contains 60% of hazelnuts,
- GIANDUJA contains 40% of hazelnuts,
- our DARK CHOCOLATES contain over 70% cocoa solids.
The products contain a small amount of sugar (up to 25%) and it is coconut sugar, which has a favourable glycaemic index.
The process that matters most. With the right technology, the mass must be ground to a fine paste (under 20 microns), which allows the mass to reach all the receptors on the tongue, so that a consumer can enjoy a perfect harmony of flavours.
Filtration. Finally, the last hard particles larger than 20 microns must be removed from the mass. This is done with special vibrating filters.
TEMPERING AND MOULDING
The final appearance of the product depends on the quality of the tempering or crystallisation of the cocoa butter (the shine of the chocolate and the crack that is heard when the chocolate is broken). Cocoa contains six different forms of butter crystallisation which melt at different temperatures. If the tempering process is not carried out correctly, the chocolate will have white spots (fat bloom). The right humidity in the room where the tempering and moulding take place also plays a major role in this process.
With sleeves rolled up.