The flavor of cocoa is affected at every step in the production process. Because we control every step—from planting and pruning the trees to harvesting and drying the beans to conching and tempering the chocolate—we can pursue our passion for perfect chocolate, and share it with you. Keeping the entire production process here on the Island also creates greater financial security for us, the hard-working farmer-owners.
Cocoa grows best within a narrow geographic belt that spans just 20 degrees above and below the equator. The environment must be both wet and warm, with lots of shade. The cocoa tree is an “understory” rainforest tree, requiring the “canopy” provided by taller trees.
In Grenada, the “Spice Isle,” cocoa trees grow in among a wide variety of fruit and spice trees, flowers, and bushes. Not only does this arrangement provide a healthy, sustainable ecosystem, it also produces a rich, complex-tasting cocoa, with hints of nutmeg, clove, banana, and all the other fragrant neighboring plants.
Harvesting cocoa is a difficult and labor-intensive job. Care must be taken to avoid damaging the trunk, flowers, and unripe fruit. On each tree, pods ripen at slightly different rates, requiring us to make multiple trips through the same dense terrain. As stakeholders in Jouvay Chocolate, we farmers are motivated to ensure that each cocoa pod is picked at the point of perfect ripeness.
Some people are surprised to find that freshly harvested cocoa beans are white. The characteristic brown color and rich aroma develop as the beans ferment. During the fermentation process, which takes several days, naturally occurring yeasts consume the sugars in the sweet pulp that surrounds the cocoa beans. This causes the pulp to break down, creating natural enzymatic changes in the beans.
To achieve optimal results, the fermentation process must be carefully controlled, with regular mixing to ensure sufficient aeration. We personally oversee the fermentation of our beans, which is an art in itself. We are proud to use the traditional method, fermenting beans in wooden crates, under fragrant banana leaves.
We use the traditional drying method as well, spreading out the beans on large wooden trays, where they dry slowly, under the sun. (The trays can be rolled under a roof in case of rain.) We employ the time-honored tradition of “walking” the beans:
We turn them gently by walking over them, a method introduced by the French hundreds of years ago. (At this point, the beans are still in their shells, which are later roasted and removed.) Being here on the island, with the trays right outside our windows, we know our beans are dried carefully, to just the right degree.
Sorting and Selecting:
The dried beans are carefully sorted by size and quality. We use only the highest quality beans in Jouvay chocolate. Sorting the beans by size is important because it allows us to carefully adjust the roasting time for the perfect taste and texture.
For most cocoa growers around the globe, this would be the end of their involvement. After being sorted, the cocoa beans would be packed up and shipped off to Europe or the United States. At Jouvay, we proudly roll our beans right into our factory to be roasted and transformed into superior-quality, pure Caribbean chocolate.
Although the quality of cocoa is influenced by every step in the production process, roasting is especially important for developing the flavor of chocolate.
At Jouvay, we roast beans carefully, in small batches, adjusting time (usually about an hour) and temperature in accordance with size and other characteristics, to allow the unique flavor of the beans to develop.
In the winnower, the beans are broken up and the shells are removed through a combination of sifting and blowing. The bits that remain are cocoa nibs , which have become a popular health food because of their rich nutritional value and bold cocoa flavor.
At this point, we remove some of the nibs to be packaged and sold “as is.”
The refiner breaks down the cocoa nibs, reducing them to small particles (the smaller the particles, the smoother the chocolate). At Jouvay, we refine our cocoa twice, first by itself, and then again after it has been mixed with sugar. This second trip through the refiner further reduces the size of the cocoa and sugar particles, and blends them thoroughly into a smooth mass.
Like roasting, conching is an essential step in developing the flavor of chocolate. Conching is done with heavy rollers and rotating blades that plow back and forth through the chocolate, kneading it to smooth out its texture even further. The resulting friction and aeration eliminate unwanted acidity and provoke chemical changes that develop and round out the chocolate's flavor and aroma. The amount of conching time is important for creating distinct taste profiles. Some chocolate products are conched for days, further polishing the particulates to the finest mass. However, if conching goes on for too long, some desirable flavor components may be lost. There is an art to adjusting the conching process in order to arrive at the ideal balance of flavors.
The process of making cocoa butter is the same as that of making chocolate--up to a point. After the beans are broken up and the shells are removed, the cocoa nibs proceed to the cocoa butter press, which does its special magic: We pour the hard, brown nibs into the machine, and out flows the rich, pale-yellow butter. The butter is molded into two-pound blocks for professional use, and smaller cakes retail sale. Purchase Cocoa Butter here.
The exceptional quality of Jouvay cocoa butter is being recognized by experts around the world. Our Italian-made cocoa butter press is one of the most sophisticated in the Caribbean. Unlike some producers, we do not deodorize our cocoa butter, because our customers appreciate the rich-but-subtle aroma and flavor of cocoa.
Tempering and Molding:
Tempering is a process that uses time and temperature to manipulate the chemical structure of the fat crystals in cocoa butter. It gives chocolate a glossy finish, a manageable melting point, and a satisfying "snap" when you break it.