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.
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.
Sorting and Selecting:
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.
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.