Thursday August 26, 2004

I am really excited by the new cocoa bean stock. It is a certified Organic Trinitario from Madagascar, which is a mixture of Criollo and Forastero. I know a lot of people are looking for just the cream of the crop Criollo, but the more I get into this business, and taste what is out there, I find that the name does not affect the flavor. Just as you can have bad Forastero, you can have bad Criollo. These are great Trinitario.

That said, this is a really interesting cocoa bean and has a different flavor profile from anything else I carry. It is full of deep rich fruits, dried leather and balanced with a ripe fruitiness. I know you are thinking "where is he getting these flavors?". I feel like one of those posh wine reviewers, but really, I can taste all of these flavors in this cocoa bean, and hopefully you will too. Here is an excerpt from my tasting log on my sample evaluation:

"...nice full fermentation. Interesting red color to them. My very first nib tasting is some leather and cherry notes. Sounds odd but true...

I am struck by the fresh fruit aroma coming off of the roasting beans. Sort of a general deep fruit flavor instead of any one fruit. Not like the flowery Ocumare.

The nib tasted of dried leather and cherry (maybe) plus a generally nice cocoa flavor. The day after roasting, I open the bag and was blown away by the aroma of raspberries. I really feel like people are going to think I am just going through a red wine review and making this stuff up :-)

Actually, in a way, this liqueur does remind me of a red wine. Deep fruit or slightly dried fruit flavors and aromas. Apples, currents, and of course the raspberry. It is backed up by the earthy leather flavor but is nicely balanced by just enough acidity. I have found some people both in the coffee and cocoa industry (maybe food in general) shy away from the term acidity, but without it, you can have such a boring or flat flavor profile.

It is again quite different from any bean I have. I like that."

I will have a more detailed review when they come in and I can verify the crop. They should be in next week and will be available then. The one pound price will be $15.75 and go down from there. Please check these out. They are like nothing available out there. And Organic to boot.

06:58 am : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (1)

Posted Comments for this update:

[Wed 16:07] M. Stewart email ~
I am more interested in fairt trade than just organic chocolate.

Wednesday August 18, 2004

When Heather visited a few weeks ago, we made a pound of cocoa liqueur from some Barinas cocoa beans that I had roasted up a couple of days earlier. As I did not have my CrankandStein mill yet, we just ran the whole cocoa bean through the Champion, letting it separate the husk. The resulting cocoa liqueur I poured into 1" x 1" ice cube trays. This gave me 16 very convenient cubes of "baker's chocolate". That is all cocoa liqueur really is.

So, for those of you not ready to jump into full Artisan Chocolate, might I suggest just making up your own varietal baker's chocolate and using it where ever you would use that stale bitter stuff from the store. I and my daughter did just that last night for a nice batch of brownies. She even tasted the mix before the sugar was added. I warned her it was not sweet yet. (remember how bad it was when you did that as a kid :-( . It was fine. She said "It's ok papa (patting my arm), it's good". There you have it, from the mouth of babes. Give it a try.

Artisan Brownies

3 oz Cocoa liqueur
1/2 c butter
1 c sugar
3 eggs
1/2 t vanilla
3/4 c flour
1/4 t salt
1/2 c walnuts

Melt the cocoa and butter in a saucepan. Mix in all the other ingredients.

Pour into a buttered 8" square pan. Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes. Enjoy.

08:10 am : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (0)

Sunday August 8, 2004

I had a wonderful visit last weekend from a delightful woman named Heather (I hope it is alright to use your name Heather, no last name though) who was down in California learning to bake bread professionally. On her way back up north, she asked if she could stop by and see Chocolate Alchemy's "operation" and have a tour. I said we were not much of an operation and not setup for tours everyday, but that she was welcome to stop by. Part of the reason Chocolate Alchemy came into being in it's present form was that we live on a hill top, in the center of 33 wooded acres, and have extra outbuildings that allow us the space to run this kind of internet business. We have storage space for bags and bags of beans, a shop for equipment experimentation and a second small kitchen area that is used as our laboratory.

Well, a little space got cleared in the shop for the "tour" (it is a little extra full right now as it is holding a lot of our stuff from the fire in March). Heather showed up around noon. I had roasted up each of the beans we have in stock and we tasted and compared them. We had already discussed going through a batch of chocolate from start to finish so we picked her favorite bean (the Carenero Superior) and tossed a handful into my sample roaster. We talked about how there are no real hard and fast rules about roasting, but just some general guidelines. That you have to roast them pretty evenly without burning or baking them. That they can take a lot of heat initially because they are cold, but can't take high heat the entire time as it would be like trying to fry a pot roast, charred on the outside, raw on the inside. We kept stick our noses over the roaster, judging just when the roast was done, based on the cracks (which we both jumped for) and the slight waning of the chocolate smell.

After these were done, we set up the champion juicer to process a pound of the Barinas I had roasted a few days before. I showed her how to take her time putting just a handful in at a time, not "pushing" the equipment and soon chocolate liqueur was flowing. The pound went quite quickly and conversation moved to the final stages of chocolate making, refining and conching. I explained that we don't have a way to do this on a small scale yet, what is was going to take and that effectively we would have to develop a home conch/refiner because there really were no shortcut to good chocolate.

This lead to her describing her week and baking school where one day they were making "artisan" hamburger buns. The instructor explain they would be spending many hours prepping ingredients, making the starters, treating each part of the process just so, so that in the end, they would have their "buns". That really struck a chord in me. Chocolate Alchemy is the same way. Making chocolate at home looks really daunting at first but it really is not that bad but there are quite the number of steps that have to be done "just so", from the roasting, to the grinding to the final refining that we have yet to develop, but know we have to. She said they had a discussion in class about what was Artisan bread baking. The consensus was that it was the whole process of choosing the best ingredients, treating them in the best way to maximize their potential, not taking any shortcuts and finishing with a quality product that was something to be proud of.

This really struck a chord with me as I said. That is what we are doing (at least in my head) with Chocolate Alchemy. We are offering the best beans we can find. We are working out the best techniques for roasting and grinding (so you don't have to). And we will be working on a final refiner/conch because there just aren't going to be any shortcuts. The result, I now believe, will be nothing short of Artisan Chocolate. I was told at the beginning that chocolate could not be made at home. I did not believe that at the time, and I don't believe it now. I do believe that you can't make chocolate at home instantly. You are going to have to work at it a little bit. You won't have to blaze your own trail, that is what we are here for, making the mistakes and working out the "just so" so that you don't have to. But it will be a labor of love and OH! what you will have for the fruits our your labor. Artisan Chocolate!

10:06 pm : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (8)

Posted Comments for this update:

[Tue 20:05] Melissa Clare email ~
Hallo, This looks fascinating..I came to your website because I'm looking for a source of cocoa beans on a very small scale. Are you selling them?
[Thu 07:07] Alchemist John ~ site
Absolutely. Just go to the Products page. We have 5 differant types, with another one on the way very soon.
[Sun 22:45] Les Albjerg email ~
John, I really enjoyed your article! I am looking forward to seeing the details worked out! Les
[Tue 02:00] Ike Gaus email ~
Hi, I am considering starting a small chocolate manufacturing process at home. Your site is very informative. Thanks!
[Wed 08:30] Alchemist John ~ site
That is wonderful. Please keep us informed how it goes. If there is anything I can do to assist, just ask.
[Thu 19:26] Sonia email ~

I just came across your site. I was wondering whether you knew of any companies that sold weighing scales for weighing cocoa beans. I have had a look on the net, but have not been able to come up with anything yet. I'm looking forward to more of your updates. Sonia

[Wed 06:58] Alchemist John ~ site
Check out The actual link is, well, in the link area. I purchased my from glorybee honey supply. I may carry that one in the future.
[Thu 07:15] Gaurav Kulkarni email ~
HI This is Gaurav Kulkarni from India. I personaly love chocolates beyond anything so thought that I would try my hand at making them. I read the entire process and though it is really tedious would like to try my hand at it. I would like to know if adding cocoa butter to the chocolate liquer really makes a difference to the untrained pallate and if so what is the ideal proportion? Also I wanted to ask for if shipping for the Butter and the beans would be significantly less if they are shipped to UK rather than to India? This is the first time that I am going to try toi make chocolate and would like to know everything that there is to know before actually starting the process. Any information, guidelines or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanking all of you people who would respond.

Cocoa Beans
Cracking & Winnowing
Conching & Refining
Tempering & Molding

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