The Making

On the farm

The single most critical element of the entire chocolate-making process is the fermentation and drying of the cacao beans once they are harvested—known as the “post-harvest” process. Together with our post-harvest master Servio Pachard, we designed and built our own small-scale fermentation and drying installation in the middle of his farm, located downriver from the valley of Piedra de Plata.

fermentation-box

The design for our installation was drawn from a synthesis of the very best post-harvest techniques that we’ve seen in Ecuador and other parts of the world, but on a much more intimate scale and with a few of our own proprietary enhancements.

drying-installation

Once harvested, our cacao beans are placed in Spanish Elm wood fermentation boxes for a period of five to seven days, depending on harvest characteristics. The fermentation process breaks down unwanted tannins and other polyphenols within the beans, thus muting the bitterness and releasing the finer, more subtle flavors. The fermented beans are then very gradually dried by sun and fresh air in an installation that resembles a small greenhouse.

hands-drying-cacao

The Making

Hand Selection

From pre-harvest to harvest to post-harvest to production, our beans undergo no less than six different phases of selection, during which we gradually remove beans deemed too small, thin, under-ripe, over-ripe, or incompletely fermented.

handselection-1

We do all of these selection processes by hand—our hands, and the hands of several members of our team, such as the farmers themselves, Elio Cantos, Servio Pachard, and chocolate-makers Idaly Farfán and Guillermo Heredia.

The Making

Recipe

The selected beans are then carefully roasted, de-shelled, and ground into a pulp. In the most basic sense, dark chocolate is made by heating up this pulp and mixing it with varying amounts of sugar. The goal of our particular recipe is purity and authenticity. Whiskey connoisseurs prefer not to mix cola or even ice with their whiskey, to not

production-process-2014

 

In our experience, the small amount of cane sugar is an important concession to the purity of cacao. As the most astute whiskey connoisseurs are well aware, when tasting whiskey it is advisable to add a drop or two of water, which slightly pacifies the whiskey and opens up the flavor. This is similar to the role that sugar plays with dark chocolate.

For us, it is of the utmost importance that cacao itself, rather than sugar or any other additives, remains the protagonist of flavor—but specifically the finer, more subtle characteristics of cacao that can otherwise be masked by the bitterness of its more crude polyphenols.

The Making

Bean

In the middle of the To’ak chocolate bar is a single roasted cacao bean, which we hand-selected ourselves. We recognize that there is a tendency to forget that chocolate is ultimately derived from the fruit of a tree.

selecting-the-bean

We believe that tasting the actual cacao bean is a crucial step toward the understanding of chocolate from a deeper perspective. It is akin to pulling a grape off the vine in your favorite vineyard: there is something special there that transcends even the final product itself. It is a connection to its origin.

bean-bar

The Making

Aging

As with certain vintages of wine, dark chocolate can improve with age. Gradual oxidation softens the tannins and other polyphenols, which has the effect of highlighting the more subtle elements of its flavor profile. In Ecuador’s capital city of Quito, we are aging To’ak chocolate prior to tempering and formation into bars, which allows for up to 10-20 

brogken-chocolate-pieces

In subsequent years, we will release small reserve editions of To’ak chocolate bars that have been aged in this manner.

The Making

Responsibility

Social and environmental responsibility is a priority that we take very seriously, and enhancing our work in this area is both a daily challenge and an ever-present goal. To’ak cacao is organically grown, and the farmers who grow it are guaranteed the highest price per pound in Ecuador. The tasting utensil and the box used to package each bar of 

jama-coaque

Five percent of the profits are donated to Third Millennium Alliance, a conservation foundation dedicated to protecting the last remnants of Pacific Forest in coastal Ecuador.
www.tmalliance.org
In 2014, To’ak sponsored the planting of over 7,000 trees in coastal Ecuador.

usda-organic certified-organic-cacaobeans
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