Like the Big Tobacco companies that once dominated the world tobacco industry, today, “Big Chocolate” corporations dominate world chocolate sales. Hershey, Nestle, Mars and Craft (after buying Cadbury) are recognizable as the largest distributors of chocolate, processing a huge percent of the world’s chocolate. The average consumer’s chocolate bar is only 10% actual cacao. In order to cut costs, companies often use vegetable fats and sugars to make up the majority of the bar. In the European Union, labels must now disclose whether chocolate contains vegetable fats other than cacao butter. Even commercial dark chocolates only reach about 25% cacao.
SPAGnVOLA makes single-estate chocolate. That means one farm, one factory, and one product. Larger producers of chocolate bars usually buy cacao from many different farms. Cacao from all over the Southern Hemisphere can be found in the chocolate coating of one single Kit Kat bar. Where as, when eating a single-estate chocolate product, the origin of the chocolate can be traced back to one farm. My tour guide at the factory likened single-estate chocolate to the concept of a winery. Just as in wine, cacao beans reflect their surroundings in taste.
Though the Dominican climate suits chocolate’s growth, the small country produces less than one percent of the world cacao. Cacao only grows in the southern hemisphere, now mostly in Cote d’Ivoire, Indonesia, and Ghana. However, the most sought after cacao bean, Criollo, originates in Central America.
At the Truffle Factory, the quality of the product remains the most important objective. I joined 11 others for a chocolate making class, where we witnessed the dedication of the chocolatiers. In order to temper the chocolate (or bring the temperature from 117 degrees to 84, and then heat it back to 89), Crisoire pours her chocolate onto the granite counter top. We all gasped as the liquid chocolate approached the counter’s edges, but it stopped within inches of the border. With two metal spatulas, Crisoire worked the chocolate down in temperature. Then she gracefully pushed the chocolate off the edge of the counter into a bowl. She then heated the chocolate with a heat gun, giving the chocolate a glossy-like glow.
In larger scale operations, machines temper the chocolate. When Crisoire works with her chocolate, she can tell the temperature before using a thermometer. She knows her chocolate, from bean to bar.
SPAGnVOLA provides a wealth of knowledge about the current global manufacturing of chocolate. The factory tour provides as much information about agriculture as the chocolate truffles. SPAGnVOLA’s vision for organic chocolate, closest to its purest form, reminds visitors that every food has an origin, worth knowing more about.
Summer 2012 DC Food Warrior
This post is from one of the interns in the Real Time Farms Food Warrior Internship Program. These interns are collecting data, pictures, and video on the growing practices of our nation’s farms, gathering food artisans’ stories, and documenting farmers markets. We all deserve to know where our food comes from! Boring legalese we feel we must include: this was written by a real live person who has their own opinions, which we value, but that do not necessary reflect, though they may (or may not), the values and opinions of Real Time Farms. That is for you to guess and us to know.