Let’s get started with a dry number which may melt your heart – the rate, in which the Australians consume chocolates, will make the chocolate market stand at $4.3 billion by 2023. Heightening focus on enhancing product innovation, increasing numbers of health-conscious consumers, surging demand for premium handcrafted chocolates, rapid infrastructure development of e-commerce in FMCG, etc all are contributing factors in enriching the ‘chocolaty’ trend in the country. In short, Australians are falling in love with chocolates, like the rest of the world, all over again.
But does that mean we know everything there is to know about chocolates?
Let’s find out.
How do we get what we get?
It all starts from the cacao tree or the fruit of the cacao tree to be exact – a Seussian-Esque tree that harvests a plump, jolty, elliptic pod that originates directly from the trunk. The cacao beans which mostly are known as cocoa beans are in fact the seeds grow inside the pods and they are encircled by fleshy, juicy fruits. These fruits taste a little like mango stuffed with pear and lychee together – does it make any sense? What can I say – that’s exactly what I felt when I tasted it. But let's not dwell on that and move on. When the farmers finish harvesting, the beans sustain fermentation for about a week so that the distinct cocoa-flavors can be developed. The fermentation process also helps the beans get dried. That’s only the first step – yup – still a long way to go!
The dried beans are then roasted and snapped to split apart the outer shells from the inner nibs. These dried outer husks are rich in earthy flavor with a nutty and crunchy texture and offer a myriad of options to bakers to enrich their crafts.
That leaves us with the nibs – which are in a state almost cocoa-solid and cocoa-butter in equal measure. And in comes the craftsmen – they start by grinding the nibs into a state of liquor or paste. With sugar and other ingredients as per the intended recipes are added with the ‘chocolaty’ liquor or paste and ground again so that they can give the taste of satin on tongue. Let me give you an idea what are the ingredients that are added with initial ‘chocolaty’ liquor or paste :
- Milk powder – for milk chocolate
- Lecithin – for bringing fluidity
- Vanilla – for flavour
- Cocoa butter – to dark chocolates for making them creamy
- Extra sugar – for mellowing the excessive bittersweet chocolates.
- Vegetable oil, corn syrup, glucose, artificial vanilla, etc are added by the big chocolate companies you normally see on the supermarket shelves
This second grinding is known as ‘conching’ and can take up to 24 to 72 hours. After that, chocolates are heated or cooled off to specified temperatures which give the chocolates the glazed glimpse and succinct texture.
And now, you can lose yourself in gleeful savouring.
The Inception of bean-to-bar craze?
How the craze that is called ‘bean-to-bar’ got started?
To put it simply, the craze that is known today as ‘bean-to-bar’ came to fruition by a renowned winemaker Mr. Scharffenberger and a visionary student named Mr. Robert Stienberg from the famed chocolate shop Bernachon. Their unique thinking got the momentum it needed when Mr. Gary Guittard, the fourth-generation owner of Guittard Chocolate company tasted some of the samples of the newly breed chocolates from Scharffen Berger. Let’s hear what he had said after tasting,
“Scharffen Berger was the disrupter, trying their chocolate was just terrible for me. It opened my eyes to a world of flavors that had been present in our chocolates 50 years ago, but that was lost. We had to change everything to get them back.”
He was so impressed that he renovated his own production to spring up the recipes that were followed by his great-grandfather when the company was started in 1868.
In Australia, around 14 million people devour chocolates regularly and in recent years, home-grown local behemoths with the new start-ups have started picking up the trend of producing bean-to-bar (also known as handcrafted or artisan) chocolates.
Is there any difference - bean-to-bar chocolate-makers or chocolatiers?
Yes, there is a big difference. Bean-to-bar chocolate makers create chocolate directly from cacao beans. On the other hand, a chocolatier collects premade chocolates first, and then after melting and combining them with other ingredients, they produce concoctions like truffles or pralines.
And in truth, this is a wonderful conception of diversifying cocoa – tasting its uniqueness and also getting a hint of cocoa with other delicious ingredients. We just have to absorb the idea that producing chocolates and creating chocolaty confects are essentially two different sets of skill sets.
What does the cacao percentage on the label mean?
The amount of cacao mass (ground-up beans) present in the bar is actually shown in the percentages printed on the labels. In most milk chocolates around the world, the percentage of cacao is about 10 to 30%, dark chocolates may have contained around 70% or more, the bittersweet categories are known to have around 35-55%. Cacao purists sometimes have a problem accepting white chocolates as ‘chocolates’ since only cocoa butter is used in producing milk chocolates.
History tells us that before 1986, the percentage of cacao was more like small prints mentioned at the end of any promotional offers to entice customers. But everything changed when ‘Guanaja’ chocolate bar had 70% cacao, the declaration was put straight in the middle so that you couldn’t have missed and made a big production of marketing out of it. Every other chocolate company soon followed suit and nowadays it has become a norm to carefully indicate the percentages.
The thing is people are reinventing their love for chocolates these days. And with the growing consciousness, people are not afraid of asking difficult questions like fair trade policy, long term environmental impacts, ethical implications of exploiting child labour, etc.
But, for today, let's finish off here with the easier ones.