Now that the beans have passed the cut test, it is time to find out what flavours and other characteristics they have. A simple process which involves turning the beans into cocoa liquor takes place on the cooperative’s premises.
Thanks to combined funding from a San Francisco-based chocolate manufacturer and the US Government Aid Agency, a flavour lab has been installed to enable cooperative workers to taste and distinguish the flavour profile of their beans before they are sold and dispatched to their client. For many cooperative workers, this is the first time they taste chocolate made from their own beans.
The flavor lab is kept as simple as possible, with practical utensils and machinery that can easily be repaired and maintained locally.
By working with the cooperative in this unusual way, the chocolate company is able to source the best beans for their flavour-driven chocolate. Such a partnership also helps to provide a competitive advantage for the cooperative, by providing the tools for its members to assess and develop the taste and quality of their beans. They can then negotiate a premium price for the sale of high quality flavoured beans.
The first thing that I need to do in order to make cocoa liquor is to roast the beans. The roast of the beans helps to bring out their flavour profiles and determines the aromatics of the chocolate. I weigh out 1,000 grammes of beans, the ideal amount for testing the quality and taste of the cocoa liquor.
The beans are first placed in the roasting machine at a temperature of 120°C for 40 minutes. Next, they are taken out and I use a vacuum cleaner to cool them down before they are crushed into nibs.
Once crushed, they are put into a winnower which separates the cacao nibs from the husks. The nibs are then put back into the roasting machine for another 30 minutes at a temperature of 110°C.
The roasted nibs are now ready to be pressed in the conching machine, which will grind the beans into cocoa liquor, also known as cocoa mass.
The beans are conched for about 7 hours, gradually turning into a thick liquid without the addition of any extra ingredient.
The granite rollers helps to grinds the beans gradually transforming them into cocoa liquor.
A hairdryer is used to cool and maintain the temperature of the cocoa liquid to 49c.
Once the cocoa liquor is ready it is poured into moulds, and placed in the fridge to cool down for a few hours before ready for tasting.
As I taste the cocoa liquor, I begin to distinguish and recognize the different flavour profiles and characteristics often found in this specific cacao variety and area. The flavours that I taste are nuttiness, citrus, and a slight edge of pecan nuts. As I let the flavours rest in my palate, I also distinguish a certain acidity. This could be due to the fermentation process during the post-harvest stages. However, the CCN 51 is renowned for its high acidity and astringency levels in comparison to the criollo variety.