Bean to Bar
We combine only the finest naturally organic, heirloom cocoa beans with locally-grown unrefined cane sugar to create our range of chocolates – no gluten, soy, GMO’s, palm oil or artificial flavourings or colourings.
It takes 12 steps to turn a cocoa bean into a chocolate bar. Each step has a vital impact on how the final chocolate tastes and it requires a special collaboration between cocoa farmer and chocolate maker to create the perfect chocolate bar.
FROM COCOA BEAN…
GROWING AND HARVESTING
The cocoa tree grows only along the equator where it thrives in hot and humid temperatures. It takes four years before the cocoa tree will start producing fruit – the big, rugby ball-sized cocoa pods, which oddly grow straight out of the tree trunk. The pods never ripen at the same time, so every day cocoa farmers have to walk the fields to pick the ripe cocoa pods, which come in a variety of colours – from lush green, to yellow, orange, deep red and even purple. The pods are split open to reveal cocoa beans covered in a sticky white fruit. The cocoa farmers in Kyela call it ‘cocoa ice cream’ and it is one of the most delicious things you’ll ever taste with flavours of litchi, pineapple and pear – but nothing like the chocolate we know.
While most of our cocoa farmers can’t afford to be organically certified (an official ‘organic’ stamp requires a hefty price tag) their cocoa beans and trees are grown without the use of pesticides or chemicals – a fact that our Head Chocolate Maker Antonino can attest to, as he sees first-hand how the cocoa is grown! We are in the process of creating our own organic certification in order to ensure that each of the farmers we work with adhere to our strict AFRIKOA standards.
FERMENTING AND DRYING
The cocoa bean pulp is harvested and placed in giant crates lined with banana leaves where they are left to naturally ferment for five days. This is where the magic happens and the chocolate flavours start to develop. The fermented cocoa beans are then spread out onto reed mats and dried in the sun before being placed in hessian bags. The cocoa beans are now a little closer to tasting like chocolate, but are still very bitter and need a lot of love – and skill. Once the farmers have collected enough beans, they rent a truck and travel the 16-hour journey to the port of Dar es Salaam where the beans are placed on a ship which brings the precious cargo to the tip of Africa, to our factory in Cape Town and into the hands of our talented chocolate-makers.
TO CHOCOLATE BAR…
Once the cocoa beans arrive at our chocolate factory, they are roasted to create our own flavour profile before the beans are cracked to reveal the nibs inside.
The cocoa nibs and cocoa shells are separated in a process called ‘winnowing’. The cocoa shells are discarded while the cocoa nibs move on to the next step in the process. Cocoa nibs are the rubbly bits, which make up the inside of a cocoa bean (once the shell is removed). The nibs contain cocoa solids and cocoa butter – basically, all the flavour and all the good stuff we need to make chocolate!
Cocoa shells are full of nutrients and we love to return them back to Mother Nature by donating them to local farmers and NGO’s who sprinkle the nutrient rich shells onto vegetable gardens.
PRE REFINING, REFINING AND CONCHING
The cocoa nibs go through a series of machines where they are crushed with the finest-quality cane sugar and (in the case of our milk chocolate) full cream milk powder, which takes them one step closer to becoming chocolate.
TEMPERING AND MOULDING
The chocolate is refined even further until it is velvety smooth. It then needs to be tempered by heating and cooling it so that when it sets, it has a shiny appearance and a nice snap when you break off a piece (the best sound in the world!).
FLAVOURS IN OUR CHOCOLATE
If you’ve tasted our bean-to-bar chocolate, you’ll probably notice how different it is from the usual commercial chocolate brands. Apart from the typical chocolate flavour, you’ll taste tropical fruit, acidity, dried fruit, coconut, raisins, floral or earthy notes. Just like wine, these notes are all natural flavours present in cocoa. Chocolate can taste like so much more than just … chocolate. In fact, our chocolate tastes like the place it comes from – Kyela! The soil in which the cocoa trees grow, the temperature, the fruits with which they grow – these elements all contribute to the flavours of the cocoa and, ultimately, to the flavours in an AFRIKOA chocolate bar.
Thanks to Direct Trade we make our chocolate from fresh cocoa; while the traditional cocoa bean trading system means that the majority of chocolate makers buy their cocoa from Europe (for some strange reason all the world’s cocoa goes there before being shipped back around the world!) it also means that these cocoa beans sit in massive warehouses for months and lose valuable flavour. By trading directly with farmers, we receive the cocoa beans within weeks of them leaving the farms in Kyela. Fresh cocoa beans are highly aromatic and packed with flavour and we believe that this is what makes AFRIKOA chocolate so special.
Did you know? The difference between a chocolate maker and a chocolatier
A chocolatier is someone who buys ready-made chocolate (made by a chocolate-maker) and melts it down to make truffles, filled chocolates and pralines. A chocolate maker is someone who makes chocolate from scratch using cocoa beans.