Cacao & Chocolate
What does chocolate taste like?
It seems like a simple question. Chocolate lovers know that flavor profiles can change based on whether is was made in Belgium, Germany, Switzerland or France. But what makes Belgian, French, Dutch, or “whatever” chocolate different? Are the companies in these countries getting cacao from different places? Is it roasted or processed differently?
In reality, the flavor profiles of most major brands or national styles are disconnected from the actual agricultural product farmers grow. For major producers, cacao and chocolate are treated as commodities. Commodity cacao is grown and harvested on plantations that employ, at best, questionable labor practices and, at worst, outright slavery (see here and here). This cacao is often poorly fermented, trash-laden and low quality. Industrial chocolate manufacturers calibrate their roasting and refining to process this low quality cacao. The resulting commodity chocolate is shipped around the world.
Some of this commodity chocolate is mixed with proprietary perfumes and flavorings to make European chocolates, with the scientific formulations giving them their signature profiles. Some is mixed with milk powder, sugar and deodorized cocoa butter to make inexpensive milk chocolate. Some is sold to candy makers and chocolatiers, who make beautiful, brightly colored and very expensive confections (often with the addition of even more unnatural colors and flavorings). The base chocolate for all of these is still the same commodity chocolate; formulated to taste, feel and smell like what the industrial manufacturers believe you should think of as “chocolate.”
Some small chocolate makers are trying to change how people
taste chocolate. Using trade practices
like transparent and direct trade, they ensure their farmers are well
compensated for high quality crops. Good bourbon producers don’t need to add
“essence of bourbon” or “charred oak flavor extract.” Good chocolate doesn’t need additives either
and good makers deliver a variety of flavors that are natural to the great
variety of cacao in nature.
Here at Zero Tolerance, we offer single and double ingredient chocolate. We buy our raw cacao beans using Transparent Trade, roast the cacao here, crack and winnow the roasted beans and refine them on stone wheels. The cacaos we select are full of amazing flavors, which we work hard to accentuate throughout our very simple process. We want you to be able to taste the rain forest on the Pacific Coast in Colombia. We want you to feel the mountain air in the Semuliki Forest in Uganda. We want you to smell the earth in Guatemala.
Does it cost more? You bet it does. We pay our farmers more than triple the market rate for commodity chocolate. One of our single origin bars of chocolate has more cacao solids (the dark stuff that has flavor) than a case of cheap commodity chocolate bars. And, of course, our chocolate tastes like the cacao our farmers grew, not what a corporation invented in a lab and declared “chocolate.”
When it comes to inclusions and milk, we aren’t total fanatics. We make some delicious milk chocolate. We also offer dark chocolate with inclusions. The chocolate we use still tastes like the cacao beans we buy from the farmer, not a formulated “blue raspberry” chemical simulacra of what we think you should think chocolate should taste like.
We invite you, especially those of you who identify as chocoholics, to taste chocolate free from perfumes, flavorings, colorings, wax coatings, deodorized cocoa derivatives and blue metallic sparkles. In short, we invite you to taste actual chocolate, maybe for the first time.