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All you need to know about: Chocolate

26 February 2020 by Food&HotelAsia

  1. Introduction
  2. From Bean to Bar
  3. Choc Trends: Going fruity
  4. Choc Trends: Rediscovering Ruby Chocolate
  5. Choc Trends: A Changing Ecosystem
  6. The Future – Conclusion

Introduction

Chocolate has always been greatly enjoyed by people. Besides being a decadent treat on its own, chocolates is a versatile ingredient that commonly makes an appearance in a wide array of food including cakes, tarts, mousses, cremes, cookies, brownies, truffles, bonbons, shakes and can also be used as spreads or toppings. In this edition of FHA Insider, we delve into the world of chocolate and explore the art of chocolate making, and the latest in the chocolate scene.

From Bean to Bar

Chocolate making is intricate and could almost be considered a work of art. At Valrhona, they have a 10-step process from when the bean becomes a bar. They start from plantation of trees, harvesting and extracting. After which, they ferment the beans to allow the flavours to develop. After fermenting, they let the beans dry under the sun. The beans will then be brought to the factory for roasting, winnowing, blending and grinding or refining. The last step to make chocolate is conching, before it goes through tempering and moulding to ensure its aesthetics and texture.

Cacao fruit, courtesy of Valrhona

At Valrhona, the cacao tree has special requirements to ensure they grow and harvest well. They need to have an ambient temperature of at least 25 degree Celsius with a moist atmosphere of more than 80% humidity. It also requires shade and an annual rainfall of about 1800mm

Choc Trends: Going Fruity

Fruits need no introduction to chocolate. They have been infused with chocolate, used beside chocolate and even thrown whole inside chocolate. With the rise of more colourful #Instafoods, chocolate makers are also riding on the trend with new infused chocolates that not only bring different colours, but also different flavour profiles to the table. And doing so is not an easy task.

According to Valrhona, “People who are unfamiliar with chocolate-making may wonder what made this task so hard. Chocolate does not like water, and for good reason. Each step in the chocolate-making process is aimed at reducing the liquid content in the cocoa beans; as for cocoa butter, like any other self-respecting fat, it struggles to combine with water So what exactly was the issue? Well, most fruits contain a considerable amount of water. This makes it a real challenge to mix fruit, chocolate and butter.

Therefore, this was the problem and it remained unsolved to this day. But now, we have the result: a product combining the unique texture of couverture chocolate with the intense colour and flavour of the fruit. It will give pastry chefs, chocolatiers and cooks a chance to bring a whole new dimension to their creations: a dash of pure INSPIRATION.”

Inspiration Series Courtesy of Valrhona

The types of fruit used have also become more extensive such that various notes from fruits have been identified – tangy, tarte, nutty, citrusy. Playing on these notes, various ingredients could in turn be paired with these chocolates, giving rise to an endless possibility of delectable variations of fruit chocolates and creations.

Choc Trends: Rediscovering Ruby Chocolate

Most of us would probably be familiar with Ruby chocolate by now. Ruby chocolate is touted as the newest addition to the chocolate family, traditionally being Milk, White and Dark. It was introduced at a Shanghai trade show in September 2017 and is known as the 4th chocolate or the “Millennial Chocolate”. The Ruby Cocoa Bean is usually grown in Ecuador, Brazil, and the Ivory Coast. It is natural and has not been genetically modified and is not new. It is said to have a sweet taste like white chocolate with raspberry & lemon. Ruby Chocolate is made just like the main 3 types of chocolate, with cacao beans and sugar, extra cocoa butter and some milk powder, with no added colouring.

Ruby Chocolate used in Kit Kat, Image Source: Nestlé UK

It had created such a buzz since its debut with many chocolate professionals being sceptical about it. They feel like its vibrant hue is merely a marketing strategy targeted at millennials. Some also argue that producers use unfermented cacao, which cut the cost of its raw materials while others argue that it is just an attention grabber and does not promote fine chocolate.

What we can all agree on, however, is the number of pretty pink products that have arisen these past couple of years. Brands such as Nestlé’s Kit Kat, Belgian chocolatier Leonidas, Italian pralines manufacturer Baci® Perugina®, Haagen-Dazs, Magnum and even UK coffee chain Costa Coffee have been embracing ruby chocolate with new product launches incorporating the latter. (Not to mention pink-hued creations from chefs and patisseries around the world.)

Ruby Cocoa Hot Chocolate, Image Source: Costa Coffee UK

Choc Trends: A Changing Ecosystem

The chocolate industry has also been evolving into a more traceable and sustainable industry. With so many farmers and suppliers, a long running problem in the industry has been that it was difficult to keep track on whether beans were “clean” – ethically produced and sourced without any forms of slavery.

At Valrhona, sustainability and traceability are principles they are committed to. Under their Cocoa and Forests Initiative (CFI), Valrhona partners with companies and governments within 2 of their cocoa producing countries, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to ensure quality and permanent traceability. 100% of the cocoa from these countries are traced back to an astonishing number of 10, 262 farmers, and can even be mapped on a GPS to the actual farms. Sourcemap’s founder Bonanni even credits this initiative for its role in mapping farms out, so that his company was able to trace even the smallest transactions.

Barry Callebaut, another one of the world’s largest chocolate processors and manufacturers, is also scaling up on their sustainability programme, Cocoa Horizons, where they focus on farmer specialization and projects that support the community. Their goal is to drive prosperity amongst cocoa farmers and re-able them by creating self-sustaining communities which protects the children and the environment. Through their Forever Chocolate movement, they hope to lift 500, 000 cocoa farmers out of poverty by 2025.

Choc Trends: Cocoa meets tech

Another notable shift is how the chocolate industry is moving towards technology for solutions. Besides mapping farms like Valrhona, one company is turning to blockchain. In October 2019, FairChain Foundation partnered with the United Nations Development Programme to create The Other Bar, chocolates that use blockchain to directly benefit cocoa farmers. Presently, cocoa farmers only receive an average of 3% of the revenue earned from a bar of chocolate. However, with The Other Bar, you can scan a token within the packaging of the chocolate bar and directly contribute to the farmers, cutting down costs usually absorbed by a middleman or other processes like marketing and so on.

Guido van Staveren, founder of the FairChain Foundation, believes in empowering consumers to make the change. In an article with Fast Company, he says “If we can show that this proof of impact drives customer loyalty, and marketing spend given to consumers turns into impact, then we can reach out to all these large companies that now spend millions on Kim Kardashian and say, ‘Don’t spend your marketing on these famous faces, spend your marketing dollars on your own crowd, your own customers, and let them invest in impact,”. Around $800 billion is spent worldwide on marketing, he says—but only $170 billion is necessary to end global poverty.

Conclusion

While we are enjoying all the vibrant changes that the chocolate industry has got to offer, it is heartening  to know that more companies are also looking to refine their supply chains and bring change to processes that consumers do not usually see. Chocolates will always remain a decadent treat, and hopefully this decadence will originate from fully ethical sources from all companies in the near future.

 

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