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Discovering real chocolate
May 22, 2005
6:49 pm
cacaofan
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May 22, 2005
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Despite always having liked dark chocolate, I've only recently started trying gourmet bars, and was glad to find this site, with its tons of useful information. I'm afraid I may not be the most sensitive or discerning taster, but I have tried the following bars so far:

1. Cluizel Concepcion
2. Cluizel Los Ancones
3. Cluizel Tamarina
4. Bonnat Hacienda
5. Bonnat Ceylan
6. El Rey Gran Saman
7. Amedei Porcelena
8. Amedei Chuao
and have quite a few others awaiting...

Having heard good things about the Chuaos and Porcelena, I must say that they do live up to expectations, but they are somewhat pricey for normal eating. I'm not really able to detect all the notes as they are, but defintely notice that I like chocolates with less acid, moderate bitterness, and warm notes. So far, my favourite two (somewhat less extorbitantly priced) bars are the Cluizel Concepcion - can't get enough of the warm biscuit notes at the end, and the Bonnat Ceylan - there really is a very warm tea aroma right at the end, really took me in!

At any rate, the Concepcion being one of my first gourmet bars (I've had Valrhona in the past, I think it was the Caribe, and found it lovely, but my first serious tasting bar was the Cluizel), I have had a very good impression of the brand. Although my subsequent Cluizel bars didn't quite live up to expectations - the Tamarina was too acid for my taste(the bacon notes were astonishing though!) and the Los Ancones, despite being much feted, was not as attractive to me as the Concepcion, yet was a good eat nonetheless, I have developed a liking for the brand for its warm image and innovative line.

Being located in London, I thus took the opportunity to explore some of the upmarket departmental stores around, visiting Waitrose, Harvey Nichols, Fortnum and Masons and Harrods in search of novel chocolates. (I have ordered from Martin in order to procure some of the more exotic bars, but still find the actual experience of examining the chocolate bars exciting).

Imagine my surprise and delightthen, when I found the very interesting "Chocolate and Cocoa Discovery Box"from Cluizel at Fortnum and Masons today! The link to the product on Cluizel's site is here:
[url]http://www.cluizel.com/det_gamme.php?idg=5&idp=30[/url]

This is undoubtably one of the more exciting products I've seen, and features three types of items, as follows:
(from printing on box)

A. 4 boxes of cocoa products (cocoa beans, cocoa fragments, cocoa butter, cocoa mass)
B. 25 Chocolate Discs
C. One explicative and illustrated leaflet of 32 pages

The leaflet is in french writing, but translation notes are provided for each page in English, Deutsche and Espanol.

Although being very pricey (19 quid) and light (105g), I think this must be one of the best ways of learning about chocolate hands-on! The leaflet is the highlight, with pictures of the Los Ancones plantation and leads the reader step-by-step through the chocolate making process from beans to bar! Each item in the box is accompanied by a description in the leaflet, which recommends the reader to try the item as part of the learning process... the discs are very interesting, with 5 types of discs - Cluizel White, Milk, 72% Black, 85% Black and Origin-Los Ancones

This is truly one of the most exciting items I have seen for those who are interested in learning about chocolate and do not have the opportunity to attend a tour or a tasting session!

Incidentally, I remember visiting a Chocolate Museum when I visited Germany last year- I believe it was in Frankfurt or Berlin, though I'm not very sure.. I regret not being more interested in Chocolate then, but for those in Europe, do make a trip down to it! It is extremely interesting, with a chocolate fountain into which wafers are dipped into and offered to visitors, and an actual factory on display, with every step from bean to bon-bon shown! I remember taking a couple of fermented cocoa beans and smelling them - the flavour was extraordinary!

Sorry about rambling so much, but I am so thrilled with my discovery that I just had to share it with everyone here!

Hope to hear more from you guys, thanks for all the insightful information you have provided in my visits here!

May 22, 2005
6:59 pm
cacaofan
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May 22, 2005
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By the way, just something interesting - I was at Fortnums and Harvey Nichols today, looking at all the chocolates, with my newfound knowledge from this forum, checking for vanillin, bean type(criollo, trinitaro, forestaro), soya lecithin, places of origin(i.e. french, belgian, swiss) etc, and was amused at the ignorance of the other shoppers at these places - they were just looking at percentages and didn't really care about ingredients and origins and such! Can't blame them though, in the past I would probably be exactly the same. It's a shame these so called "gourmet stores" don't have clearer labelling informing their customers more about the chocolates around, but I guess its not worth their effort and would probably eradicate sales of their belgian bars haha!

And oh yeah, just paid a visit to Chocosphere - they have the exploration box there too :P as well as a whole range of very interesting stuff! Top notch, pity I'm not in the states though...

May 22, 2005
7:07 pm
Martin Christy
London, United Kingdom
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Great to see you on the fine chocolate journey cacaofan! One dissapointment for me with the Cluizel Nuances box is the nasty yellow additives they use to stamp their logo on each disc. Completely unnecessary and they could have used a cocoa butter transfer or similar. This put me right off and we took it out of the shop for this reason. Shame on Cluizel!

Martin Christy
Editor
http://www.seventypercent.com

Martin Christy Editor www.seventypercent.com
May 22, 2005
7:11 pm
cacaofan
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May 22, 2005
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quote:


Originally posted by martinc

Great to see you on the fine chocolate journey cacaofan! One dissapointment for me with the Cluizel Nuances box is the nasty yellow additives they use to stamp their logo on each disc. Completely unnecessary and they could have used a cocoa butter transfer or similar. This put me right off and we took it out of the shop for this reason. Shame on Cluizel!

Martin Christy
Editor
http://www.seventypercent.com


Haha, thats quite true, and to think that Cluizel prides himself on "Nobel Ingredients"! However, it's more the leaflet that excited me, not the chocolates...

May 22, 2005
11:34 pm
Hans-Peter Rot
USA
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It delights me to read these comments, cacaofan, and indeed, the pleasures that fine chocolate invokes are almost impossible to suppress. So please, ramble on as much as you like.

If you enjoyed Cluizel's "Once Upon a Bean" presentation box, then I urge you to check out the Coffret Nuanciers Origins set as well. This box contains 240g of 72% chocolate from seven different origins, including Madagascar, Ecuador, Venezuela, and others. This is not the same chocolate as the 1er Cru de Plantations line, but rather these are only available as "discs" in this unique box. Also available is the 1er Cru de Plantations box set, but for the amount of chocolate included, you're much better off buying each bar separately.

I used to be employed at a chocolate store, and people would walk in constantly asking for the best Belgian chocolate or the highest cocoa content chocolate we sold. Well, after explaining to them that cocoa content and country of production really do not speak for the quality of the chocolate itself, and by equating the chocolate with wine, these people actually seemed to understand what determines a good chocolate. Indeed, I was a good salesman in this respect, because I could sell just about every bar, but the fact that these people purchased my recommendations (and returned to buy more) insinuates that their ignorance can be dispelled by proper knowledge. Most people seeking quality chocolate are interested in learning more about it, but often times they don't know exactly how. It's a shame that smaller manuals such as those found in the Cluizel sets are not available to purchase individually. I think this would help matters tremendously.

May 23, 2005
11:40 am
cacaofan
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May 22, 2005
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Thanks for the tip Montegrano! In fact, I did pick up the Coffret Nuanciers Origins as well- seemed too interesting to pass up, plus it was much better value with 240g of chocolate discs, yet at the same price as the Once upon the bean set.

By the way, here's the link to the museum I visited in germany, turned out it was in Cologne after all! :P
http://www.schokoladenmuseum.d...../start.htm

not sure if there are any such places in the world, with the full process of chocolate making displayed for all to see - in fact, seeing how they actually grind roasted beans into their own coveture, it seems they are actually more "authentic" than many brands who just cast bars from others covetures...

Does anyone have more info about this?

Here's a blurb from the website - (translated from german by a webpage, so excuse the broken english):

The production department covers a complete unit beside the chocolate well for the processing of the kakaobohne - chocolate mass conchierten rolled by roasting, breaking and grinding up to the finished mixed, and. An a board plant as well as the Trueffelherstellung and hollow figure production give an idea of, to which Koestlichkeiten chocolate can be processed. Approximately 400 kg of finished product in this true to scale made smaller mini production plant daily one produces.

Some photos and impressions in english:
[url]http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Europe/Germany/Land_Nordrhein_Westfalen/Cologne-45550/Things_To_Do-Cologne-Imhoff_Stollwerck_Chocolate_Museum-BR-1.html[/url]

Sigh, how I wish I could make another trip back there...

May 23, 2005
12:57 pm
alex_h
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welcome, cacaofan, and please ramble on. it's a forum after all :)

i wonder about the quality that stollwerck produces though. not a bar i'd go for. could it be their grinding of beans is only for presentation purposes?

May 23, 2005
1:37 pm
Masur
Stockholm, Sweden
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The museum in Köln (Cologne) is independent and owned by a family foundation. It was founded 1993 by Hans Imhoff, former owner of Stollwerck (Now part of Barry-Callebaut). A nice museum to visit.
I think they still sell chocolate from Rausch and Leysieffer in the museum shop. As far as I now Stollwerck is not producing real chocolate. I doubt the museum is producing real chocolate.

Chocostory in Bruge, Belgium, is another interesting museum. A visit is still on my whish list:
[url]http://www.choco-story.be/[/url] [url]http://www.choco-story.be/choc/en_choc_news.htm[/url] [url]http://www.belcolade.com/news/list/chocostory.asp[/url]

"Porcelana: The Holy Grail of Pure Criollos" (Maricel E. Presilla)

"Porcelana: The Holy Grail of Pure Criollos" (Maricel E. Presilla)
May 23, 2005
3:45 pm
Hans-Peter Rot
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Some companies do offer factory tours for the public to witness the chocolate producing steps, but since I've never actually attended one, I cannot attest to the breadth of such a visit.

May 23, 2005
8:23 pm
cacaofan
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well as far as I can remember from my visit, there was definitely chocolate being produced on the spot, as you could actually trace the cocoa beans from crushed paste to the conching machine and on to other machines, etc. However, the items that most caught my eye were the bon-bon type chocolates, not bars - you could see people hand-decorating those on the spot. Also, I remember a sign claiming that the fountain from which they dipped wafers into acted to aerate the chocolate and give it a great taste as well..

I do doubt the quality of the beans they use though, probably just forestaro? After all, the real money is in selling to the masses, not to discerning eaters - with luck that might change though...

May 23, 2005
9:25 pm
Masur
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It's not in every factory that you are allowed to look inside a conching mashine to see what later will become chocolate.

"Porcelana: The Holy Grail of Pure Criollos" (Maricel E. Presilla)

"Porcelana: The Holy Grail of Pure Criollos" (Maricel E. Presilla)
May 23, 2005
11:40 pm
Hans-Peter Rot
USA
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A lot of companies are very secretive about the conching process. I've seen various television programs (featuring Guittard, et al) and read various articles where the conching process was only allowed a brief mention and nothing more. By this, I mean that they do mention the importance of conching and divulge the time the chocolate usually conchs, but that's about it.

May 25, 2005
3:05 pm
cacaofan
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why would that actually be so much of a secret? I mean, do they add secret ingredients or something? isn't all conching the same, using the same type of cocoa paste how long you do it? I would think the fermentation of the bean and the composition of the conching paste would be more secretive than the actual process

May 25, 2005
3:33 pm
Hans-Peter Rot
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The beauty behind fermentation's secrets is that this process occurs in the country of origin. For example, Venezuelan beans will be fermented within Venezuela, and Ecuadorian beans are fermented in Ecuador. So it's pretty hard to expose your secrets to the public (or the competition) when these kinds of steps occur world's away from the country of chocolate manufacture. However, once the beans have been fermented, they are shipped to whomever pays the price for them, whether it's Barry Callebaut, Valrhona, or Amedei. The difference here is in regards to how close to the farmers and plantations the buyers are. For instance, companies such as Amedei and Cluizel have more personal relations and more control in the processes that occur within the country of origin, whereas larger manufacturers such as Callebaut and Lindt do not.

After in-country processing (harvesting, drying, fermenting, etc.) occurs, the beans are then shipped to their respective chocolatiers, which is when the manufacturer works his magic by roasting, grinding, conching, etc. to transform the bean into chocolate. And these processes occur within the country of the bean-to-bar manufacturer.

Conching is yet another process of the bean's journey to bar format that varies according to manufacturer. It often occurs in two processes, each called dry conching and liquid conching. Dry conching stirs the mass to remove excess moisture and to add viscosity, while liquid conching is usually where extra cocoa butter is added. The latter stage is primarily where a smooth and creamy texture is achieved. Basically, conching is an aeration and refinement step where the chocolate's final flavors are transformed (e.g. volatile acids are removed) into the manufacturer's desired preference and where the texture is improved from gritty to smooth.

May 25, 2005
7:55 pm
cacaofan
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ah, thanks for the very enlightening description, however, just one other thing then.. are conching machines actually customised by the manufacturer, or are there many different settings available on these things to control speed of rotation, duration, angle, exposure, etc? sounds like quite an interesting thing to experiment with if one had the time and knowledge

May 25, 2005
11:55 pm
Hans-Peter Rot
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As far as I know, conching machines are usually pretty uniform across a manufacturer-to-manufacturer basis, but some brands may use simpler or slightly different machines than others. A popular company that supplies the industry with machines is Bauermeister:

http://www.bauermeister.de

There's an English translation option at the top of the page if you need it, btw.

It has been discussed elsewhere on the forum about Domori's conching machine and how it is believed that they use one that combines the grinding and conching processes. Some brands, however, have "special" machines that they claim as crucial elements to achieving their desired results. For example, Valrhona uses an antique French grinder-huller and Scharffen Berger swears by their 80-something year old Melangeur that was built in Dresden, Germany.

May 26, 2005
5:05 am
Sebastian
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There are many types of conches available, varying wildly in how they perform their task..

May 26, 2005
5:34 am
Hans-Peter Rot
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May 27, 2005
5:06 am
Hans-Peter Rot
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Lloveras is the company that supplies Pralus with his Universal. This machine converts winnowed beans into conched chocolate in the same rotating drum.

June 6, 2005
11:14 pm
pepa de oro
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conching is one of the msot critical steps in chocoalte processing and of cause each conche type has a influence on the result. as well with the pretty new types like the elk from bühler, great results can be achived.
would be great to exchange with processing experts!

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