Q: Is Vintage Plantations Chocolates a “Bean to Bar” chocolate?
A: Vintage Plantations Chocolates’ philosophy is to work with farmers who have decided to be certified from the Rainforest Alliance and take them by the hand and add value to their crops so they can make a better living. Hence, they can manage to live off their land.
In that respect, we teach the farmers to follow an exceptional fermentation process which differs from cocoa beans to cocoa beans, and from one area to another. This is because of Pierrick’s extensive experience in post-harvest process. We quickly see what is the best method for each specific farmer.
Only after the beans have been fermented to our satisfaction and sun-dried, we purchase the cocoa beans, and invite the farmer to follow us to the next steps in the process: cleaning, roasting, winnowing, and pre-grinding. We handle these steps in-country, selecting the best grinder, according to his/her equipment after going through a test roasting campaign to see how to best roast the particular beans. Again, our philosophy is to partner with a grinder which has been certified by the R.A. and pay him to rent his equipment and follow our time consuming process. This is usually done one week every three months. We believe an Ecuadorian chocolate should be made in Ecuador, just as a Peruvian chocolate should be made in Peru, and so on.
From then on, we bring the ground chocolate to New York to complete the process in our facility and make bars, bonbons, nibbles, and more.
Vintage Plantations Chocolates selects its cocoa beans and controls every step of the process; whether or not we own or rent some of the equipment has no bearing on what happens to the cocoa bean. Just ask the bean. It feels the same . The most important thing is to create as much additional value as possible to the cocoa logistical chain in country.
Q: Which country grows the best cocoa beans?
A: A fine cacao bean does not mean a fine chocolate. The fermentation, the drying, and the grinding has as much, if not more, influence on the quality of the chocolate than its origin. We inform you of the origin of our beans for the sole goal of informing the consumer where the beans were grown, and which farmers benefit from our work and your purchase.
Excellent chocolate is made from mediocre cocoa beans because the selection, fermentation and post-harvest from the farmer was exemplary. It is then up to the chocolate maker to respect the good flavor potential the farmers have given him through his beans.
Q: How can we keep our prices so low?
A: For starters, we are self-funded. Although this leads us to grow at a slower rate, we do so without debt. Hence, we do not have to increase our prices to pay off interest loans. For you, this means that you are not subsidizing bankers’ loans when buying our chocolate. As a result, our chocolate is one of the better values on the market!
In addition, we source our beans from our farmers directly and control the transformation of our cocoa beans into chocolates. This enables us to still pay a very high premium directly to the farmer, without affecting our overall pricing.
Q: How to tell if this is a good chocolate or a normal chocolate?
A: There are several ways to tell:
- The aroma or Smell:
Is an indicator of how a chocolate will taste a connoisseur will look for specific notes that he think he can find because of the beans origins printed on the wrapper, or its cocoa content. Notes can be ” fruity”, floral, citric, Tobacco, Nutty, etc.
- The “aspect of the chocolate”:
The Good chocolates are often redder than black. They have a clean soft finish, but they will have a marble look when they are broken. They will break with a nice clean break. Not too brittle, not too soft.
- The taste:
The Most important thing we always search for are evolving flavors, the initial explosion, and the hidden notes. In order to go through this experience, it is better to let the chocolate melt on your tongue, but sometimes notes are revealed by ” munching”. That’s when the quality of the fermentation, and how it was dried or roasted will come into play. For instance, a bean with less than 70% fermentation will be very bitter. Most hybrids and beans selected for the size of the bean, and how fast they grow, will also tend to be bitter and astringent, if just following a run for the mill fermentation process. One will notice the good chocolatier by how high their percentage of chocolate, without excessive bitterness or astringency. The less sugar, the harder it is to hide the flavor or bad flavor of the cocoa bean and its process.
One of the reasons chocolate is so pleasant is that it melts at temperature very close to the body temperature. The chocolate should never be sticky or cloying in the mouth.
- The length of the flavor:
A good chocolate is revealed in ITS LENGTH. The last notes in your mouth which remains after eating the chocolate. Is it sugar, acidity, or chocolate? A poor quality chocolate quickly becomes bitter and metallic and the only way to prolong the eating experience is to eat more. This could be an explanation for the sugar-loaded or artificially-flavored chocolate compulsive eating consumption. (Yes, there is even a chocolate flavor which is added to some chocolate, under the term “natural flavors”, or “essential oils”, or not even mentioned, but it’s there). A good chocolate could have lasting flavors in your mouth for 30 minutes, given you do not eat anything afterwards (of course).
- Your Opinion:
Yes, as our strongest memory is our memory of smell, you can associate a specific flavor to some good memories in your past. As a result, for emotional reasons, this could be the chocolate you prefer — and that is very much fine. “There is not a best Chocolate, but only the ones that please your fancy the best at this very moment.”