We fully believe that chocolate sparks joy. We don’t have any science to back that up, but we do have Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Bars, which is pretty strong evidence. But as any chocolate lover knows, not all cocoa is created equal. In order to capture those moments of joy in our snacks, we needed to partner with a supplier who puts quality and purity at the top of their priority list.
Chocolate is one of the most complex ingredients for us to source because many facilities use dairy, soy, nuts and other allergens in their manufacturing. We chose our organic, Fair Trade chocolate from a female-led co-op in Peru not only because it meets our allergen safety requirements, but also for its high environmental and economic sustainability.
The Importance of Fair Trade
The Fair Trade Certification makes sure that cocoa farmers receive the payments they deserve for their hard work. Participating in Organic and Fair Trade farming boosts farmers’ income because certified cocoa has a higher selling price on the market.
Just as we pay our Bakery team a living wage and provide them with the opportunity for career advancement, we’re committed to paying a fair price for our chocolate and supporting the cocoa farmers who are at the core of the production process.
Soy Lecithin, Defined
Soy lecithin is an emulsifier that many chocolate manufacturers use to create a more consistent mixture and slow the inevitable melting of the final product. It also helps to reduce the “bloom” (discoloration of chocolate caused by cocoa butter separation) on the chocolate and creates a more traditionally appealing appearance. Soy Lecithin isn’t an inherently “dirty” ingredient, but it does contain one of the top eight food allergens and is not necessary to chocolate production, which is why we source chocolate without it.
But before it can be mixed into a seed bar or transformed into seed butter, our chocolate has a long journey ahead of it.
Bean to Seed Bar
Although cocoa originally hails from West Africa, these days most organic cocoa is grown in Latin America. The cocoa plant thrives in warm, humid climates, so most cocoa farms are found 10 degrees north and south of the equator. Our organic cocoa is grown in the tropics of Peru’s vibrant highlands.
Chocolate actually comes from large, football-shaped cocoa pods that grow along the trunks and branches of cocoa trees. Once ripe, each cocoa pod is harvested from the tree by hand, usually with a sharp machete or large knife. The pods are then cracked open to reveal the gooey white cocoa beans nestled inside. The seeds get loaded into baskets to be transported to the fermentation area while the empty pods are used as compost to replenish the soil.
Farmers ferment and dry the separated cocoa beans by heaping them on flat surfaces or into large crates, covering them with banana leaves, and occasionally giving them a stir and transferring them to new boxes. Fermentation takes a little over a week as the beans go from a deep purple to a rusty red. This process breaks down the outer coating of the bean and allows their natural floral flavor to come out when they are roasted.
The farmers and chocolate processors work together to protect the safety and quality of our cocoa from field to factory. After arriving at our partner’s manufacturing facility, cocoa beans are checked, and double-checked, for pesticide residues and sorted for quality. The beans then go to the pre-roaster, where they are crushed into cocoa nibs. These small nibs then get roasted for a second time. Sometimes the whole beans are roasted, but our partner invested in equipment that can roast the smaller nibs for a more consistent roast and better flavor.
The roasted nibs then journey to the mill to be ground into a thick, brown paste called cocoa liquor. Cocoa liquor doesn’t mean there’s any alcohol, it just means that the cocoa is liquid at this stage. The cocoa liquor is pumped into a hydraulic press, which separates the cocoa butter from the cocoa powder. 50% of the cocoa bean is cocoa butter and 50% is cocoa powder. The cocoa powder and cocoa butter are then packed up and sent to our Bakery in Boston, where they will be used in our Dark Chocolate Sunflower Seed Butter.
With all three components of the cocoa bean separated, it’s time to start making the final product - dark chocolate chips. We use 56% dark chocolate in our Dark Chocolate Sea Salt and Double Chocolate Mocha Bars and Seed’nola, which our supplier makes with 30% cocoa liquor, 26% cocoa butter, and 44% sugar. These three ingredients are added to a refiner, which mixes the chocolate ingredients together for the smooth, fine texture we love. In the final step, a huge conche rolls and airs out our chocolate. It is then cooled and ready for shipment to Boston!
Our Dark Chocolate Sunflower Seed Butter is actually made in a process very similar to the dark chocolate itself. Along with organic sunflower seeds and a touch of organic powdered sugar, the Peruvian cocoa butter and cocoa powder are all mixed together to create our smooth, slightly sweetened Seed Butter. We celebrate the chocolate’s raw flavor without masking the unique floral qualities of its South American origin. After all, our snacks are the sum of their ingredients, which is why we aim for simplicity every step of the way.