In celebration of World Chocolate Day, we wanted to shine a spotlight on one of our favourite things (besides Chai, of course!): Chocolate! Prana Chai is handcrafted and handmade at our factory in Melbourne, and we are lucky to be surrounded by other craft and artisan markers in our magnificent city who also make their product by hand. We love food here in Melbourne, and we've had the chance to partner with a number of other passionate and dedicated makers with similar philosophies to us. All natural, made from scratch.
Harry from Hunted + Gathered
You might not know this, but chocolate, before it's crafted into the delicious sweet we all know and love, comes from a fruit! It's usually processed in big factories and then sent out in blocks to chocolate makers around the world, who melt it down and add their own flavours and styles.
There is a growing movement of small-batch chocolate makers, who process the chocolate themselves, taking the raw cacao (seeds of the cacao fruit) and turning it into specialised chocolate themselves.
These 'bean-to-bar' chocolate makers are crafting handmade products, and work with their product in a similar way to how we create our chai blends. We wanted to highlight the hard work these chocolate makers put in to provide wholesome chocolate, and also to share the amazing process they undertake to transform the cacao fruit into the chocolate we all know and love.
Cacao, like coffee, has a different flavour profile depending upon where it is grown, what species and variety it is, and how it is processed. Cacao is grown in similar regions to coffee, about 20 degrees north and south of the equator. These sub-tropical regions provide fertile soil for cacao to thrive. Many bean-to-bar makers try to source cacao that has been produced ethically and sustainably.
On The Farm
The cacao pods are usually handpicked and cracked open, the seeds and fruit scooped out and sent for processing. The fruit is fermented and washed, which imparts a specific flavour to the cacao seed (the bean), and then it is dried and packed up in 60kg sacks to send around the world to different chocolate makers.
At the Chocolate Makers
Beans are hand-sorted, looking carefully for imperfections and selecting the best from each batch. It’s a labour of love, but it’s worth it. The beans are then roasted in an oven, where temperature is adjusted depending on where the beans came from. Now that the beans have been roasted, they’re cracked and winnowed, leaving behind a pure, roasted nib. Here, the cacao husk (outer layer) is blown away, sometimes, this is saved and used to infuse into teas or beers.
The nibs spend up to five days grinding and emulsifying. Here, many additions are added, such as sugar, cocoa butter, or any flavours or inclusions. After it finishes grinding, it needs to be tempered and set into chocolate molds. Tempering gives chocolate its texture, its sheen and its ability to melt in the mouth.
The chocolate is exactingly heated and then cooled to specific temperatures, forming evenly shaped crystals in the cocoa butter fat. This allows the product, once it solidifies, to have a perfectly smooth exterior and smooth finish. If you've ever left a bar of chocolate in the heat, you might have seen it has a white film on it after it sets again.
It hasn't gone bad - the cocoa butter crystals have just reformed in a jagged and haphazard way, resulting in a white cocoa butter film on the exterior of the chocolate. You can still eat it, but it won't have the same mouthfeel! This is called 'going out of temper'.
Want to see more of the process? Check out this video!