All of the chocolate at Vicuña is bean to bar. This means that the entire process from the time the cocoa bean arrives at our door, to the moment it leaves our store as a bar, is all done in our factory. We have a multi-step process in place to ensure that every chocolate bar that we sell is as pure and immaculate as possible. Below are the steps that we use in our bean to bar process.
Once we receive the beans from Central and South America, we sort through each batch to ensure that each bean in up to our standard. This involves removing cocoa fruit from the husks and removing beans that are deemed unfit for our chocolate. Each batch is sorted by hand to certify that every bean that goes into our bars is the best it can be.
After we are done sorting, the beans are then ready to be roasted. This process involves spreading the beans out on perferated baking sheets and putting them in our industrial oven for around 20 minutes. Once roasted, the beans are set to cool for 24 hours before the next step in the process. Roasting the beans allows for any bacteria on the beans from the farm to be removed, the cocoa beans the separate from their husks, and for the flavor to be enhanced. After roasting and cooling, the beans are then ready to be cracked and winnowed.
Cracking and winnowing
In the cracking and winnowing process, we use a handmade machine that is used to crack the shells, coarsely grind the cocoa beans, and separate the cocoa nibs (ground cocoa beans) from the husks. The machine uses suction to remove the lighter husks, while the heavier beans fall into a bucket with a screen on top. The purpose of the screen is to stop any pieces of husks that were not removed from mixing with the cocoa nibs. While this process is going on, there is always someone inspecting the process and watching for stray husks on the screen in order to remove them.
Next is the grinding process. This step is important to get right, as it is the most influential in the chocolate making process. First, we add cocoa butter and melt it to act as a lubricant for the grinder. Next, we add the cocoa beans that were previously cracked and coarsely ground into the grinder scoop by scoop. This allows the process to initially grind all of the beans to ensure a smooth batch. Once all of the cocoa nibs are added, the machine runs and grinds the cocoa nibs until smooth. After the beans have all ben ground, we add sugar to the grinder and run it until the chocolate has a smooth texture. The grinding process takes around 75 hours per batch.
After the chocolate is ground and the sugar is added, it is ready to be transferred to the tempering machine. Once in its liquid state, the chocolate is very sensitive and even a drop of water could ruin an entire batch. Carefully, we transfer the chocolate into the tempering machine and prepare it. This process involves heating up the chocolate, then immediately cooling it. This process helps to bind the acids in the chocolate so that they solidify while bound, giving the chocolate a more stable form as well as a higher melting point. Once the machine has tempered the chocolate, it is ready for molding.
In the molding process, we use our custom molds for each variety of chocolate. It is important that the humidity is low on a molding day, as even small amounts of moisture in the air could cause bars to be ruined. The tempering machine has a chocolate spout, making it easy to fill the molds with the recently tempered chocolate. Once filled and scraped, we place all of the molds into a cooling cabinet to harden. This takes around 30 minutes and once cooled, the chocolate is ready to be removed and wrapped.
At Vicuña, we individually hand wrap every item in our shop. For all of the bars, we hand stamp the labels and after wrapping the bars in foil and their respective label, we add our stickers to the front and back and they are ready to be sold!