Hicimos chocolate amargo en una forma de madeleines, salieron con mejor aspecto que gusto!
The main reason I came to WWOOF at Fazenda Santa Tereza in Serra Grande, Bahia was to see how they grow cacao and make chocolate. There are very few places in the world where you can find cacao producers making finished chocolate. It’s difficult to grow cacao, let alone make chocolate. The fragile cacao fruit tree grows in a tropical environment that is not favorable for chocolate. And the heat and humidity make it difficult to transport and store chocolate without a lot of resources such as air conditioning and refrigerated trucks. You can flash back to when I made chocolate in the rainforests of Mastatal, Costa Rica at La Iguana Chocolate to see how difficult it was for us then: La Iguana Tempers Chocolate, For the First Time! Thankfully, here at Fazenda Santa Tereza we have a few more resources at our disposal.
Mathieu bought a mini melangeur in the US; a machine with two rotating stone cylinders that grinds cacao beans into chocolate liquor. He also owns a restaurant in Itacare with a spare kitchen in the back full of marble table tops and chocolate molds to make tempered chocolates!
Given the few extra tools we have at Fazenda Santa Tereza, there is the issue of selling the finished chocolate. Mathieu would like to eventually transform his restaurant into a small chocolate shop. Coming from a French background and given that he owns a restaurant that serves creative, gourmet meals, Mathieu is not interested in making a cheap, low quality chocolate. He wants to make fine, pure chocolates, the majority made with just cacao beans and sugar, my kind of chocolate! But most Brazilians (and this also goes for most people around the world) aren’t willing to pay very much for high quality chocolate. Chocolate is usually perceived as candy, just another cheap treat to satisfy our sweet tooth. However, Itacare runs on revenue from tourism, which is perfect for Mathieu for two reasons. First, he can sell quality chocolate to a middle class and upper middle class foreign audience that can afford and appreciate it. And second, this area is known for cacao production and cacao tourism, so people naturally come hungry for chocolate.
For our first batch of chocolate Mathieu wanted to make dark chocolate. We left one kilo of cacao grinding in the melangeur for 24 hours with only 200 grams of sugar. That’s 83% dark chocolate, which was actually too dark for the strong, bitter beans he produces. The cacao content was not our main problem however, the sugar itself was. In order to make a melt in your mouth chocolate bar, not only does the cacao need to be ground down, but the sugar must be refined into a powdery flake as well. We mistakenly just threw crystalized sugar into the melangeur, hoping that with time the crystals would break down. They did not at all! The cacao was liquid but the sugar was crunchy. I suggested we throw the whole batch into a food processor and grind it for 30 minutes, which improved the texture substantially, but not optimally. We went ahead and tempered the chocolate together, and I taught Mathieu the trick to tempering chocolate without a thermometer (testing the temperature of the chocolate against your upper lip to see if it’s cool). The chocolates came out of their molds perfectly and shined dark and proud! They looked great but were a bit overwhelming to the palate!
Templando el chocolate amargo sobre mármol
I was hoping we would get another chance to make chocolate together to correct our errors, but I ended up changing my travel plans and there wasn’t enough time to. Nevertheless, I had a blast making chocolate with another fellow chocolate nerd! Mathieu was so pleased with his first WWOOF volunteer that he even offered me a position in his future chocolate shop! I left Fazenda Santa Tereza dreaming about what it would be like to live in Itacare, making chocolate from bean to bar by the beach! The restaurant and location are truly perfect for a chocolate shop.
I visited two other small chocolate shops here in Bahia. One in Itacare where the chocolates are all overly sweet and super rustic (they are not tempered or kept cool, so they are all basically soft chocolate-flavored blobs!). The other in Ilheus, the nearby export city, where the chocolates were of much higher quality but were way overpriced (I paid R$13 about US$8.25 for a 100 gram or 3.5 ounce bar).
Chocolates de una nueva chocolateria en Ilheus, la ciudad que exporta todo el cacao de Bahia
I also visited the organic cacao cooperative called CABRUCA and sat in on one of their monthly meetings (Mathieu is a member). Regrettably, there was very little member representation. I think of the 38 member farmers, only 6 showed up, and 5 of the 6 were expats (mainly Swiss and French). The other members are participating less and less in the coop because CABRUCA not only has organic agriculture requirements, but quality standards too. And these standards demand more work, something that Bahianos are notorious for avoiding. Instead, these members harvest cacao only when it is convenient for them, throw the beans out to dry after minimally fermenting (if at all) and sell to the large corporations like ADM and Cargill, who will buy any old bean to make cheap, industrialized chocolate.
Visitando CABRUCA, una cooperativa de productores organicos de cacao
It was disheartening to see that the last few contributing members of the coop are foreigners, but their energy was inspiring. There was a French cacao farmer who gave me a bottle of the cacao wine he makes and sells. He scoops out the fresh seeds and pulp, strains them to collect just the juice, and ferments this juice as you would to make white wine. I wouldn’t call it my favorite drink; it was strong (alcoholic) and tart (vinegary) but had a distinct honey aftertaste. There was also a woman there who was super excited to help Mathieu open his chocolate shop and suggested it could be the coop’s chocolate shop. She even suggested they make me head chocolatier, since it turns out I have more chocolate-making experience than any of them and a passion that is difficult for me to hide. Again, someone telling me to stay in Itacare and offering me a job…tempting! I am definitely going to keep in touch with Mathieu to see how the coop chocolate shop endeavor goes!
Clearly folks, I can go on and on about chocolate and cacao, but I’m going to bring this post to an end and go chill out at the beach! It is my last week in Brazil and I want to take advantage of every moment!