Growing up, my favorite treat to bake was a batch of brownies. I had the recipe memorized, and doubled each batch. I can see the cocoa stained in the cookbook in my mind; it evokes the aroma of brownies baking in my kitchen, my mom supervising, my sisters and I eager for tastes of the warm brownies just out of the oven. The aroma lingers in my nose and in my mind, even today.

This snowy Saturday, the memory was especially vivid as Karla, Allison and I attempted to make chocolate from dried, fermented beans. The aroma of the beans as we winnowed, roasted, grinded and conched was reminiscent of my favorite childhood brownies, and permeated the shop. Our excitement was palpable. I’ve been making chocolate truffles and other chocolate products for almost ten years, and have researched extensively on how to make chocolate from bean to bar, and even visited cacao farms and a multitude of chocolate factories. This was my first attempt making it myself – and we made it a point to try cacao beans from all over the world as well!

Cacao bean, up close

We had spent months researching where to source ethical and quality beans, and were thrilled to try raw beans from places as diverse as Ivory Coast, Fiji, and Peru. The difference in taste, flavor, texture and acidity was noteworthy, and I couldn’t wait to try the beans roasted, and see what kind of chocolate they made. We had a few more steps to get through first.

There are a few methods of roasting, which we will discuss in our new Bean to Bar workshop. We roasted two beans, some from Guatemala and some from Colombia, and were able to make a chocolate mass from the Guatemalan beans.

I’ll let the pictures tell the story of our day. We had a blast and can’t wait to share the experience with our community!

Roasting cacao beans from Guatemala and Colombia

The sound and feeling of breaking the beans with a metate is so satisfying.

Winnowing! It smelled so good in our kitchen and our shop!

Grinding our cacao beans and sugar

The penultimate step led us to rich, complex, delicious tasting chocolate. Unfortunately, we have some finessing to do. Our biggest mistake was not seasoning our mortars and pestles in which we conched our chocolate. Seasoning is an arduous process, that might consist of grinding rice into the mortar until all that is left is a gray paste. Seasoning is now a top priority for our new mortars and pestles, unless there is a demand for granite infused truffles. Saturday’s chocolate making was our first attempt, and the reason we were experimenting before we premiere our very own bean-to-bar chocolate. The final product was a little less than perfect. The good news is that we know how to improve the process, and have beans from all over the world to try. If you’re interested in learning more, and making your own chocolate with us, sign up for our Transforming the Cacao Bean workshops, debuting in March.