This big, diverse coffee industry is small in so many ways.
Way back in my coffee trainer days while I was trying to work out what I’d like to be if I ever grew up, I met a great bloke who was at that stage working for one of the bigger coffee companies. He was actually pretty good at coffee and appeared on the world stage a number of times representing both state and country. He was a true champion barista who had a dream. That dream evolved and he now runs his own highly successful show- roasting coffee, wholesaling it and with a handful of successful cafes too. He’s come a long, long way- but that’s another story. When I first met that bloke, his surname rang a bell and I realised that I’d also known his younger sister since she was not a whole lot taller than knee high. Small city of millions, this Melbourne town.
Our champ’s sister completed her schooling, went off to university and became a zoologist with a passion for travel with over 40 countries in her passport. We ran into each other at a few trade shows over the years when she happened to be in town.
Whilst reading a newspaper a few weeks ago, I happened on an article about Ratio Cocoa Roasters which is one about 30 bean to bar chocolate making businesses in the entire country. It’s just up the road from us in Sydney road, Brunswick. Lo and behold, our zoologist Debb has put down some roots to pursue another of her passions: chocolate! The article presented a compelling reason to leave the coal-face and go visit. I was really keen to see Debb’s new operation so I made contact and was thrilled to be invited to join one of the regular tours which allow we chocolate lovers to gain a better understanding of what real chocolate is.
First up, we were able to see, touch and taste raw cacao beans. Debb explained what to look for, the differences between good and bad and most importantly told the story how how beans are sourced for her business. Like coffee, cacao is grown in the equatorial belt to 20 degrees about 20 degrees North or South of the equator. You like French or Belgian chocolate? Nope, they just reprocess it. They don\’t grow it. Debb sources a range of great, ethically produced single origin cacao beans and the farmers are very fairly paid to produce quality and look after their people well. Like coffee also, this can be very different to how the big confectionery companies work.
In a very similar manner to coffee roasting, but at lower temperature, the cacao is roasted at around 120 deg. C for about 15 minutes. The roasted cocoa is now ready for the next step in the chocolate making process.
Cracking and winnowing removes the shell or husk of the beans to produce what we know as cocoa nibs. I was not surprised to hear that many confectionery products include a significant percentage of husk as well as lots of other ingredients other than cocoa and sugar.
Cocoa nibs are placed in stone grinders for a minimum of 72 hours during which the coarse ingredients become smoother but still somewhat granular liquid. It’s still not like any chocolate you might regularly taste, but those into cocoa based protein balls would be familiar with the taste. The chocolate is then blocked and aged for a few weeks prior to tempering which produces the product we identify as beautiful, real single-origin chocolate.
Tempering and moulding
In the case of dark chocolate, just raw organic sugar is added to the aged product. Milk chocolate also receives some Australian whole milk powder, but that’s it. No other additives or preservatives. Ratio roasters do some “inclusion bars” too. Currently they include an amazing salted caramel, lemon myrtle and macadamia as well as roasted almond. They’re sensational!
Our morning concluded with a chocolate tasting (confectionery “chocolate” be gone. It tasted terrible against great, real chocolate) as well as some more time for questions and all-important shopping time.
I was hugely impressed by what I tasted and saw at Ratio Roasters and by Debb’s passion for what she and her team of talented chocolate makers do. If you’d like to book a tour too, you can do that here.
We love great single origin coffee and Ratio Cocoa roasters is producing exceptional chocolate. How could we not include this wonderful product in the Talk Coffee range when they’re a perfect match? Ratio Cocoa Roasters hand-made chocolate is now available for purchase both from our roastery and from our web store . Try some. You will not be disappointed! If you spend $50, we’ll pick up the tab on express post for you as well!