Fermented chocolate heaven

A new generation of chocolate has made its debut. Premium chocolate producer Cacao Barry has released a new line of chocolates called Purity from Nature, consisting of two dark chocolates and a milk chocolate variety named Inaya, Ocoa and Alunga respectively.

And these are no ordinary chocolates.

Instead of being extracted from their pods and left to ferment naturally, Cacao Barry's beans are put through a special fermentation process that has taken a total of seven years to develop. This new revelation in the world of chocolate is known as Quality Fermentation or Q Fermentation.

"Of all the steps in the chocolate-making process, fermentation was the one we knew least about because it's a natural process," says Pascale Meulemeester, vice-president of Global Brands Marketing, with Ad Interim vice-president for Gourmet Asia Pacific, Barry Callebaut, echoing the sentiment.

"We really believe that if you want quality you need to get down to the plantation and work with farmers to optimise the process," Ms Meulemeester explains.

This philosophy prompted the chocolate company to invest in research into the science of fermentation. The result: a new fermentation process that produces a higher yield of cocoa beans and a purer taste. Fermentation occurs after the cocoa beans have been taken out of the pods and are wrapped in big leaves - usually from a banana tree. Micro-organisms that exist naturally in the soil and leaves then act on the beans.

However, not all the micro-organisms that ferment the cocoa beans are helpful. They can cause defects rendering some beans unusable.

Cacao Barry's process of Q Fermentation involves isolating the good bacteria from the bad to ensure purity and higher yield. The starter solution containing the good bacteria has been patented by the company.

At present, the company has 50 members of its team on the ground working closely with 8,000 farms mostly on the Ivory Coast to produce these high quality beans.

"Farmers get a higher yield, chefs get a purer chocolate that supports their creativity and consumers who try the desserts get a taste of purity," says Ms Meulemeester.

Janice Wong, owner of the 2am Dessert Bar agrees, saying: "Chefs always look out for a product that works with you. The Purity from Nature line is so good on its own that it doesn't require a lot of infusing and mixing."

Although Purity from Nature is targeted at premium bakeries, hotels and confectioners, consumers will get the chance to taste Inaya at Chef Wong's dessert bar.

The dessert, called Goddess Dewi Resplendent in Inaya is so far the only one on the menu to make use of Purity from Nature but the chef says that experimentation with the other chocolates are still under way.

This article was published on April 18 in The Business Times.

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