With Valrhona, a cocoa expert creating unique flavours to bring you the world’s finest chocolate experience.
Valrhona has been producing the world’s finest chocolate in the small village of Tain L’Hermitage, France since 1922. From the beginning, company founder and Pastry Chef Albéric Guironnet was dedicated to the creation of unique, artisan quality chocolate with complex, balanced and consistent flavours. This mission of excellence continues as the gastronomic traditions of the renowned Rhone Valley find expression in every mouth-watering taste of Valrhona’s superb chocolate. For almost a century, Valrhona has created a range of unique and recognizable aromatic profiles by perfecting techniques for enhancing the flavour of rare cocoa beans, grown on land masterfully selected for its terroir. Today, leading Pastry Chefs and discerning gourmets professionals rely on Valrhona’s expertise to experience the best that chocolate can offer.
Here are the 10 steps towards exceptional chocolate:
The cocoa tree is very “hard to please”; optimally thriving under an ambient temperature of at least 25°C, in a moist atmosphere containing over 80% humidity, offering significant annual rainfall, ideally around 1800mm, and never-ending shade.
Valrhona gives great importance to its long-lasting relationships with its partner-planters, especially in Venezuela where it owns a plantation and where it can perfect the fine art of cocoa culture. Here, Valrhona has unwrapped a treasured project to save threatened cocoa varieties, particularly Porcelana, a variety of Criollo.
- HARVESTING/ EXTRACTION
Cocoa pods are only harvested when ripe; a technique which preserves the tree and ensures blossoming over and over again. Various tools, such as the machete, the pike pole or shears are used for harvesting.
Beans are fermented naturally, either on the ground itself or in crates, depending on the country.
Fermentation stimulates the chocolate flavour precursors through its two-stage process:
– The beans are covered with banana leaves: resulting in ethanol fermentation, a process without oxygen;
– Then the beans are stirred resulting in acetic fermentation, a process using oxygen.
Beans are dried to reduce their intrinsic moisture level to below 7%, thus halting the fermentation process definitively, and permitting shipment and storage which is free from re-fermentation risk. Valrhona privileges drying in the sun, in fresh air, on wooden decks. Roofs slide over the decks to protect the beans from bad weather.
Roasting is a key step essential for developing the Taste of chocolate. The beans are roasted in a “globe” with gas-heated air to develop the flavour precursors, to dry the beans and to detach the shell from the bean in order to make further separation easier.
Crushing is used for bursting open the cocoa beans and separating the shells and the nibs (“grué” – tiny cocoa fragments) as much as possible. Valrhona does not mix bean origins; all these steps are carried out for each individual origin.
During this step, Valrhona will mix together beans from similar origins to create exquisitely unique cocoa flavours: this is known as a pure origin, or will blend mixing together different origins. For this blending technique, nibs from various origins are mixed in the supply hopper of the cocoa grinder.
- GROUNDING TO REFINING
Beans are ground to “liberate” the cocoa butter, which, once melted gives the paste its liquid texture. The various ingredients necessary for making chocolate are now added to obtain a homogenous paste. The paste is then kneaded and ground to make very small chocolate flakes.
Conching is the ultimate step in liquid chocolate manufacturing. It is a two-stage process:
– first, dry conching where the product is friction-heated to favour liquefaction,
– then, liquid conching which favours total homogenization. Conching is used to finalize flavour development, to reduce volatile acidity and to lower the moisture content to less than 1%.
- TEMPERING & MOLDING
The liquid chocolate is tempered, i.e. it is subjected to a temperature cycle which crystallizes the butter and gives it a stable form.
The chocolate is measured into moulds, then cooled down to harden. Valrhona makes solid moulds (all-chocolate) and filled moulds (Easter eggs).