In a Chocolate Matrix... Eat the Red Pill.
There is a sense of ecstasy every time the chocolate dispenser doses out another 72 delicious chocolate discs. It's like watching the final gems being set in an intricate pendant. The dark glossy couverture coatings are a luxury like a diamond being polished out of the rough.
Whether it is our Bullaranga 58% Vegan Milk Couverture or our Abundancia 40% Milk Chocolate--each recipe is carefully crafted to highlight exceptional flavor. And each couverture recipe is woven together by the intimate experiences and relationships out of which they were crafted. Our fine couvertures are the culmination of over a decade of experience working with Ecuadorian Nacional Cacao and Chocolate and Ecuadorian farmers. From farmer to bar is our motto, and Conexión is the purpose of our work.
As with every company looking to grow, the big question loomed over our small start up team: What makes us different?
Each team member is so unique, it would seem an easy answer to give. Yet, the buzzwords of our industry are so often pirated or watered down, that the true essence of what it means to be sustainable or traceable or direct trade, can be lost in translation. Still the hope of this blog is to express what makes our chocolate different. I will focus on the holy trinity of cacao and chocolate to anchor our work as Conexión Chocolate.
What has been called the trilogy of cacao's flavor development: genetics, terra, and post harvest processing has at its head genetic makeup. And it makes perfect sense. It is after all genetic makeup that allows for one type of vegetation to become a pineapple and another vegetation planted in the same conditions to become a pear tree, for example. According to the Guiltinan-Maximova Lab, which performs research to discover new knowledge and technologies useful for the improvement of crops: "The genomes of different populations of cacao trees are 99.9% identical, but it’s the structural variants in that one-tenth of 1% of their genomes that accounts for the plant’s diversity in different regions..." and with over 750 compounds that can affect the flavor profile of cacao it is important to select variants that will translate into the amazing aromas and flavors that make our chocolate unique.
Selection of more pure genetic cacao variants is at the core of what makes Conexión Chocolate successful in the art of bar-smithing and making of couvertures. We are proud to develop recipes using Ecuador's very own 𝘈𝘳𝘳𝘪𝘣𝘢 𝘕𝘢𝘤𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘭 𝘊𝘢𝘤𝘢𝘰. While it is impossible to obtain 100% pure Arriba Nacional, we work closely with our producers to protect and promote this genetic variant. With the ever growing push for more disease resistant and high yielding variants such as CCN-51, our decision to use Arriba and cacao of fine aroma and flavor as our base safeguards the particular flavors and aromas of these strains.
Likewise, we work closely with Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund to support their mission to discover, identify and preserve fine flavor Heirloom cacao varieties for the conservation of biological diversity and the empowerment of farming communities. This work has led us to plant 1000 trees with the Apovinces Cooperative. To accomplish this work, our recipes start on the farm, hand in hand with producers. There we source the finest cacao beans directly from farmer cooperatives. We then develop flavor profiles suited to each single origin terroir.
As our good French friends have told us: "We like that you focus on terroir. In French this word is encompassing. It is the sense of place." The sense of place includes the land, the climate, the trees and rivers, and the people.
Each geographical zone imbues our prized cacao with different characteristics due to unique soil, climate, nutrients, and surrounding biodiversity. Our cooperatives aim to protect this biodiversity. Eliminating the deforestation that is often so prevalent in agriculture is of great importance in our talks and work with producers.
Farmers are continuing a long tradition of growing some of the best cacao in the world here in Ecuador. We highlight this in our chocolates that have won over 30 international awards. The names given to our couvertures chocolates often reflect experiences and the culture found in a particular terroir.
Speaks of the abundance found in the Esmeraldas Region. Not only of the land, but of the charity of the people.
Refers to the rowdy style of the coastal region. Their joy and dynamic lifestyle is highlighted in the tropical flavors of this couverture.
Represents the strength of the people of Montubio. After a natural disaster wiped out years of hard work in an instant, the people pulled together and lifted each other up with strength and unity.
Shakespeare once asked, "What's in a name?" The short answer is a lot. The names we give our chocolate are representative of the people and cultural groups we work with. Terroir-driven means understanding the unique qualities that the land provides to cacao flavors. And it also means growing alongside the producers that are the tenders of these lands. According to Kristy Leissle's research in her book entitled Cacao she notes "Cacao trade is in need of reform...the largest share of the retail price [of chocolate] goes to the retailers themselves. Chocolate manufacturers take the next largest share, at 35%, and 6.6 percent goes to the cacao farmers." We do not see our producers as pawns. Being at origin, we understand that the producers who make our chocolate are our backbone, our brothers and sisters, and for that we must not only be thankful, but be just. The producers we work with receive a much larger share than that of conventional practices. Here is a small breakdown of our equitable approach as of February 2023.
Per metric ton the current price of cacao on the international market is $2,623. We offer our producers $3,850 per metric ton of cacao. That is 47% more per metric ton than what the market offers.
Harvest and Post-Harvest Process
Our process begins at the farm with the harvest, where we work closely with farmers to ensure quality. At the collection site we are again a present friend, verifying fermentation times, drying techniques, humidity levels, and fair treatment of product and producer.
After the cacao has been dried, we utilize different levels of roasting to draw out distinct sensory properties. We are at the factory inspecting quality, ensuring the best cacao is selected for processing. We verify heat levels to secure the floral and fruity notes are not toasted out; we determine which beans will receive a classic roast and which will be our virgin beans. The nuance and variety of flavors, based on roast level and the terroir of distinct regions can be experienced through our different couverture lines.
Signature Ethical Chocolate Couverture Collection
The name is long, but 𝓸𝓱 𝓼𝓸 𝓼𝔀𝓮𝓮𝓽. Our couverture collection is sure to be your red pill out of the chocolate matrix. The best part is the red pill is delicious!
We minimally process heirloom nacional cacao beans from the Los Ríos province to gently amplify its unique characteristics. Through a special post-harvest process and delicate roasting, we highlight exquisite notes of red wine, wood, and violet florals to provide an unforgettable experience with incomparable chocolates.
This line offers an experience more aligned with the European tradition. Delicate honey, caramel, and nutty flavors we’ve come to expect from fine chocolate harmonize with sensational red fruit acidity and lilting floral notes to create a perfectly balanced chocolate. Made with cacao from the provinces of Manabí, Esmeraldas, and Pichincha, our roasted couvertures effortlessly showcase the terroir-driven subtleties of flavor between the different provinces.
Milk & White
Our Milk and White Chocolate line is crafted with cacao beans from the provinces of Pichincha and Esmeraldas. The lower percentages of cacao do not detract from the well-balanced flavor profile. Our Milk Chocolate boasts an enlivening acidity softened by indulgent caramel, vanilla, and coffee notes. Our exclusive White Chocolate, crafted with our own fine flavor natural cacao butter, is a melt-in-your-mouth delicacy expressing all the subtle sweetness of Ecuadorian chocolate.
Many of our couvertures and chocolates have garnered international awards: 30 and counting.
We want to share with you what is behind every drop of our chocolate couvertures, the purity of our heirloom cacao, our passion for making craft chocolate at origin. We want to show you how the hard work of our small holders cacao producers is reflected in the spectacular flavor profiles of our baking chocolate.
In short, we invite you to Stay in Conexion this 2023!