OCHO - CRAFT BEAN-TO-BAR CHOCOLATE

by Insiders Dunedin

Chocolate is something some people can not get enough of. It is somewhat addictive at times and some people could be described as connoisseur's of this fine treat. There is a vast range to choose from and some are definitely better than others!

Hidden in Dunedin is a treasure waiting to be unveiled. Right here in our great city a small chocolate company is set to make its mark.  If you have not heard of them yet and you love chocolate then you should definitely go seek their product out.

Liz Rowe is the person behind OCHO, a craft bean-to-bar chocolate. Not your typical mass produced chocolate, but chocolate that is handmade and crafted to perfection! You may have been lucky enough to have tried some of this chocolate at the Otago Farmers Market. If not, then this is definitely something to put on your to-do list. 

To get a better understanding of what OCHO is about there is no one else better to explain this than Liz herself. Below Liz provided us with an in-depth description about OCHO, the origin, the chocolate and where it is made.  

"Ocho is a craft bean-to-bar chocolate maker based in Dunedin. Ocho makes single-origin dark chocolate using cacao beans that are sourced from the Pacific, fairly traded and fully traceable. The beans are roasted and processed in small batches using simple equipment and hands-on processes. 

Single origin. The cacao beans come from small farmer co-operatives in Papua New Guinea and each bar is traceable back to the co-operative where the beans were grown. The beans are bought through an export company owned by the farmers and, while not certified yet under a fair trade scheme, are fairly traded. I pay good prices knowing that the profits are going back to the farmers and their communities. 

Two ingredients. Ocho chocolate is made from only two ingredients – ground cocoa nibs and sugar. Even most dark chocolate has soy lecithin and vanilla added to it, as well as varying proportions of cocoa mass (cocoa solids) and cocoa butter. And, of course, the vast bulk of chocolate sold in New Zealand is milk chocolate, so has dairy products as well. Because Ocho chocolate has only the two ingredients, people can be surprised at how intense the flavour is and how different it is from what they’re used to. In addition, the lack of soy lecithin and/or added cocoa butter means Ocho chocolate has a different mouth feel to what people are used to. There is no blending of beans in Ocho chocolate so there may be slight flavour variations from batch to batch. 

Made in New Zealand. Ocho is based in Dunedin. The beans are imported directly from Papua New Guinea where they have been fermented and dried by the farmers. Once in Dunedin they are sorted, roasted, ground and conched. The chocolate couverture is later tempered and moulded into bars, and finally hand wrapped. The processes are simple and very hands-on because none of the equipment is automated. Since the late 1990s/early 2000s, there has been a rise in the number of craft bean-to-bar chocolate makers around the world who are interested in using quality beans to make a more unique product. In terms of consumption trends, chocolate aficionados are asking for single-origin, high cocoa content & sustainably sourced chocolate."

Liz further explains how it all started!

"A trip to Latin America (mainly Mexico, but also Guatemala & Ecuador) three years ago got me curious about how chocolate is made. The cacao tree grows in all three countries, but it’s not easy to find any chocolate to eat other than mass-produced, US-made confectionary. I came home and spent a year researching; buying a few basic bits of equipment and some beans and started experimenting at home. As I have discovered, the process of making chocolate is fairly straightforward, but there are lots of variables along the way that can change and make it hard.

I also decided I wanted a source of beans closer to home, so started investigating Pacific Islands growers and ended up visiting Papua New Guinea in early 2013. There I met people from the Cocoa Board and a wonderful group of farmers who had set up their own export company in order that their communities derived the maximum benefit from the beans they grow. Not only did this mean I was able to buy from the farmers, it also meant I could organise to have the beans shipped directly to New Zealand. Finding a reliable and direct source of quality beans was a breakthrough as most beans are traded through brokers many times before being sold through international cocoa markets."

 What Liz has done with her chocolate company is a true example of someone pursuing their passion. What started as an interest has evolved into a career. Not only does she make great chocolate she is conscious about where it comes from. Furthermore, it was the process of how it is made that blew us away. We were lucky enough to visit her small kitchen to get an insight into how she creates it by hand. 

Liz describes herself as a craft bean-to-bar chocolate maker. The craft being small scale like a craft beer. Bean-to-bar meaning that she buys the beans and does everything from then on to make the chocolate. 

The process starts out by sorting the beans into two sizes. She then gets rid of the reject beans, roasts, then cracks and hulls them getting rid of the fine shell that protects the bean to reveal the nib. The nib then gets put into granite based industrial grinders along with the amount of sugar that is based on the brand of chocolate being made. 

These grinders then get switched on to grind for three days until it turns into a fine past. From here a process called 'conching' takes place. A process where the beans and sugar paste gets folded together further to provide a smoother flavour. 

The liquid is then poured out of the machine onto big stainless steel trays to set for around a week to develop the flavour. Once harden, it is then put into a temperer that remelts the chocolate again and cools it slowly whilst adding some seed to it. The seed being previously made chocolate that starts the right fat crystals to form that will prevent the discolouration of the chocolate. 

The chocolate is then poured into moulds left to harden and transferred to the refrigerator for it to shrink and release itself from the mould. From here the chocolate is packaged and is then ready to sell. 

As mentioned earlier Liz has been doing tastings and selling through the Otago Farmer’s Market since mid-August 2013. Her chocolate is also available online at www.ocho.co.nz and at a few small retailers. 

This chocolate definitely needs to be tried to get a true understanding of the quality. However, Liz provides pretty good notes of what you can expect below. 

"One observation that I would make from talking to people and giving tastings at the market is that most people have no idea what they’re eating when they eat chocolate. They have never seen a cocoa bean, let alone tasted one, and don't realise that cocoa bean flavour and chocolate are as influenced by terroir as are grapes and wine. In fact, there is as much variety in style and flavour in the world of fine chocolate as there is in wine and coffee. In terms of the bars Ocho makes, there is quite a variation in flavour profiles. 

Devotion 66%: Summer fruits, berry, cinnamon and honey.

Pepper & Spice 66%: Spiced ginger, cardamom, allspice, & pink peppercorns, with a hint of honey & nutmeg. 

Revolution 70%: Raisins & currants, dark berries & plum, cinnamon and caramel.

The Nib Bar 74%: Initial coffee-flavoured rush from the nibs, with underlying berry and raisin notes. Very textural. 

Revelation 77%: Dark forest floor, red currant, bush honey, dark berry finish with a hint of allspice.

Voodoo 88%: Rich chocolate smell, tobacco and umami flavours, with a hint of fruit and white pepper.

All Ocho chocolate is ‘dark’ and could be described as robust in flavour, so it won’t be to everyone’s liking. However, I think New Zealanders are up for having a wider choice of chocolate to eat – not just to enjoy the huge variations in flavour that are possible, but also to reap the reported health benefits of eating quality dark chocolate and feel good about knowing exactly where their food comes from and how it is made."

Be sure to visit Liz at the saturday Otago Farmer's Market and be on the lookout for her stall - OCHO. Try the different samples she will have on offer and check out her website -  www.ocho.co.nz

Find her on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/otagochocolatecompany

Post submitted by Joshua Jeffery

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