Kallari Chocolate

Kallari is a grassroots network of rainforest communities in Ecuador which, among other things, assists indigenous growers of cacao beans in producing a truly world-class product.  The cacao bean has to be fermented, much as a fine wine must be, before being roasted and processed.  Every step in the process is crucial.  For example, while in some areas growers simply scatter their beans on local roads in the blazing sun to dry them, in the Kallari communities beans are dried in shaded, specially constructed containers for a controlled length of time, so that ideal moisture content is achieved.  Kallari has implemented controls to ensure the uniform, optimum handling of the beans at each and every stage.  

This is where it all began. “The Ecuadorian rainforest is the place from which the cacao bean originated”, explained Judy Logback.  “While cacao beans are now grown in other parts of the world, most notably equatorial Africa, producers in other areas have been forced to grow variants of the original Ecuadorian bean.  They have never been able to grow the original variety -- which is generally regarded to be the best.”

Cacao Pod   Cacao pod

Cacao Pods
It’s all in the process. Judy went on to discuss the processing of cacao beans.  During processing the valuable chocolate "liquor" is released from the solid part of the bean, the remaining solids being referred to as cocoa.  Unless a sufficient amount of the liquor is added back in later on, the final product will feel "gritty" rather than smooth in the mouth.  However, there is great demand for the liquor in the production of cosmetics and other products, and frequently the chocolate consumer is short-changed (though definitely not when it comes to the chocolate produced by the Kallari communities).  It was interesting to note that the milk in milk chocolate is what is used to replace the more valuable liquor.
Additionally, the combined amount of cocoa and liquor versus the amount of other ingredients in the final product is a significant issue.  The other "stuff" which goes into chocolate is primarily sugar, although soy lecithin and some other ingredients may be found.  In their production of chocolate, Kallari produces three varieties of bars: those with 70%, 75% and 85% cacao content.  In the Kallari bars the non-bean portion is 100% organic cane sugar.

Now to the important part. The culmination of the event was a "chocolate tasting", in which numbered samples of six different organic and/or free trade, "high end" chocolates were tasted by all attendees. Judy pointed out that the best way to taste chocolate is to let it melt on one's tongue, and then raise the tongue to the palate.  The flavor will be released, and can be compared.  Also, the relative smoothness or grittiness of a sample can be assessed.

Of the six samples, two were judged by the entire group to be by far the best.  These samples were smooth and "creamy" and had what could be described as a "fruity" or "flowery" flavor.  By comparison, the other samples seemed to be generally "drier" or "grittier" and to have a more bitter taste.  It turned out that the two samples that were the best were the Kallari 70% and 75% bean bars.  Without question, the difference between the Kallari products and the competition was truly remarkable. 
A strong and successful partner – making a difference
Appreciation for what the Kallari cooperative has managed to achieve in its seven years of existence -- at least when it comes to chocolate -- seemed to be unanimous.  This was the first full fledged set of products -- from bean to bar – grown, harvested, dried, fermented roasted, manufactured and packaged completely by the rainforest communities of Kallari Association.

See the Chocolate Cheat Sheet prepared by Judy Logback of Kallari Association.

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