The finest chocolate begins with cocoa beans that are sourced from around the world for their quality and their sustainability. We select single origins for their exclusive flavors and attributes and customize blends and formulas to deliver a premium chocolate experience. Fun fact: Cocoa growing is unique because 80% of the world crop is produced on 10 acres or less. Guittard uses superior shade-grown cacao because the delicate pods are protected from excessive direct sunlight during development. This practice also preserves the jungle environment surrounding the crops.
Forastero is also often characterized by strong chocolate flavors. The rarified Nacional Forastero, grown in north-central Ecuador, is known in particular for its powerful yet floral notes.
Several types of Criollos and natural Criollo crosses exist. While each may vary slightly, Criollo types all share pale white cotyledons, the round bean shape and complex yet mellow flavor.
Recognizable by their pinkish interiors, they also have the potential to combine in flavor some of the complexity of Criollos with the flavor intensity of Forasteros.
Cacao farming is an art unto itself. The careful handling of the crop from growing and harvesting to fermenting and drying are crucial steps in forming flavors. Our beans come from small farms where generations of farmers have carried on the long tradition, providing a livelihood for their families by cultivating flavorful beans that make their way into our chocolate. Guittard works closely with cacao growers to develop desired chocolate flavors in the beans from managing the health of the delicate trees and harvesting techniques, to ideal and consistent fermentation and drying processes.
Cacao beans are grown and harvested year-round primarily from October through March. Although more labor intensive, frequent harvesting ensures that each cacao pod is allowed to reach optimal ripeness before being picked. Growers open the pods to take out the beans, which are covered in a white, very sweet pulp.
Once the beans are removed, farmers then perfectly ferment the beans, usually in wooden boxes covered with banana leaves for an average period of three-to-five days. Specific fermentation methods are a major benchmark in developing preferred flavor characteristics.
Finally, growers spread the beans out to dry naturally in the sun, sometimes using a rake to design traditional and carefully-crafted patterns. Our chocolates are made almost exclusively of sun-dried beans. Sun-drying enhances natural chocolate flavor and avoids the pitfalls of other methods.
Roasting. Winnowing. Grinding. Blending. Refining.
Once the selected cacao beans arrive at Guittard, they're roasted, winnowed, and then slowly ground into fine particles until they become a dark, bitter liquid (chocolate liquor or cocoa mass). After being finely ground, other ingredients such as sugar, added cocoa butter and milk (in the case of milk chocolate) may be added. The resulting thick chocolate is taken from the mixer and refined further to an extremely smooth consistency on traditional European equipment.
Conching. Tempering. Moulding.
Conching is the crucial next step in flavor development, where nuances and complexities are created in the chocolate flavor. Guittard has over 135 years of custom chocolate making and conching experience, and some conching formulas have been handed down over four generations. Last, the chocolate is tempered to achieve perfect consistency and moulded into bars, wafers and chips.
We are a five generation family company that is committed to delivering products with the highest degree of sustainability. Our engagement on the farm level is designed to ensure the long-term success of the farmers and the co-ops from whom we purchase our beans. Quality products, improvements in environment and community are the pillars of our sourcing efforts. From collaborating with farmers on their post-harvest techniques to developing community education programs, we are working to build relationships throughout our supply chain that will create and maintain long lasting success in our cocoa growing communities.