Chocolate is the end result of a process that begins with a tropical fruit tree—Theobroma Cacao. The 'cocoa bean' that many have heard of is in fact the fermented and dried seed of that fruit tree. That's right—chocolate is a fermented food, which accounts in part for the enormous complexity of its flavor palate and rich nutritional value.
In the vast majority of cases, cacao is a family farmed orchard crop, cultivated by small farmers around the tropical world. Because fermentation and drying are done at the farm level, the microbiology and climate of the site have a dramatic impact on the flavor possibilities expressed in the final commodity crop. This interaction of soil, climate, tree genetics and local microbiology (often referred to as 'terroir' in the wine industry) gives cacao from individual farms and regions unique flavor characteristics that determine the possibilities of any chocolate made from them.
At Bittersweet, it's very important to us that our customers understand the amount of labor and complex processing necessary to bring a truly wonderful chocolate to market. As the craft chocolate marketplace grows, it is increasingly possible to have a closer connection to the agricultural realities of cacao and chocolate, and the richness of information that comes along with those experiences only increases the already potent pleasures of chocolate.