Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Journey to the heart of cocoa (part four)

Slava, 2012 Future Business Leader award winner, sponsored by Mars is back with his last post today. Today he talks us through his experience of making chocolate from scratch and what he feels this trip taught him,

Aspiring chocolatier apprentice:
As my trip drew to a close, I got the opportunity to witness the art and magic of chocolate making. For a day, I became a chocolatier apprentice and learned a lot about the old traditions, secrets and techniques of turning fermented cocoa beans into the delicious extract we know as chocolate. My lesson started with the roasting of cocoa beans and my master Alicio guided me through the entire process of blending, conching and tempering of chocolate. I was surprised to learn that white chocolate is made of cocoa butter, which is separated from cocoa liquor in the process of chocolate creation. Finally, I poured the chocolate liquor into the mould and after a few hours I could proudly present my fresh chocolate bars to the MCCS team. Alicio told me that making chocolate the traditional way is an art that requires a lot of patience and skill. Even small variations in the fermenting, drying, roasting or blending processes can cause differences in flavor and quality. There are over 120 distinctive attributes in the taste of chocolate. That is, a particular chocolate type can be more or less sour, bitter, sticky, smoky, fruity etc. However, an average person can only recognize ten different attributes by tasting chocolate. The only person who can taste up to 60 individual attributes is Ed Seguine, who works as a chocolate taste expert for Mars. He has also contributed to the sequencing and annotating of the cocoa genome, playing a key role in the identification of flavor attributes.

Achieving life goals:
The major highlight of the trip for me was the opportunity to plant my own cocoa tree in the rain forest, with my name tag on it. In my home country, there is a saying that a man has to do three things in his life: to build a house, to bring up a son and to plant a tree. I was delighted to be able to accomplish at least one of these goals. In four years, just in time for the Rio 2016 Olympic games the tree will develop its first pods and hopefully be part of the renaissance of cocoa culture in Bahia.
During my trip to Brazil I learned more than I could have dreamed of in such a short time period. Being exposed to a different culture has given me a deeper understanding of our responsibility for the world. Indeed, the entire trip has become an enriching and touching experience for me, which surpassed all my expectations and helped me to gain new perspectives, as well as to contribute my share to improving the status quo of the people of Bahia. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: ‘Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. ’In this respect, I hope that many other students and young professionals will follow this trail to Bahia and contribute their share to the reconstruction and revitalisation of this diverse and exciting region.

 The finished products. 

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