Lots of businesses are claiming to be “authentic“ and “natural” these days, but are they? At Barkeater Chocolates, we’re making great strides to reach that 100% in every aspect with our products. Yes, we already use all natural (often organic) ingredients, and yes, we make all of our treats in house, but we can do more. We are excited to announce that we are planting several cacao trees in our very own front yard to truly make our chocolate our own!
To grow properly, cacao trees need a climate similar to that of land near the equator. Luckily, we have gotten approval from the Town of Johnsburg for two 35 ft tall greenhouses to grow our trees, as they tend to grow around that height in cultivation. The climate inside will stay at 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit and 85% humidity to maintain the climate of the rainforest.
After the greenhouses are complete, with space for at least three grown cacao trees in each, the seeds from Ghana will be planted in rich soil shipped from Ecuador itself for an even more authentic experience. Trained experts will be brought in to regularly fertilize the soil and sprouting cacao trees to ensure they reach maturity.
Shoppers – don’t be alarmed if you won’t be able to see our building, there will be a covered driveway cut between the greenhouses.
After 5-8 years, the trees will finally begin producing their own pods. We will be harvesting the ripe pods directly from our front yard, and will be training high school students as young as 14 to break them open with machetes. Inside the pods there is an abundance of pulp and cacao beans – which will be removed and fermented overnight to help create the sweet taste so familiar to chocolate lovers. Our backyard will be converted to drying fields. Once the fermented cacao beans are finished and inspected, the process will be repeated multiple times a day for six days.
After about a week of fermenting and inspecting to perfection, the cacao beans will be left out to dry until the humidity level is less than 10% (while fermenting, the humidity level tends to be about 60%). Our chocolatiers will make sure they are dry before sacking them up for the aging process. For 30 days to five years, the cacao beans will sit together in large burlap sacks to age and stay dry.
Finally, after 6-15 years, the beans will be ready for our chocolatiers to turn into magic! Our high schoolers will be full grown adults and will then be trained in roasting. The process will begin by unbagging the dried cacao beans. Our new team of chocolatiers will then roast the beans to certain temperatures or times depending on the type of chocolate we’re making. After the roasting is finished, the beans will then be cracked and ground into a paste known as chocolate liquor (there’s no alcohol in the paste despite its name).
The paste contains everything inside the pod all crushed together, so the next step we’d have to take is using a hydraulic press to separate the edible chocolate and the majority of cocoa butter, which can be turned into non edible beauty products! A barn will be built to house this machinery.
After yet another trip into a different machine, the chocolate will be refined and ready to be tempered. If you recall from past posts or even our instructional video, tempering is how we usually begin our current chocolate making process! Tempering heats up and melts large amounts of chocolate evenly and smoothly so it doesn’t crumble when it’s solid. It also helps us when adding flavors or ingredients to the chocolate.
Though it’s a long, tedious and bank-breaking process, we at Barkeater really think it’s the right move to stay authentic in a world full of fake chocolates. We estimated the timeline to begin the process in just a few short years. Our only hope is that our current staff won’t all be at retirement age by the time we are able to grind the beans.
With 3-6 trees, we should be able to make a couple of dozen chocolate bars each harvest! Our asking price will be $89/bar, but we’ll still have our “Buy 5 Get 1 Free” deal. In just over a decade, we can finally start making the chocolate we’ve always dreamed of. So long as the winters don’t get too cold (and snowfall doesn’t exceed 12 inches a year), electricity and propane don’t get too expensive and introducing a non-native plant to the Adirondacks doesn’t cause bacterial disease to neighboring trees, we will be able to achieve our goals. None of this would be possible without our loyal customer base. If you would like to help, feel free to stop by with your young children so we can interview them for future jobs.