Tom and Monica were living in Los Angeles as a TV producer and real estate agent and, in their own words “first discovered craft chocolate in, of all places, a vintage furniture shop in Los Angeles. The incredible flavors we tasted in those bars completely changed how we thought about chocolate, and started us on our journey to become single origin chocolate makers”
Goodnow first received a sample from Dan O’Doherty of Cacao Services and fell in love with this bean. They then followed the beans back to its origin in the Ucayali River in Peru, one of the major headwaters of the Amazon. Along its banks sit hundreds of small family farms which has long been known as a principal cocoa growing area but few of its beans were exported. Indeed while many farmers in the region once grew fine cooca they had been switching to other crops, commodity cacao and coca. However with the emergence of long term commitments by makers such as Tom and Monica to paying a premium for high grade cocoa, in combination with initiatives undertaken by the Peruvian government to eradicate coca crops and thereby reduce the endemic crime it brings, farmers are now increasingly replanting and refocusing on fine flavour cocoa o as a viable alternative to the coca they had been farming
One key figure in this movement was Robin Jordan who moved to the Ucayali River region with his wife, who is from there. They built a fermentation and drying facility on land her family owns and made connections with local farmers. They now source from over 300 different small farmers in the area, many of who bring their cacao to the facility by boat.The company / cooperative they set up – Ucayali River Cacao – pays a premium and even though the facility is in the middle of the jungle it’s optimized to allow for precise control of the fermentation and drying processes which are so critical to flavor development. The cacao is then carefully sorted in a custom built sorting machine to very high standards (Tom and Monica state their beans are “ready for roasting immediately”, high praise indeed!).
The cacao harvests are usually in February through May. For fermentation Robin divides his cacao up into different coloured “lots” based on the region the cacao comes from – this way he’s able to more precisely ferment the beans. The fermentation depends on which region the beans come from. They use wooden fermentation boxes on a concrete slab, and move the cacao to fixed, covered drying racks by hand where the beans are sun dried, in a covered drying area.
The cacao is then transported by both boat and truck to the farms, and Robin then transports it to the port by truck.
Tom and Monica then sort, roast and winnow the beans. With some of the beans they press their own cocoa butter from the same beans to make the bars. This gives the bars an incredibly intense, true single origin flavour and exceptionally smooth texture. This bean requires a more gentle roast in their drum roast, a careful conche in their melangeurs and a lower temperature conche to really bring out its flavors.
This bar has a wonderful melt and reveals notes of lemon, fig and some honey