Simon Johnson Chocolate
At Selector, we know that the very best wine starts with the very best grapes, carefully selected from the finest regions.
At Simon Johnson, purveyors of quality food, they know this same recipe applies to the world’s finest chocolate. The quality of the finished bar is only as good as the bean from which it was born.
But the similarities between chocolate and wine don’t end there. Like wine grapes, the fruit that produces the cocoa bean comes in different types, and each has a distinct flavour profile thanks to its terroir.
The fruit is grown in different regions throughout the world, which have their own terroir – much like wine growing regions, and sourcing the best beans is a skill.
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At Valrhona, a premium chocolate manufacturer in the French village of Tain l’Hermitage, they have a deep understanding of this skill. Not only do they specify the region that they want their beans from, but also which part of a particular plantation. In fact, Valrhona is the only chocolate manufacturer with 100% traceability for all of their range
And much like a grand cru wine, Valrhona will make certain blends of chocolates only with particular beans and only when they are at their best. This means sometimes a single origin chocolate will have a vintage release.
While different terroirs create different flavour profiles, it also depends on the type of tree. The Criollo tree, a low-yielding variety that accounts for less than 3% of world production, produces the most delicate of all cocoa varieties and adds subtle aromatic notes.
The highly productive Forastero is the most common variety (accounting for 80% of world cocoa production). It usually adds a coarse flavour, but depending on where it is grown, can provide floral or fruity notes. Trinitario is a cross of the above two varieties and produces flavourful chocolate with plenty of length.
An intricate process
There are similarities in the production processes of wine and chocolate too. Like grapes, the harvested cocoa beans are naturally fermented. With the beans, natural yeasts and insects decompose the sugary mucilage which reduces the beans acidity and bitterness. There are two phases, alcoholic fermentation followed by acetic fermentation once the bean’s have been stirred.
Only when fermentation is complete do the primary flavour molecules appear. These play a crucial role in the development of the chocolate taste and aroma. If badly done, this process will result in bitterness and poor chocolate flavour or virtual absence of the chocolate taste.
After fermentation, cocoa beans are dried to reduce their moisture content and prevent mould developing. This has to be done outside in the sun to preserve their full quality. The dried beans are then shipped to where they will be manufactured and the best chocolate manufacturers ensure fruit is kept separate by estate and varietal. They are then batch tested and classified by flavour.
Roasting comes next, which develops the bean’s flavour and further reduces its moisture. But how you handle each different type of beans varies – good beans can easily be ruined and this comes down to the skill of the maker.
After cooling, the roasted cocoa is winnowed, milled and ground until it forms a fluid paste, which is then split and re-blended with other ingredients such as sugar and vanilla. Finally, the liquid chocolate is conched and tempered.
At SIMON JOHNSON, you can see how this intricate process of selection and production pays off with a sumptuous range of Valrhona chocolates on offer.
Another Simon Johnson favourite is premium Melbourne based chocolatier Sisko Chocolate.
Using Valrhona chocolate, Sisko Chocolate create a range of meticulously handcrafted chocolate gifts for SIMON JOHNSON stores nationally.
As a former floral designer Sisko Chocolate founder, Christina Tantsis brings a unique perspective and vitality to her creations.
If you’ve ever been to one of the special events featuring one of Christina’s edible Centrepieces, you’ll know the buzz she generates.
And thanks to SIMON JOHNSON, you can enjoy a taste of Sisko Chocolate magic at home.
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