Traditional images of chocolatiers depict European chefs delicately pouring molten chocolate into molds and over truffles, with special attention to the addition of nuts and flavourings. Little, if any attention, is given to the fact that chocolate begins its life as a bean which grows in equatorial climates.
In recent years, small batch bean-to-bar chocolate makers have begun to challenge our perceptions of chocolate. These producers bring the focus back to the cocoa beans, provenance and quality. We spoke to Western Australia's smallest bean to bar maker, Mark Carniello, who runs Cailo chocolate along with his wife Simona from their home in Duncraig.
We spoke to Mark and Simona about the growing bean-to-bar industry, the challenges of chocolate making in Perth, and how they do their part in educating consumers on the difference between chocolatiers and chocolate makers. Mark succinctly describes that chocolatiers, “Make lovely things like truffles using chocolate made by other people,” and chocolate makers who begin their process with cocoa beans direct from farms, co-ops and wholesalers.
Panama to Perth
Cailo are one of just three bean to bar chocolate makers in Western Australia. Having first encountered bean-to-bar chocolate while living in America in 2010,
"I went up to a counter at a coffee shop and they had a little display of chocolate bars, on the back the bars said 'made in Santa Barbara from bean to bar'. I'd never thought about how chocolate was made, but to see that it was made locally got me thinking."
"I emailed the guy- it was a gmail address, he was still very small- and asked him how you make chocolate from bean to bar. He sent back some websites and told me about how it was a new thing. I said to my wife, when we move back to Perth we should do something similar."
America has led the worldwide small batch bean to bar chocolate movement, and wholesalers now sell cocoa beans in small batches to independent producers. However, arriving back in Perth, Mark found he couldn't get his hands on cocoa beans in shipments smaller than a shipping container. "Gabriel Chocolate import their own beans as a major logistical challenge. If you tell someone in Madagascar that you want to buy some beans, and they'll want to send you at least a pallet if not a container. I researched a little bit and realised it was going to be near impossible."
Thinking it too hard to find quality cocoa beans, Mark left his chocolate making ambitions for a few years until he happened upon a stroke of good fortune: Jose, a member of his beach volleyball team had been importing coffee from his home in Panama, and told Mark casually that their next shipment would include a few bags of cocoa. "I asked what he would do with them and he replied 'I don't know, sell them to health food stores for nibs.' and I said, 'You make chocolate with cocoa beans.'"
Bean to Bar
That initial bag of beans would go on to become Cailo: a joint venture the two families. Jose initially roasted the beans in his cafe coffee roaster, however mark eventually moved to a modified sample roaster which would give better control of his roast profiles. The full process now takes place in Mark’s home, which involved certifying his home kitchen for commercial food production.
"in the past if you wanted to make food for sale even in small quantities, you had to comply with all of the regulations which are geared towards big producers, so many things like this couldn't have happened. The council was really supportive. In the past we would have had to sub-lease a commercial kitchen or take on a hundred thousand dollar fitout. We were lucky that things had just changed at the same time we started to do this.”
Following roasting, Mark cracks cocoa beans, separates out the husks, and then grinds and refines the beans to a size small enough to be imperceptible to the human tongue. After the refining process and a short ageing process to let aromas settle, the steps begin to resemble what we’re more used to: Mark tempers the chocolate to ensure a firm snap and shiny surface, and then hand pours into moulds.
Comparisons to specialty coffee and craft beer are hard to resist when chronicling the rise of small-batch bean to bar chocolate. Like coffee and beer, the initial challenges for bean to bar chocolate were for understanding, and now as they begin to get a grip on the market, their challenge changes to how to define themselves.
"To be honest, Cadbury is bean to bar. They buy beans and make the chocolate. They're essentially doing what we do. So it's not just that we make it from bean to bar, but also that we make it in a small batch and to a certain quality.” said Mark.
The first step is differentiating bean to bar chocolate making, but the bean to bar label does not, in and of itself indicate a high level of quality. Mark acknowledges that a further indication must be made, and steps being made in the American bean to bar movement towards a guild with a logo and a certain level of quality expectations.
Mark now imports cocoa beans from two different origins: His original Panama co-op from Bocas del Toro, and a single farm from Guadalcanal Island in the Solomon Islands. The brand has steadily grown their continued presence in farmer’s markets and specialty stores has begun to put local bean to bar chocolate on the map. As they now progress, Mark has looked at the influence and responsibility they hold.