Category: Articles


San Joaquin Private Reserve

Chocolate San JoaquinSan Joaquín Private Reserve

70% Dark Chocolate

San Joaquin Reserva Privada is a robust, smooth, silky and sublime chocolate, which highlights delicate tones of fruity acids. Together, these produce a long, balanced cacao linger on the palette. It is a true tribute to the tradition and quality of Venezuelan Cacao, the passion and dedication of the cacao growers and the delicate blend of art and science provided by the El Rey family.

To craft this chocolate of limited and numbered production, we utilize a descendant of the great Ocumare type Cacao, originally from the north central region of Venezuela. Then, with painstaking care during each step of the industrial process, the result is a product that not only pays homage to this exceptional cacao, but becomes a point of reference on the short list of Premium Chocolates known around the world.

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If you visit the El Rey factory in Barquisimeto everyone will tell you that the secret to the company’s success is in the relentless and uncompromising pursuit of quality.  The term quality in and of itself might seem a bit broad, but at El Rey we have refined it to a science.  Our people on the production line will tell you that to make quality chocolate, one needs to focus on so much more than just the making of the chocolate. In the plant, selecting the beans by size, roasting, refining, tempering, molding and packaging are all critical steps of the process. However, long before the cacao beans arrive at the factory the focus needs to be on fermentation, drying, storage and transport of the beans. Each of these steps set the stage for the making of a premium product.

Most chocolate manufactures import their cacao from producing countries and thus don’t have the monitoring capability of making sure their producers use proper post-harvest processes. True chocolate flavor originates on the farm.

Cacao beans don’t undergo fermentation by themselves.  The pulp that surrounds the beans is a key element to the fermentation and it is what in the end projects the flavor and aroma of the bean. Many cacao producers will scoop out the beans from the pod, separating them from the placenta, then immediately place the beans to dry. The proper process consists of placing the pulp covered beans in fermentation bins and progressively stir or mix them over a period of several days. Fermentation initiates when natural sugars are converted into alcohols, the alcohols are then converted into acids and finally the acids are dissipated into the atmosphere. The total fermenting time required depends on the type of bean.  The Forester bean usually requires anywhere from 5 to 7 days while the Criollo bean only 1 to 3 days.

Once the beans have been properly fermented, they are then laid out evenly and set to dry in the sun. Sun drying essentially allows enough time for the curing of the beans. Once the moisture in the beans is measured at less than 1%, they are considered properly dried. They should then be stored in dry areas to prevent the creation of mold.

A bean that has not been fermented properly will not have the usual color characteristics and the fruity acidic flavor associated with cacao. Worst yet is a cacao bean that has not been dried or stored properly. The presence of moisture is a factor that can increase the cacao beans susceptibility to mold, and if this remains unchecked, can wipe out much the flavor and aromatic characteristics achieved during a proper fermentation. For this reason, Chocolates El Rey long ago decided to monitor its raw material from origin all the way through up until the finished product.

We understand that great chocolate originates in the bean. Our agricultural engineers assist small medium and large cacao growers all over Venezuela. They habitually provide workshops that teach new, up and coming farmers how to manage the soil in a sustainable system promoting natural cycles without chemical pesticides or fertilizers. We also monitor and provide support to our growers with proper fermenting and drying methods. At El Rey, we see our cacao growers as partners in our chocolate production process. That is why we pay above international market prices for our beans, in efforts to motivate others to produce higher yields as well as better quality cacao.   What sets us apart from other chocolate companies is that we don’t exclusively see ourselves as chocolate manufacturers but rather as a company focused on being a world class agribusiness.

From Bean To Bar

The First operation carried out by chocolate makers is cleaning the beans, that is assuring that all extraneous material is separated from the bean: dirt, stones, etc. The beans are then roasted at anywhere between 100 to 150 degrees centigrade for between 20 and 40 minutes depending on the quality of the beans and the desired aroma of the final product. Once roasted the shell becomes very brittle and is separated from the bean (nib) by way of vibration. The separation of the shell from the bean or nib is called winnowing or shelling.

Nibs of different origins are then blended in accordance to the recipe for the desired chocolate to be processed. These are then ground in high speed mills at high temperature (50 to 70 degrees centigrade / 120 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit). The nibs are thus transformed into a viscous paste or mass called Cacao Liquor and the manufacture of chocolate begins.

Part of the production of Liquor is pressed in order to extract cacao butter, an essential ingredient in the making of chocolate, and reserved.

The process begins by mixing the ingredients for the desired chocolate, that is cacao liquor, sugar, vanilla, part of the cacao butter (and milk of the final product is milk chocolate). This mass is then passed through roller mills and refined to reduce the particle size to less than 22 microns.

The next phase is called conching. This stage was invented by a Swiss named Rudolph Lindt, which eliminates the last traces of moisture and acids natural to cacao, and brings out the taste, texture and aroma of the chocolate as well as the final smoothness. The mass is placed into conches where it is slowly kneaded and smoothed. It is at this stage where the remainder of cacao butter is added to the mass, which gives the final product the proper texture and shine.

Once the chocolate has reached the desired texture it is pumped into holding tanks in preparation for the final stages of production. The final stage begins by tempering the chocolate. This is done by briskly reducing the temperature of the chocolate that has been in holding tanks from around 40 degrees centigrade to about 28 degrees. The temperature is then gently raised to around 32 degrees depending on the contents of the mass. This procedure initiates the crystallization or hardening of the chocolate. Proper tempering is very important because this will ensure the final color, shine and stability of the final product.

It is at this stage, when the chocolate begins crystallizing that it is poured into moulds. The mould are vibrated to extract any air bubbles that may have formed and then enter a refrigerated tunnel where the chocolate is solidified. The very last stage involves unmolding and wrapping the chocolate.

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