Making Chocolate Elephants

Monday, 3-11-2014. Day 75.

The Secret of White Chocolate: Revealed!

Today we took a trip to Pod Chocolate, an organic chocolatier about an hour's drive from our villa. At 9:30 a.m. we were picked up by a good-natureed gent named Putu (a very common name for first-born Balinese), who was not our usual driver and who loved to talk about the frangipani that grows all over the island. He talked quite a bit as we drove, in fact, and we learned a good amount of information about Bali from him.

Pod has a pair of sun bears on display there (although they call them honey bears and only one was out). I'm not sure why they have sun bears (which are not native to Bali), but they do. They'll let you take a picture with the bear if you want, but after the whole selfies with bears brouhaha, we declined.

Female sun bear in Bali.

Female sun bear in Bali.

Pod is also right next door to The Elephant Camp which keeps a small herd of Sumatran elephants that you can ride, but we passed on that. We did see plenty of elephants in the area, though, both with and without riders.

Enough about animals. Let's talk Chocolate.

When we arrived, we were seated at a table any presented with a cold chocolate drink garnished with shaved chocolate flakes. It was delicious, as you'd expect a drink crafted entirely of chocolate to be. They went so quickly, we didn't have time to photograph them.

Making Chocolate

After we finished our drinks, it was on to the business of chocolate making. We got to wear some fancy, branded aprons and jumped right into making our chocolate elephants.

Ready to make the chocolate.

Ready to make the chocolate.

You get to choose milk or dark chocolate and up to three add-ins. Then they bring you a plastic tray, sort of like an ice cube tray, and you squeeze your selected chocolate into the elephant-shaped spaces, then add your toppings. But you put them on the bottom, so they're more like bottomings.

Jackie: rainbow sprinkles.

Samantha: Almonds, cashews, cocoa nibs.

Frankie: rainbow sprinkles and  cocoa nibs.

Tom: Cocoa nibs and coffee beans.

From Pod to Bar: How Chocolate is Made

The results of the different stages of the chocolate-making process.

The results of the different stages of the chocolate-making process.

After we finished our creations and they were taken away somewhere mysterious to solidify, we took a tour of how Pod made their chocolate. It all starts with the cacao pod, which holds many fat-rich cocoa beans inside its thick rind.

Cacao pod in the tree.

Cacao pod in the tree.

Our tour guide gave us a few of the raw cocoa beans to suck on. They were slick with a fatty membrane and tasted a kind of strange, both tart and a little sweet, but nothing like chocolate.

A cacao pod, cut open lengthwise.

A cacao pod, cut open lengthwise.

To make chocolate, these beans are removed, then placed in these wooden boxes for a week or so to ferment.

Fermentation in action.

Fermentation in action.

After fermentation, the beans are spread out in the sun to dry. This can take four days, sometimes longer if it's rainy. They're sorted to get the best beans of the bunch, then dried for another four days.

Open-air drying racks.

Open-air drying racks.

When the beans look like an almond on the outside and coffee on the inside, they're ready for roasting.

Dried and roasted.

Dried and roasted.

The beans are roasted in a big, constantly rotating drum for 30 minutes at 150°C. When they cool, they're ready for grinding, after which the beans are now what most people will recognize as cacao nibs.

Ground cocoa beans/cacao nibs.

Ground cocoa beans/cacao nibs.

The nibs are pressed, which separates the cocoa butter from the cocoa solids. The solids are used to make chocolate, while the cocoa butter is used to make white chocolate (so there's no chocolate in white chocolate). From there, varying proportions of the remaining cocoa is mixed with milk and sugar to produce the different bars. Pod has a little display to help show what those different percentages on the wrappers of the chocolate bars mean.

Milk chocolate: 44%.

Extra-dark chocolate: 80%.

Dark chocolate: 64%.

White chocolate has no chocolate, only cocoa butter.

Pod needs 30 cacao fruit (pods) to make 1 kilogram of chocolate, which will make about seven bars. A farmer is paid 30,000 rupiah (about $2.47 U.S.) for those 30 pods, which is about 4,285 rupiah ($0.35 U.S.) per bar. And that's a fair trade price.

After the tour, our chocolate elephants were presented to us, wrapped up neatly in little plastic bags. But by the time Putu drove us to a restaurant for lunch, the Bali heat had turned the elephants into a congealed mass of chocolatey goo. They still tasted good, though.

is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. He also drinks coffee.

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Making Chocolate Elephants
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