Chocolate Makers that Rock — Part 2
Our 1:1 with an American Craftsman: Tejas
Every month we work with different craft chocolate makers at standardcocoa.com. Along with tasting lots of their chocolate, we like to learn a little bit more about how they got started on their adventure. American craftsmanship is the future of our economy. Scott and his team are the creators of Tejas Chocolate. This is a story about curiousity and innovation.
What inspired you to create Tejas Chocolate?
Experiencing craft chocolate is what inspired me to start down the road of making chocolate. Once I tried chocolate bars from Potomac, Madre, Mast, Amano, and Askinoise and learned what well made chocolate really can be like, the hook was set and off to the homescale making races I went. Michelle is a gourmet cook at home and spent many years working at a gourmet shop in Panama City, FL. I’m a backyard barbecue and grilling enthusiast. When I realized I could roast cocoa beans on my barbecue pit the game was on and Michelle was my biggest cheer leader.
What is your favorite part about creating craft chocolate?
What might come from the next origin of cacao we are working with is probably what I get most excited about. When we try a new origin there is a discovery and tinkering process we go through that guides us on how we want to roast, how long to refine and conch, and how aging can help improve flavors. We develop an idea of where a cocoa bean might go in terms of flavor, but sometimes are surprised at the final result. Many times chocolate after conching is really good, but more often than not a flavor note might not appear until the chocolate has rested for a few weeks. I can’t always explain the chemistry behind these little surprises, but on origins we have lots of experience with we can predict what day the chocolate flavor evolves into what we wish to present.
What makes your chocolate unique?
We roast cocoa beans in a hand made brick oven that looks like a barbecue smoker. We fire roast cocoa beans for a period of time and then let radiant heat from hot rocks and fire brick finish the roasting cycle. I like to compare roasting cocoa beans to roasting blue agave for making tequila. Big tequila uses industrialized roasters and often steam to convert the complex carbohydrates of agave pinas into sugars quickly so they can produce more tequila. Smaller craft Tequila makers harvest the pina at the right time and slow roast in a Hornito so muy suave flavors have the proper time to mature and develop. For me, there is a distinguishable difference between well made tequila and Big tequila. I see this dynamic happening in chocolate with farmers and co-ops enhancing post harvest practices, and chocolate makers paying attention to all manufacturing steps. These things add up to better chocolate.
How do you think craft chocolate is changing the industry?
There are many winners up and down the supply chain from growth in craft chocolate. There seems to be a continuous circle of goodness that keeps getting better. Consumers are getting more choices for well made chocolate, chocolate makers are getting more consumers as their awareness of fine chocolate expands, cacao farmers and processors are finding more places to sell premium cocoa beans, craft makers are gaining more access to premium cacao, and all goes back to consumers asking for and getting better chocolate. A fun thing for us to witness even a as a young chocolate making company.
What flavor of Tejas represents you the most, and why?
It seems like we are developing a reputation for bold, distinct, and complex flavors. Not sure if I can put my finger on a particular flavor note that people would identify with us just yet. I wouldn’t be shocked to see our Ysleta bar which is made with beans from Papua New Guinea become identifiable with us. There is a lovely back drop of smokiness that we believe just tastes like a chocolate should from Texas. But it is the farmers that deserve the smokey credit, not us, for the wonderful essence of smoke. In PNG they dry beans over wood fires because of the infrequent sunny days there, and the smoke sticking onto wet cocoa beans graces these lovelies with the aroma. We just tried not to screw it up.