with a very special crystallisation point
from Gregor Sieböck
Ruud and Julien throw each other a somewhat desperate look when we start talking about the crystallisation point of the cocoa butter. Julien says: "Zotter is the only chocolate manufacturer in the world who we work with, who puts a lot of emphasis on a high crystallisation point of the cocoa butter, but it is not exactly easy to achieve such high quality with cocoa butter." "What kind of point is it, exactly?" I want to know. Julien, who works at Tradin Organic, explains: "When cocoa butter melts, the curve runs relatively consistently. At about 35 degrees, however, it makes a little wave, it melts quickly all of a sudden - that's the crystallisation point. If this is higher than 35 degrees, say 37 degrees, as Zotter wishes, then the chocolate melts differently. So if you put a piece of chocolate with a higher crystallisation point in your mouth, the cocoa butter doesn't melt as soon as the chocolate touches the tongue. That means you can first enjoy and feel the other flavour components of the chocolate. The cocoa butter will melt quickly only at the end of your palate - which causes another taste explosion. The physical properties of chocolate are thus highly influenced by the quality of the cocoa butter used to produce it. Which is why a high-quality cocoa butter is so important to Zotter!"
The quality of the cocoa butter and also the crystallisation point depend on the good quality of the cocoa beans and on them being properly fermented. Furthermore, the production process has to run cleanly and perfectly and the cocoa butter should be delivered immediately and in liquid form at about 70 degrees Celsius. If all criteria have been met, then the cocoa butter has a high crystallisation point and is of top quality. And when I watch Ruud, the production manager of Crown of Holland, the first large organic cocoa-processing factory in Holland, and Julien of Tradin Organic, the operator of the factory, I realise that Zotter with his high quality requirements truly challenges his suppliers - but the two are both up to the challenge. Ruud has been working in cocoa processing for many years now and has worked for several well-known companies, Julien is more than familiar with the scientific background and is constantly looking for high-quality cocoa bean suppliers from all over the world! Together they manage to deliver cocoa butter with a high crystallisation point to Zotter and somehow I get the feeling that this challenge also brings them a certain joy! And of course none of this would be worth anything if Zotter wouldn't also have the perfect storage capacities for cocoa butter in Bergl: For the past six months, there has been a large separate tank for cocoa butter in Bergl in which liquid cocoa butter can be stored so that it doesn't oxidise - that is, comes into contact with oxygen, and it thus maintains its high crystallisation point.
Holland has a long tradition of trading and processing cocoa. Amsterdam's harbour is worldwide the largest place of transshipment for cocoa and the area around Zaandam, where Crown of Holland is located, is considered the global centre of cocoa processing. Almost 30% of the worldwide cocoa butter production is located in Holland. Tradin Organic has been operating a modern cocoa-processing factory there since summer 2013 and produces cocoa butter and cocoa powder. The capacity is designed for 10,000 tons of organic cocoa beans and could be expanded to twice that size. Of 4,000,000 tons of cocoa beans, only 60,000 come from organic farming. Organic farming is thus still a niche in the global cocoa production, which is otherwise dominated by a few multinational corporations. On the very same day that we visited Crown of Holland, Cargill bought up a competitor and thus became the world's larges cocoa supplier.
Tradin Organic processes organic cocoa from Peru, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Ghana, Congo and from Uganda. In the production process, the cocoa beans are first cleaned and then roasted at about 120 degrees Celsius, so that the beans can truly develop their flavour. After that, the cocoa shells are removed. The shells are used for gardening and also as animal fodder for cows in Holland, to increase their milk yield. During the subsequent grinding, the beans' cocoa butter melts and the so-called cocoa nibs turn into liquid cocoa mass. After that, the alkalisation takes place. Alkalisation is the addition of alkali salts such as potash or sodium carbonate. Due to the alkalisation, which as been developed in Holland, fat is more easily separated from the cocoa mass. Also, the taste of the cocoa powder itself is emphasised, the sourish-bitter taste is minimised and the colour of the cocoa deepened. Following this, the cocoa mass is pressed in a press for 10 to 15 minutes at a temperature of about 100 degrees Celsius and the fat runs off as golden yellow cocoa butter. What is left over is the cocoa press cake, which is then pulverised. The cocoa butter remains natural or is, on request, also deodorised. For this, the inherent smell of the cocoa butter is extracted in a distillery.
In the production plant "Crown of Holland", twelve employees produce strongly and slightly de-oiled cocoa powder, alkalised and natural cocoa powder, natural and deodorised cocoa butter and also cocoa mass. Crown of Holland can meet the customers' special requirements and deliver the product exactly as it is desired.
Finally, Simone and I also want to know from Ruud why organic cultivation is important to him. He explains: "To me, organic is a philosophy of life and a basic attitude. We produce a special product for conscious customers. At the moment, that is still a niche market - but the consciousness of the customers is growing. That is why it brings me so much joy to work in this field and to process cocoa beans that have been cultivated in harmony with the Earth and its people." As a farewell, we give him a large box of Zotter chocolates and he is visibly happy with his present. Then Julien takes us back to Amsterdam. It is late afternoon by the time we say good-bye and thank him for his hearty hospitality.
The next day, we walked through the centre of Amsterdam. Dutchmen love to ride bicycles. Which is why there are only a few cars on Amsterdam's roads, which instantly creates a very special atmosphere. The sun was shining, it was warm and the people were still sitting outside the cafés and restaurants in the street. In a small restaurant that served delicious meals made from organic ingredients, we met Dan, Caren and Daan from the US and Holland. They joined us at our table. We soon started talking about chocolate and told them about our trip around the world. They loved the idea and told us we absolutely had to stop by Puccini's, a local chocolatier, and try his cranberry chocolate confectionary and also to visit the local organic shop to try the local organic chocolate. Thus they put together a small chocolate tour through Amsterdam for us. Next time we should stay in Amsterdam longer and visit them at their home - and we were once again touched by how many wonderful encounters we get to experience on this journey. Happy about this unexpected meeting, we walked through Amsterdam in the evening, visited the chocolate shops, strolled along the canals and were glad about the warming rays of sunshine... and then we had to get back on the train. The night train took us onwards to Hamburg, but one thing is for sure... we will return to Amsterdam, the capital of cocoa and chocolate.
Find more information about the cocoa butter factory "Crown of Holland" online at: www.crownofholland.com