Ryan is a chocolate maker at our 16th Street factory, as well as a frequent traveler and motorcycle enthusiast.
Before Areté Fine Chocolate moved from Milpitas, California to Spencer, Tennessee in spring of 2018, Eric, Snooky, and myself had the pleasure of seeing the glory of what was, at the time, still their semi-operational facility before they’d fully packed up for their move. Areté Chocolate is owned and operated by David and Leslie Senk. As of our visit, David and Leslie were Areté’s only employees.
After meeting the Senks and seeing their process, it was abundantly apparent they are people of high personal and professional integrity, which very much shines through in their careful processing and top-shelf chocolate. Throughout the day, as our conversations meandered through chocolate theory, some noteworthy similarities and differences between us stood out:
- We both believe in the importance of data collection to understand outcomes in the chocolate making process.
- We both believe that when the chocolate is tempered may make a difference in its flavor. Aging chocolate and its impact on flavor is something we look forward to testing in more depth.
- Areté removes the radicle from all of their beans, which is something we’ve always wanted to do and are we are working towards.
- Much of their process is a result of custom and creative adaptations to fit their evolving needs while not sacrificing quality. Similarly, improving our quality is central to – and runs parallel with – our reflexive metrics for success as we continue to grow.
- Areté makes all their chocolate in mini melangers, such as the ones we use for experiments.
- David believes temperature control is crucial to consistent, predictable flavor.
- We both believe that testing one variable at a time through experimentation is the best practice.
- We’ve developed our own process for removing broken and moldy beans prior to roasting. At Areté, all moldy beans are removed after the beans are broken, one by one, through his mechanized, creatively-engineered process, speaking to the ingenuity and passion behind the operation.
- After roasting in a convection oven, David’s beans are removed and then rapidly cooled to prevent any further, unwanted roasting. In a similar fashion, our beans are cooled in our drum roaster’s cooling tray post-roast.
Takeaways to consider for experimentations or reinforcing in our current chocolate making practices:
- We should continue to consider results of experiments done by others, while holding off on drawing any conclusions until a hypothesis can be tested through our own experiments.
- We should also continue to revisit the effects of aging chocolate, with future experiments to support our previous investigations.
- We should investigate further experiments testing the effects of melanger chocolate temperature, which may lead to more stringent temperature control guidelines and an improved understanding of how process temperature directs flavor.
- Consider moving toward 2:1 mineral oil to chocolate ratio when testing microns via micrometer.
My personal favorite part of the tour: Talking with all those present about chocolate, life, and the chocolate life; seeing the incredible passion, enthusiasm, and dedication that the Senks have for making great chocolate.
Favorite origin/product: Ben Tre, Vietnam
Fun fact: We will be working with Ben Tre cocoa beans and releasing our take on the origin in 2019!
Biggest challenges: Possibly scaling up while maintaining quality, and chocolate making as a sustainable business.