The Art and Science of the Blend

Written by Brad Kintzer, Chief Chocolate Maker

At TCHO, we’re inspired when someone unwraps our chocolate, takes a bite or two, and simply loves it.  Our company is guided by recreating that single awesome moment. Our core aspiration is how to make our flavor experience unforgettably delicious. Here’s a look into our approach.

Even compared to other spectacularly complex foods and drinks, chocolate making is a curiously long process. It’s honestly a miracle that it was ever discovered. Every bar of chocolate is made by navigating the intricacies of terroir, genetics, harvest timing, fermentation, drying, roasting, grinding, and blending. (Sounds complicated, right? That’s because it is…) Each individual stage of chocolate making is absolutely vital to flavor development, ultimately making their indelible stamp on a chocolate’s final profile. To make good chocolate, it is critical to be fluent in the science behind every one of these steps that culminate into a chocolate’s flavor experience. To make great chocolate, you’ll need to bring along a hefty dose of both artfulness and intuition.

Perhaps more than any other stage in chocolate making, the process of skillfully blending different lots of cacao encompasses the duality of both art and science. Lots meaning different batches of cacao that could be from different origins, varietals, or even the same farm, but grew on the east and west sides of a river. Blending often—and justifiably—gets a bad rap.  For many companies, blending is used as an effective cost-cutting tool to incorporate less expensive ingredients into formulas. On the flip side, some of the most revered beverages and foods (including chocolate) utilize blending to achieve consistency, quality, and uniqueness.

While there’s lots of exciting buzz around single-origin chocolates, traditionally, most chocolate, including the finest ones were carefully guarded blends. This allowed a chocolate maker, similar to a Champagne vintner, to create their signature “house flavor” that differentiated themselves from others while making the product more stable to fluctuations in ingredient availability and flavor quality drift due to normal agricultural variance. 

 Relying only on single ingredients or origins can leave a chocolate maker exposed to the uncertainty of supply, potentially leading to flavor inconsistency. Blending various origins can stabilize that and reduce the risk of a flavor quality slump. More importantly, blending creates an opportunity to build a more dynamic, well-rounded flavor experience. Taking a look at some of the flavor building blocks of chocolate, we can see how that works. For example, West African cocoa, on one side of the flavor spectrum, tends to yield big fudgy flavors that can evoke nostalgic memories of delicious, lightly burnt brownie edges. Peru, Madagascar and Papua New Guinea all tend to have less of those classic cocoa notes but pack a more fruity, acidic punch; think sour cherries, unripe raspberries, and lemon peels. Ecuador, as another example, has traditionally skewed more in the nutty, floral, and astringent flavor category. Each of these origins on their own are fascinating to try and clearly illustrate the beautiful diversity of flavor and aromas found in the world of cacao. However, by blending them in just the right proportions, it allows for a multi-layered flavor symphony, each note adding to the overall experience.

Flavor Wheel of our Unsweetened Chocolate blend's flavor profile.

This flavor wheel represents the profiles in our Unsweetened 100% Baking Chocolate; a well-rounded blend of origins from Peru, Ecuador, and Democratic Republic of Congo, rather than mostly chocolatey or only the more acidic, fruity notes. 

Many describe the true art of chocolate making as being in the blending of various origins of cacao together, creating something that is more than the sum of its parts. This is what lies at the core of most of the world’s finest perfumes, whiskeys, wines, sour beers, coffees, teas, spices, and chocolates. The best blends are ones that are carefully designed for striking beauty, artful balance, and stable structure, where 1+1=3.

Want to taste what we’re talking about?  Try pretty much any of our baking chocolatesour 70g bars (except the 70% Dark Chocolate from Ghana, AKA Chocolatey, or our 68% Dark Chocolate from Peru, AKA Fruity, which are both single-origin)!  Some of our blended pure chocolate faves are our 39% Classic Milk,  81% Extra Dark, or 95% Deep Dark.