For Christmas, I got myself a Chocolate Workshop voucher at Belyzium Artisan Chocolate, a tree-to-bar chocolate maker in Berlin Mitte. They grow, harvest, ferment and dry the cacao beans in Belize, ship them to Germany and process the beans in Berlin to make the bars in their Mitte factory! I’d gone into their shop for their delicious hot chocolate and also had noticed them in local food markets like the Sophienstrasse Weihnachtmarkt. The guys behind the counter were always super nice and answered all of my chocolate-related questions.
I got Phil a Chocolate Workshop voucher too, since he and Ned hosted us for Christmas Eve dinner and I wanted to get him something special as a thank-you. So, on Boxing Day 2015, Phil and I walked over to the Belyzium (work)shop in the late afternoon to learn about cacao farming and chocolate making. The first thing that always strikes me about the Belyzium store and workshop is the wonderful smell of chocolate wafting in the air; I’d get hungry all the time if I had to work there and smelt the chocolate all day long. The second striking thing is the size of their space; storefront, office and chocolate workshop couldn’t have been more than 70sqm. It’s a cozy space, and since they’re all so friendly in there, it’s like stepping into a friend’s living room and trying out different yummy chocolate all afternoon.
Belyzium workshops happen on Saturdays, starting at 16:00 and lasting until about 17:30. Aside from learning about the bean-to-bar process in their workshop space, we also get to use the tempering-drizzler machine to make our own bar of chocolate. The workshops are limited to around 6 participants, probably due to space limitations; in any case it’s a good group size, with plenty of interaction and Q&A time between the chocolate maker and participants.
Belyzium use only single-origin beans from Belize cacao farms/plantations, which are harvested a couple of times a year, then fermented and dried before getting shipped to Berlin. They process approximately 10kg of cacao a week, so it’s really small-scale, and the bars they sell are always fresh. I checked the back of the bars I purchased from them last week, and they were all made after December 18 (and aren’t going to last beyond the next 2 days in my household, haha!).
The Belyzium chocolates have very special flavours, ranging from bright and citrusy (their signature 78 bar) to cherry-berry tones (in their 83 bars), but all fruity.
Scroll to the bottom of this post to find the list I compiled of bean-to-bar info and process videos.
My main learning take-away from the workshop is that chocolate is complex and can be temperamental. The beans and the process all leave room for experimentation and invention, but also room for mistakes that pollute/dilute the cocoa flavour. The main bean varieties are criollo, forastero (the most commonly grown, around 85% of global cacao) and trinitario, which is a natural hybrid of criollo and forastero. Belyzium uses a blend of the prized criollo bean variety and the trinitario. By doing the tree-to-bean process, they can “design” and deliver better chocolate products.
Aside from the tea and cacao beans, we also sampled the Belyzium 78 and 83 bars, as well as the Tabu bar. The bars tasted fruity, with a smooth texture and a soft snap. I find the 78 to be bright, and citrusy, too sweet for my taste. I prefer the 83 which I found more astringent and had a caramelly, cherry and berry tones. The packaging is simple, with a beautifully printed card explaining the Belyzium experience and philosophy.
The products on offer:
- Belyzium signature bars: ranging from 78-83-89-100, with the 83 being the most popular/best-selling bar.
- Belyzium dark variation bars
- Low Ferm: fermented for 5 instead of the usual 7 days.
- Salz: the 78 with salt sprinkles.
- Nibs: with cocoa nibs inclusion.
- Maya: with chili flakes.
- Belyzium Tabu range: more delicate, intense chocolate, kept refrigerated in the shop.
- Belyzium Hazelnut-Chocolate spread: so so good, but if I bought one, I’d probably sit on the couch and eat the whole thing with a spoon right away.
- Cacao rum: several jars of these were happily infusing away in the workshop and after I asked, we got to sample them, and they were delicious, would be perfect for our eggnog actually.
- Belyzium Cacao Husk Tea
- A selection of truffles, caramelised cacao beans (omg sugary!), and the cute T’ings (chocolate coins with spices).
All in all, it was a really good way to spend a Saturday afternoon!
Videos on the bean-to-bar chocolate-making process
- Dandelion Chocolates, based in San Francisco, have a great video explaining their bean-to-bar process: https://vimeo.com/55989344
- Ritual Chocolate https://vimeo.com/106015611
- Dick Taylor Craft Chocolates: https://vimeo.com/104475847
- Potomac Chocolate/The Chocolate Maker Next Door: https://vimeo.com/41566805
- What is bean-to-bar chocolate: http://www.beantobarchocolate.co.uk/2014/08/01/what-is-bean-to-bar-chocolate/
- How to taste chocolate: http://www.beantobarchocolate.co.uk/2014/07/14/how-to-taste-chocolate/