The cocoa beans were used in the Mayo Chinchipe culture to make an energy-filled hot drink
Today ICAM is one of the few companies in the world able to guarantee control over every stage of the production chain. It is this rigorous industrial approach that allows us to reach and to maintain the very highest quality standards at every stage of production.
ICAM purchases from selected high quality cocoa farmers.
Each year, thousands of little white or pinkish-yellow flowers bloom on the cocoa tree. Just 1% of these will bear fruit: the “cabosse”, or cocoa pods, which grow directly on the trunk or the main branches of the tree. Over the last few years, ICAM has been gradually introducing a revolutionary new concept into the plantations, able to guarantee higher productivity: to increase the number of varieties of clones beyond the 3 typical varieties of cocoa known so far (Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario).
- CRIOLLO: accounts for no more than 2% of production worldwide. Delicate, sensitive variety, which produces a very fine cocoa.
- FORASTERO: accounts for some 80% of production worldwide. Comes primarily from the Amazon Rainforest, and has violet seeds and green pods, which turn a red/yellow colour when ripe.
- TRINITARIO: a hybrid of the two groups above. Originally from Trinidad, it accounts for about 18% of production worldwide.
Preliminary Testing and Cleaning Test
Checks are carried out on the level of fermentation and to ensure the beans are free from defects. The cocoa is then cleaned to remove any foreign bodies and selected, separating broken beans from the whole ones that will then continue their journey through the production chain.
The beans are subjected to strong infrared radiation, at around 400°, for about 100 seconds, which makes it easier to remove the cocoa bean from its shell.
The beans are crushed into small pieces called grain, and at the same time, the shell around the beans is discarded.
The grain is “bathed” in water, to which, depending on the specific case, potassium carbonate may be added in order to reduce the natural acidity of the cocoa.
The grain is toasted using hot air at a temperature of between 100° and 120°. The roasting process takes about 30 minutes, and must ensure that the grain is evenly toasted to allow the noblest aromas of the cocoa to develop.
The grain is ground in a pin-mill, thus turning it into a product known as cocoa liquor or cocoa paste.
The cocoa paste is pressed in hydraulic presses to extract the fatty matter, i.e. the cocoa butter; the dry part that remains once the cocoa paste has been pressed is the cocoa press cake, from which the cocoa powder will be obtained.
The cocoa butter is filtered using paper filters able to retain any impurities.
The cocoa butter is subjected to a deodorising process that involves the extraction of part of the volatile acids using a high-pressure jet of steam, in order to give the butter a more pleasant taste.
The press cake is first crushed coarsely and then ground finely to obtain cocoa powder. The cocoa is now ready to be packaged for sale, or to be made into chocolate.
The ingredients are selected and blended in proportions that vary according to the particular recipe and type of chocolate to be obtained: milk, white, dark or gianduja.
Large refining drums crush and cut the chocolate paste to obtain particles with a size of no more than 18 microns.
The conching process, which may take hours, is carried out for a number of different purposes:
• to create a perfect blend of the various components
• to reduce the acid and astringent aromas
• to extract any remaining humidity, reducing it to no more than 0.5-0.8% at the end of the process. At this stage, a small amount of soya lecithin 0.3% is usually added as a fluidifying agent and emulsifier, as well as a tiny amount of vanilla to enhance the aroma.
During the tempering process, the chocolate is first cooled to 26°/28°C and then heated back up to 29°/32°C. This is essential for the cocoa butter to solidify in the stable crystalline form, which makes it suitable for moulding and gives it a glossy appearance and a crisp snap, as well as ensuring excellent shelf life.
The tempered chocolate is poured into moulds to form a variety of shapes (drops, tablets, pralines, shells…) and is then solidified in large cooling tunnels.
The solid, cooled chocolate is removed from the moulds, wrapped and packaged in particularly appealing, imaginative ways.