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CONFECTION PERFECTION

by Daniel Schere

| daniel@yesweekly.com | @Daniel_Schere

These days, it seems Trade Street in Winston-Salem has virtually everything on the horizon.

If you need a break from the cute coffee shops and art galleries, a newly opened chocolate factory might be a good alternative.

That alternative became a reality on Sept. 19 when Black Mountain Chocolate Factory opened its doors for people to watch the chocolate process in action, while also satisfying their sweet tooth. Visitors can view chocolate being made through glass windows or take a tour of the factory on Saturdays for $10.

Black Mountain makes 63-gram bars that they sell in stores throughout the Carolinas, Georgia and Virginia. The company has been around since 2007 but just recently moved its headquarters to Winston-Salem. In addition to chocolate bars, the store also sells gelato and pastries that are made with its chocolate.

Chocolate maker Brent Peters gave me an abbreviated tour last week, and I had the chance to learn the finer points of chocolate making.

Black Mountain starts by purchasing 150-pound bags of cocoa beans from the Dominican Republic for $450 each. Peters said he prefers these beans due to their unique flavor.

“Cocoa beans are kind of like wine grapes, so there’s different varieties of them,” he said. “And the varieties differ by where they’re grown.”

The beans must first be cleaned by hand, which Peters said usually takes two hours for one load. From there, it’s time to roast.

“They drop into the roaster for about a half-hour roast cycle, and then from the drum into the cooling pan, which stirs them and then draws room temperature air down to cool them off,” he said.

The roasting process produces a very pungent and pleasant aroma that spreads and charms others nearby.

“The night I did my very first roast here in Winston-Salem I didn’t tell anybody I was doing it, but I was standing in the middle “” about 8:30 p.m. “” and I got a text message from a landlord that was about two blocks away,” Peters said. “He said, ‘It smells like brownies in here. Are you doing something at the chocolate factory?’ I said ‘Yes I am. I’m roasting beans.'” From the roasting machine, the beans are put into the winnowing machine where they are broken up and pushed through vibrating pans. They then pass under a vacuum that separates the husks from the nibs “” the heavier part of the bean.

After two hours of winnowing, the beans move on to the grinder, which grinds 70 pounds of beans with 30 pounds of sugar in a process that takes 24 hours. Peters explained that this takes longer because the sugar is organic and does not dissolve immediately.

The chocolate must then be heated and tempered before it can be molded into bars. The molten chocolate is run through a tempering machine where it is cooled from 115 degrees to 87 degrees. Peters said this is done in order to achieve an optimum texture for a chocolate bar. He said cocoa butter is a crystal that can form six different shapes, but only shape number five gives chocolate bars their shininess and ability to break without crumbling. !

WANNA go?

Black Mountain Chocolate Factory is open Tuesday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is located at 732 N. Trade St. in Winston-Salem. Call 828-686-5511 or visit http://www.blackmountainchocolate.com.

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