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From cacao bean to chocolate bar

Yoon Hyung-won, the owner and chocolate maker at Cacaodada, tests finished bean-to-bar chocolate liquor at the Cacaodada factory in Mangwon-dong, western Seoul, Jan. 22. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk
Yoon Hyung-won, the owner and chocolate maker at Cacaodada, tests finished bean-to-bar chocolate liquor at the Cacaodada factory in Mangwon-dong, western Seoul, Jan. 22. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

Bean-to-bar chocolate

By Kwon Mee-yoo

Chocolate is one of everyone's favorite sweets with its unique and complex taste of sweet, bitter, nutty and even fruity flavors. Chocolate is made from cacao beans, but those who only encounter the final product often forget that the beans come from fruit pods.

A new movement in the chocolate world is the rise of craft chocolate makers who make their delicious sweets from scratch. Yoon Hyung-won and Go Yu-rim are the husband-and-wife duo behind Cacaodada, one of the first bean-to-bar chocolate makers in Korea.

Go said though the taste of a bean-to-bar chocolate bar might be unfamiliar at first, you won't be able to return to mass-produced chocolate bars once you acquire a taste for craft chocolate.

"Chocolate is the best way to consume cacao beans ― an agricultural product," Go said.

The two roast, grind and conch cacao beans to make chocolate every day, all by themselves, introducing a whole new world of craft chocolate to Korea.

Yoon Hyung-won, left, and Go Yu-rim speak during an interview with The Korea Times at the Cacaodada factory and shop in Mangwon-dong, western Seoul, Jan. 22. Yoon and Go are the husband-and-wife duo behind Cacaodada, one of the first bean-to-bar chocolate makers in Korea. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk
Yoon Hyung-won, left, and Go Yu-rim speak during an interview with The Korea Times at the Cacaodada factory and shop in Mangwon-dong, western Seoul, Jan. 22. Yoon and Go are the husband-and-wife duo behind Cacaodada, one of the first bean-to-bar chocolate makers in Korea. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

Lives of chocolate makers

Yoon and Go describe themselves as chocolate makers.

Yoon explained this job title in comparison with chocolatier, which is one who makes confectionery products such as bonbons and truffles from chocolate.

"The distinction between a chocolate maker and a chocolatier is relatively new, dating back 100 years. As I looked through old documents, chocolatiers of the past made chocolate by themselves from cacao beans, but as food became industrialized, cacao bean processing companies emerged and they became the sole source of chocolate. Chocolatiers evolved to make confectionery from existing chocolate, which is now called couverture chocolate," Yoon said.

Yoon, a philosophy major, was fascinated by chocolate and plunged into chocolate making about 10 years ago. He expected to make chocolate, but instead he was introduced to make confectionery with pre-made chocolate.

"I was bewildered at first. I went to learn how to make chocolate, but I was provided with ready-made chocolate. Later, I learned about bean-to-bar chocolate and chocolate makers. I was mesmerized by grinding cacao beans into chocolate," Yoon said.

Go said Yoon approached chocolate making in a more fundamental way. "Generally, people are too accustomed to the existing chocolate, but Yoon is more interested in the raw material."

Though the process is simple, making chocolate had become industrialized and mostly circulated in the form of cacao butter and cacao powder, which are extracted from roasted and ground cacao beans.

"Basically the cacao bean is agricultural produce, but large confectionery factories tend to bring out the chocolate flavor in a cheaper, more convenient way, instead of preserving the original taste of the fruit," Yoon said. "Beginning from the late 1990s, artisanal chocolate makers revived the traditional way of chocolate making from cacao bean to bar."

Yoon and Go's first attempt of making chocolate from cacao bean started with scant resources.

"Back then, there were no chocolate making machines such as roasters and grinders in Korea. We converted a coffee roaster to roast cacao beans and an Indian spice grinder to grind the roasted beans," Yoon said.

Yoon Hyung-won, left, and Go Yu-rim speak during an interview with The Korea Times at the Cacaodada factory and shop in Mangwon-dong, western Seoul, Jan. 22. Yoon and Go are the husband-and-wife duo behind Cacaodada, one of the first bean-to-bar chocolate makers in Korea. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk
Yoon Hyung-won, left, and Go Yu-rim speak during an interview with The Korea Times at the Cacaodada factory and shop in Mangwon-dong, western Seoul, Jan. 22. Yoon and Go are the husband-and-wife duo behind Cacaodada, one of the first bean-to-bar chocolate makers in Korea. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

Journey from bean to bar

Cacaodada aims to present each products' origin and diverse taste. Major cacao countries of origin include Ghana, Madagascar, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.

"We all know what a cacao bean looks like as it is often featured on the packaging of chocolate. The beans turn from red and green to yellow and orange as they mature. The beans are dried and then fermented to develop the chocolate flavor we know," Yoon explained.

Making of bean-to-bar chocolate can be roughly divided into five stages.

First, Cacaodada imports the dried beans and the process begins.

"Roasting the dried, fermented cacao beans is the first step. Then we crack and winnow them to remove the outer shells. The shelled and crushed cacao beans are called cacao nibs," he said.

Then the cacao nibs are ground finely until they turn into a thick paste referred to as "chocolate liquor," though there is no alcohol involved.

"The right pressure and temperature can squeeze cacao butter out of the liquor form. Cacao butter is very important because it is where chocolate holds its flavor," Yoon said.

Conching is a relatively new process added to bean-to-bar making, which blows away unwanted flavors and fermented smells by continuously agitating the liquor with heat and air.

"This process helps us keep the best of the cacao in the chocolate," he said.

Then the chocolate goes through tempering, which aims to change the structure to be in the stable crystal form by repeated warming and cooling.

Yoon Hyung-won, the owner and chocolate maker at Cacaodada, cracks cacao beans to separate the nibs from the shell, using old fashioned technique, at the Cacaodada factory in Mangwon-dong, western Seoul, Jan. 22. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk
Yoon Hyung-won, the owner and chocolate maker at Cacaodada, cracks cacao beans to separate the nibs from the shell, using old fashioned technique, at the Cacaodada factory in Mangwon-dong, western Seoul, Jan. 22. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

Yoon is confident about the quality of Cacaodada's bean-to-bar creations. Cacaodada's major products are single origin chocolate bars.

"Anyone can distinguish the unique taste of each of our chocolate bars," he said.

Yoon explained that the difference between each origin of cacao bean is influenced by climate as well as preference.

"Certain species of cacao trees survived in a region because they became popular. But in general, each region has its unique cacao species and characteristics," he said.

Chocolate made from cacao beans of Ghana are bold and full-bodied, and often described as having a typical chocolate flavor. Ecuador is famous for Arriba Nacional cacao, which yields a rich floral aroma. Madagascar cacao beans have a strong fruity flavor, while South American countries such as Dominica produce distinct cacao beans with citrusy and nutty characteristics.

"Small-batch craft chocolate makers like us can imbue individuality into our products. Koreans prefer nutty chocolate while they are not used to acidity. So while respecting characteristics of each cacao bean, we try to bring out such flavor in our chocolate and we can reflect our style in it," Go said.

Go Yu-rim, the owner and chocolate maker at Cacaodada, wraps a finished chocolate bar at the Cacaodada factory and shop in Mangwon-dong, western Seoul, Jan. 22. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk
Go Yu-rim, the owner and chocolate maker at Cacaodada, wraps a finished chocolate bar at the Cacaodada factory and shop in Mangwon-dong, western Seoul, Jan. 22. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

Chocolate for Koreans

The company's name, Cacaodada, was coined to combined three similar words with different meanings ― "daily" for everyday chocolate, "Dadaism" as related to the arts and the Chinese character "da" which means for something to be in abundance.

Go said Cacaodada was established in Korea, where people do not consume much chocolate.

"In Europe, where chocolate was first developed, people bring chocolate as housewarming gifts and eat them together. However, chocolate culture is almost absent in Korea except for Valentine's Day," she said.

"In Korea, many artisanal chocolate makers make most of their earnings during the Valentine's Day season in February and White Day in March. However, we wanted to make chocolate for every day, not only for special occasions."

The most basic product of Cacaodada is a dark chocolate bar, which consists of 70 percent cacao bean and 30 percent sugar. The ratio was arrived at after experiments and tastings.

"Many people think that sugar adds sweetness to chocolate, but most of the sweetness are already in the chocolate. We consider sugar as a condiment to bring the best flavor out of chocolate," Go explained.

Another notable chocolate bar from Cacaodada are their specialty chocolate mixed with rice and with mint.

"Pepero Day, which falls on Nov. 11, is another high season for Korean chocolate makers, but we didn't want to make those chocolate-dipped stick snacks. We learned that Nov. 11 is also National Agriculture Day and decided to collaborate with local farmers instead," Go said.

Cacaodada took part in Marche@, an urban market in Seoul mainly featuring local produce.

"As we communicated with the farmers, we were able to understand cacao beans better, as it is an agricultural product after all. And we were inspired by their effort to promote their produce and it resulted in collaborations," she said.

For instance, Cacaodada's rice crispy chocolate is created with produce from Woobo Farm, a small family-run farm that grows an almost extinct Korean native species of rice.

"We learned that there were many different species of rice in Korea. Woobo Farm is trying to revive those Korean native rice species and we matched some of them with our bean-to-bar chocolate."

Their experiments continued with Korean native mint, pepper and ginger.

Cacaodada also have a few awards under their belt, including the International Chocolate Awards Asia-Pacific 2018 Gold for their Peru 54.8 percent dark milk bar and the Academy of Chocolate 2019 Bronze for their Dominica 70 percent dark chocolate.

"It is rewarding to win those awards, but we are happier when our customers say our chocolate tastes good," Yoon said.


Yoon Hyung-won, the owner and chocolate maker at Cacaodada, tests finished bean-to-bar chocolate liquor at the Cacaodada factory in Mangwon-dong, western Seoul, Jan. 22. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk
Yoon Hyung-won, the owner and chocolate maker at Cacaodada, tests finished bean-to-bar chocolate liquor at the Cacaodada factory in Mangwon-dong, western Seoul, Jan. 22. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

Bean-to-bar chocolate

By Kwon Mee-yoo

Chocolate is one of everyone's favorite sweets with its unique and complex taste of sweet, bitter, nutty and even fruity flavors. Chocolate is made from cacao beans, but those who only encounter the final product often forget that the beans come from fruit pods.

A new movement in the chocolate world is the rise of craft chocolate makers who make their delicious sweets from scratch. Yoon Hyung-won and Go Yu-rim are the husband-and-wife duo behind Cacaodada, one of the first bean-to-bar chocolate makers in Korea.

Go said though the taste of a bean-to-bar chocolate bar might be unfamiliar at first, you won't be able to return to mass-produced chocolate bars once you acquire a taste for craft chocolate.

"Chocolate is the best way to consume cacao beans ― an agricultural product," Go said.

The two roast, grind and conch cacao beans to make chocolate every day, all by themselves, introducing a whole new world of craft chocolate to Korea.

Yoon Hyung-won, left, and Go Yu-rim speak during an interview with The Korea Times at the Cacaodada factory and shop in Mangwon-dong, western Seoul, Jan. 22. Yoon and Go are the husband-and-wife duo behind Cacaodada, one of the first bean-to-bar chocolate makers in Korea. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk
Yoon Hyung-won, left, and Go Yu-rim speak during an interview with The Korea Times at the Cacaodada factory and shop in Mangwon-dong, western Seoul, Jan. 22. Yoon and Go are the husband-and-wife duo behind Cacaodada, one of the first bean-to-bar chocolate makers in Korea. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

Lives of chocolate makers

Yoon and Go describe themselves as chocolate makers.

Yoon explained this job title in comparison with chocolatier, which is one who makes confectionery products such as bonbons and truffles from chocolate.

"The distinction between a chocolate maker and a chocolatier is relatively new, dating back 100 years. As I looked through old documents, chocolatiers of the past made chocolate by themselves from cacao beans, but as food became industrialized, cacao bean processing companies emerged and they became the sole source of chocolate. Chocolatiers evolved to make confectionery from existing chocolate, which is now called couverture chocolate," Yoon said.

Yoon, a philosophy major, was fascinated by chocolate and plunged into chocolate making about 10 years ago. He expected to make chocolate, but instead he was introduced to make confectionery with pre-made chocolate.

"I was bewildered at first. I went to learn how to make chocolate, but I was provided with ready-made chocolate. Later, I learned about bean-to-bar chocolate and chocolate makers. I was mesmerized by grinding cacao beans into chocolate," Yoon said.

Go said Yoon approached chocolate making in a more fundamental way. "Generally, people are too accustomed to the existing chocolate, but Yoon is more interested in the raw material."

Though the process is simple, making chocolate had become industrialized and mostly circulated in the form of cacao butter and cacao powder, which are extracted from roasted and ground cacao beans.

"Basically the cacao bean is agricultural produce, but large confectionery factories tend to bring out the chocolate flavor in a cheaper, more convenient way, instead of preserving the original taste of the fruit," Yoon said. "Beginning from the late 1990s, artisanal chocolate makers revived the traditional way of chocolate making from cacao bean to bar."

Yoon and Go's first attempt of making chocolate from cacao bean started with scant resources.

"Back then, there were no chocolate making machines such as roasters and grinders in Korea. We converted a coffee roaster to roast cacao beans and an Indian spice grinder to grind the roasted beans," Yoon said.

Yoon Hyung-won, left, and Go Yu-rim speak during an interview with The Korea Times at the Cacaodada factory and shop in Mangwon-dong, western Seoul, Jan. 22. Yoon and Go are the husband-and-wife duo behind Cacaodada, one of the first bean-to-bar chocolate makers in Korea. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk
Yoon Hyung-won, left, and Go Yu-rim speak during an interview with The Korea Times at the Cacaodada factory and shop in Mangwon-dong, western Seoul, Jan. 22. Yoon and Go are the husband-and-wife duo behind Cacaodada, one of the first bean-to-bar chocolate makers in Korea. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

Journey from bean to bar

Cacaodada aims to present each products' origin and diverse taste. Major cacao countries of origin include Ghana, Madagascar, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.

"We all know what a cacao bean looks like as it is often featured on the packaging of chocolate. The beans turn from red and green to yellow and orange as they mature. The beans are dried and then fermented to develop the chocolate flavor we know," Yoon explained.

Making of bean-to-bar chocolate can be roughly divided into five stages.

First, Cacaodada imports the dried beans and the process begins.

"Roasting the dried, fermented cacao beans is the first step. Then we crack and winnow them to remove the outer shells. The shelled and crushed cacao beans are called cacao nibs," he said.

Then the cacao nibs are ground finely until they turn into a thick paste referred to as "chocolate liquor," though there is no alcohol involved.

"The right pressure and temperature can squeeze cacao butter out of the liquor form. Cacao butter is very important because it is where chocolate holds its flavor," Yoon said.

Conching is a relatively new process added to bean-to-bar making, which blows away unwanted flavors and fermented smells by continuously agitating the liquor with heat and air.

"This process helps us keep the best of the cacao in the chocolate," he said.

Then the chocolate goes through tempering, which aims to change the structure to be in the stable crystal form by repeated warming and cooling.

Yoon Hyung-won, the owner and chocolate maker at Cacaodada, cracks cacao beans to separate the nibs from the shell, using old fashioned technique, at the Cacaodada factory in Mangwon-dong, western Seoul, Jan. 22. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk
Yoon Hyung-won, the owner and chocolate maker at Cacaodada, cracks cacao beans to separate the nibs from the shell, using old fashioned technique, at the Cacaodada factory in Mangwon-dong, western Seoul, Jan. 22. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

Yoon is confident about the quality of Cacaodada's bean-to-bar creations. Cacaodada's major products are single origin chocolate bars.

"Anyone can distinguish the unique taste of each of our chocolate bars," he said.

Yoon explained that the difference between each origin of cacao bean is influenced by climate as well as preference.

"Certain species of cacao trees survived in a region because they became popular. But in general, each region has its unique cacao species and characteristics," he said.

Chocolate made from cacao beans of Ghana are bold and full-bodied, and often described as having a typical chocolate flavor. Ecuador is famous for Arriba Nacional cacao, which yields a rich floral aroma. Madagascar cacao beans have a strong fruity flavor, while South American countries such as Dominica produce distinct cacao beans with citrusy and nutty characteristics.

"Small-batch craft chocolate makers like us can imbue individuality into our products. Koreans prefer nutty chocolate while they are not used to acidity. So while respecting characteristics of each cacao bean, we try to bring out such flavor in our chocolate and we can reflect our style in it," Go said.

Go Yu-rim, the owner and chocolate maker at Cacaodada, wraps a finished chocolate bar at the Cacaodada factory and shop in Mangwon-dong, western Seoul, Jan. 22. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk
Go Yu-rim, the owner and chocolate maker at Cacaodada, wraps a finished chocolate bar at the Cacaodada factory and shop in Mangwon-dong, western Seoul, Jan. 22. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

Chocolate for Koreans

The company's name, Cacaodada, was coined to combined three similar words with different meanings ― "daily" for everyday chocolate, "Dadaism" as related to the arts and the Chinese character "da" which means for something to be in abundance.

Go said Cacaodada was established in Korea, where people do not consume much chocolate.

"In Europe, where chocolate was first developed, people bring chocolate as housewarming gifts and eat them together. However, chocolate culture is almost absent in Korea except for Valentine's Day," she said.

"In Korea, many artisanal chocolate makers make most of their earnings during the Valentine's Day season in February and White Day in March. However, we wanted to make chocolate for every day, not only for special occasions."

The most basic product of Cacaodada is a dark chocolate bar, which consists of 70 percent cacao bean and 30 percent sugar. The ratio was arrived at after experiments and tastings.

"Many people think that sugar adds sweetness to chocolate, but most of the sweetness are already in the chocolate. We consider sugar as a condiment to bring the best flavor out of chocolate," Go explained.

Another notable chocolate bar from Cacaodada are their specialty chocolate mixed with rice and with mint.

"Pepero Day, which falls on Nov. 11, is another high season for Korean chocolate makers, but we didn't want to make those chocolate-dipped stick snacks. We learned that Nov. 11 is also National Agriculture Day and decided to collaborate with local farmers instead," Go said.

Cacaodada took part in Marche@, an urban market in Seoul mainly featuring local produce.

"As we communicated with the farmers, we were able to understand cacao beans better, as it is an agricultural product after all. And we were inspired by their effort to promote their produce and it resulted in collaborations," she said.

For instance, Cacaodada's rice crispy chocolate is created with produce from Woobo Farm, a small family-run farm that grows an almost extinct Korean native species of rice.

"We learned that there were many different species of rice in Korea. Woobo Farm is trying to revive those Korean native rice species and we matched some of them with our bean-to-bar chocolate."

Their experiments continued with Korean native mint, pepper and ginger.

Cacaodada also have a few awards under their belt, including the International Chocolate Awards Asia-Pacific 2018 Gold for their Peru 54.8 percent dark milk bar and the Academy of Chocolate 2019 Bronze for their Dominica 70 percent dark chocolate.

"It is rewarding to win those awards, but we are happier when our customers say our chocolate tastes good," Yoon said.


Kwon Mee-yoo meeyoo@koreatimes.co.kr


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