The LA Times Counts our Beans!

posted in: Blog | 0

2,959,560 million: The number of cacao beans the LetterPress Chocolate company roasted last year.

That’s right, LetterPress Chocolate co-owner David Menkes counts the beans that go into his chocolate bars, which are mostly 70% cocoa. This isn’t as crazy as it sounds, if you know that it takes 60 beans to make a single bar of chocolate at his Culver City bean-to-bar factory and retail shop.

Menkes and his wife and business partner, Corey — they have one other employee — molded 49,326 bars of chocolate last year, which adds up to the just under 3 million total. All those beans, sourced at origin — Tanzania, Trinidad, Peru, Belize, Ghana, plus a few other countries — required 2,401pounds of sugar and 72 hours on average to stone-grind each batch. (Some batches take 168 hours, as different origins have different amounts of acetic acid, which are driven off during the grinding process.)

After all those hours of grinding, the blocks of chocolate are aged for an average of 30 days before being tempered into bars. The Menkes hand-wrap every bar: “It takes 1 1/2 hours for the two of us to wrap 250 bars while we listen to audio books,” he says.

LetterPress is getting a second grinder soon, at which point you can double many of these numbers.

Read the full article here:

https://www.latimes.com/food/letterpress-chocolate-cacao-beans-bar-story.html

 

Chocolate Conching

posted in: Blog | 0

LetterPress Chocolate begins conching for flavor development

What is chocolate conching? And why haven’t we ever done it before?

In the most basic terms, conching is heat + aeration. But let’s back up a moment and talk about the bigger issue.

What is the problem?

All cacao we work with has been fermented. During the fermentation stage, acedic acid permeates the cacao beans. Acedic acid has a strong vinegar smell and adds an unpleasant bitterness and sourness to chocolate. It basically tastes like sour cherries. While some cacao beans naturally have a red berry note, generally speaking, this is an off-flavor that needs to be removed in order to get the real flavor profile underneath. Our opinion is, we’re paying all this money for these beans, why not let them be fully expressed? Next time you taste a poorly-made chocolate bar, see if you taste that sour cherry note. It’s a flaw, not a feature.

What is the solution?

We need to use heat to remove the acedic acid. While this can partially be achieved with roasting, that really only removes the acedic acid on the outer portion of the beans. In order to remove more of it, we need to heat up the cocoa mass during the milling stage.

At our scale, most chocolate makers use a melanger which is basically a large bowl with a stone base and two stone wheels which crush the cacao beans down into liquor, then sugar and other ingredients are added. The problem with these machines is that it’s relying on open-air exposure to volatilize the acedic acid, but this take several days and really doesn’t work. We know because we used this method for almost 5 years. While you can get decent results, and we’ve certainly won our fair share of awards using this method, we do not recommend it. What we really need is heat and air. That’s what conching is. And because we’re now adding heat during the milling stage, we can back off on the amount of heat we’re using during the roasting stage. The result is much finer flavor and more indicative of the true notes of the cacao we’re sourcing.

Using Diamond Custom Machines’ Rapid Refiner, we do a few things. First, we adjust the heat to over 150F. Acedic acid volitalizes at 150F so any value above this is a great starting point. You cannot go to hot though because the delrin and epoxy (Polyoxymethylene) becomes soft above 170F and can separate from the stones. We found at least 160F is a good starting point. Next, we load the nibs into the grinder but do not turn the tensioner screws down at all. I cannot stress this enough. We let the weight of the stones and gravity do the work. This reduces shear and viscosity when we add sugar later, but more importantly, it releases the acedic acid slowly over time rather than all at once, so that the refiner and heat work together.

We are proud to bring you a new lineup of our bars using this method – our two new bars this month, Tingo Maria from Peru and Bachelor’s Hall from Jamaica both were conched to bring out their nuanced flavor profiles.

Want to see our conching process in action? Book a tour now!

Ready to order? Shop online now!

–David

avoidingRegret took our tour and wrote about it!

posted in: Blog | 0

Crafting Cacao Under the Influence of a Printing Press

Blogger Sandi who runs the avoidingRegret Blog took our tour and did a wonderful writeup on it! Check out the link below.

What happens when a Hollywood graphic designer who volunteers at the International Printing Museum gets interested in cacao?
 
You end up with Letterpress Chocolate, a small-batch, craft chocolate factory and storefront whose every bar is hand-wrapped…
 
…and custom-designed to feel handmade and olde-tyme.
 
And when you take the factory tour, you can taste any of the 70% dark chocolates from various cacao-growing regions around the world—ranging from Central and South America to Africa.
 
There’s even one 85% dark and a 36% white chocolate infused with matcha green tea, both made from cacao beans sourced from Ecuador.
 
But before you taste the finished chocolate bars, you’ve got to drink the juice of the cacao pod—the amniotic fluid that the beans are nestled in and that’s usually drained as a waste byproduct, but tastes like lychee.
 
After that is when you’re ready to enter the kitchen, behind the wall of letterpress type.
 
 

Eater named us as one of top 24 chocolate shops in America!

posted in: Blog | 0

Co-owners Corey and David Menkes spend more time sourcing their chocolate than molding it, ensuring the beans they use come from farms that practice sustainable agriculture and pay their workers fair wages. Today, their operation produces nearly 3,000 bars each month, from simple, barely sweetened single-origin varieties to subtly flavored sweets, like a bar molded with crisp amaranth. A white chocolate bar cleanly flavored with matcha promises a light caffeine buzz.

Read the review here

Eater Los Angeles Covers Our Grand Opening!

posted in: Blog | 0

Small Batch Chocolate-Maker Puts Together Some of LA’s Best-Sourced Cacao

LetterPress Chocolate’s owners want Angelenos to know the vast difference between chocolatiers and chocolate-makers. And while the city is full of the former, LetterPress is one of a few small batch chocolate-makers with a brand new retail store that just opened in Beverlywood on September 15.

Husband and wife team David and Corey Menkes are new faces in the chocolate industry. The couple started by blogging about their favorite sweet, then went on to make chocolates with a tiny tabletop machine in their apartment in 2014. The two opened a commercial space in 2016, but David is quick to point out the distinction between most chocolate shops and LetterPress.

“There’s chocolatiers and chocolate-makers,” says David. “We have tons of chocolatiers in LA, They make truffles and bonbons. They buy industrial chocolate from companies and add flavors to it, along with tons of vanilla and sugar. We are chocolate manufacturers that buy cocoa beans. We roast them, break them down, and make chocolate bars.”

The partners study chocolate in a similar manner to wine or coffee, and perform the entire chocolate-making process in front of customers. They start with cocoa beans from twelve origins, while emphasizing the natural and regional flavors of the chocolate. “Ecuador tastes like a peanut butter and jelly, Ghana tastes a brownie with graham cracker crust, and Honduras tastes like a raspberry tart,” explains David. “We’re not adding any flavors, this is what the cocoa beans actually taste like. We focus on a specific arm or region to bring good flavors.”

Read the whole article here:

https://la.eater.com/2018/10/4/17933924/small-batch-chocolate-maker-puts-together-some-of-las-best-sourced-cacao

We’re featured in the LA Times today!

posted in: Blog | 0

See chocolate bars be made from scratch at LetterPress Chocolate’s new Los Angeles store

We’ve become accustomed to restaurants with open kitchens, coffee shops with on-site roasters, taquerias where you can see the tortillas being made — but how about a shop where you can watch your chocolate go from bean to bar? That’s the case at LetterPress Chocolate’s new retail shop in Beverlywood, where you can see the entire bean-to-bar process in the open 1,800-square-foot location.

Husband-and-wife team David and Corey Menkes founded their company in 2014, making micro-batches of single origin chocolate in their two-bedroom Cheviot Hills apartment. After their operation outgrew their home, they moved into a nearby shared commercial kitchen and eventually took over the space. That location, in what used to be a wedding cake shop on Robertson Boulevard, just opened as their first retail chocolate store. The couple are still the Los Angeles company’s only employees, making 4,000 bars a month from start to finish on the premises.

The cozy storefront is decorated with the company’s namesake, made from reclaimed woodblock type, and paneled with reclaimed pallet wood. You can buy bars of chocolate ($10-$18), wrapped by hand and decorated with wrappers that David designed using a 1920s-era South American air mail stamp as a prototype. David is a former graphics designer and both he and Corey are docents at the International Printing Museum in Carson. (That design background came in handy with the ancillary merchandise, which includes T-shirts, made and printed in L.A., and messenger bags made from the burlap sacks the cacao beans arrive in.)

http://www.latimes.com/food/dailydish/la-fo-co-letterpress-chocolate-20180910-story.html

We were featured in The New Yorker Magazine!

posted in: Blog | 0

L.A.’s First Eataly Auditions Local Products

 

At Picco’s table, a callback was under way. That morning, David Menkes, a graphic designer who makes LetterPress Chocolate, a line of single-origin chocolate bars, had so impressed an Eataly buyer that she contacted him a few hours later and asked him to come meet Picco. He had been unloading a truckful of Tanzanian cacao beans when his phone rang. “Some fell in my pocket,” he said, handing Picco a brown bean. “The chocolate comes out when you roast it, but you still get some of that green-banana note.”

Picco examined a bar of Menkes’s best-seller: Ucayali, a dark chocolate named after a Peruvian province in the Amazon rain forest. “No one’s ever used this region to make good chocolate before,” he said. “It’s mostly known for cocaine.”

Picco’s eyes widened.

“Seriously,” Menkes said. He wore a white T-shirt and had earbuds around his neck. “The U.S.A.I.D. found out that we were actually helping cacao farmers and said, ‘Hey, do you want to come down?’ ” He spent part of the summer there. “We helped this farm go from three hundred kilograms to thirty tons of cacao per year.”

 

Read the article here.

Chocolate Banquet Reviews our Honduras Bar!

posted in: Blog | 0

Chocolate Banquet Reviews Our Honduras Bar!

Today’s La Masica, Honduras 70% Dark Chocolate bar (Batch #0018) from LetterPress Chocolate LLC (Los Angeles, CA) was made with cocoa beans grown in/at La Masica, Honduras.*

This bar contained only two (organic) ingredients: cocoa beans and unrefined cane sugar. It had a very pleasing smooth, dark chocolate aroma, and black raspberry or loganberry (raspberry-blackberry hybrid) flavor with a hint of cafe latte.

Tasting notes on the packaging read as follows: raspberry, mocha, cedar.

*Honduras was once a major exporter of cacao; however, a 1979 hurricane (that destroyed cacao trees) and other factors slowed down production for many years. It’s encouraging to see more chocolate coming from this area in the past several years.

The government has funded programs that help farmers produce fine cacao and chocolate makers in the U.S. have both contributed to and benefited from local, in-country expertise. La Musica is affiliated with FHIA, a non-profit “agroforestry project that serves as a gene bank for other projects in Honduras,” and in today’s case benefited from the presence of an expert in fermentation (Daniel O’Doherty) and related in-country expertise crucial to producing great cacao for chocolate makers.

Read the review here!

We’ve won our first Good Food Award!

posted in: Blog | 0

esmeraldas_gfa

Our Costa Esmeraldas, Ecuador 70% Dark bar has earned us our first Good Food Award for 2017! We are the first chocolate company in Los Angeles to ever win one – a huge honor!

david_chocolate_2017

Winners

We got a sample last year from Dan and immediately fell in love with it. We found our roast quickly and developed the bar in a way that preserves the natural nutty and floral notes, and we’ve loved seeing everyone’s reaction to tasting it.

esmeraldas_kids

We worked directly with the Salazar Family and Dan O’Doherty of Cacao Services to bring you some of the best cacao in the world, and a prestigious Good Food Award!

esmeraldas_everyone
Here we all are (from left to right) – Dan O’Doherty, fermentation. David Menkes, chocolate maker. Freddy Salazar, farm manager. Corey Menkes, chocolate maker.

Thank you to everyone who has supported our tiny factory since we started in 2014!

–David and Corey Menkes
LetterPress Chocolate

Moving production

posted in: Blog | 0

A lot of people are asking us if we’re still operating out of our home kitchen. Our landlord asked us to move all the processing out, so we moved our tempering operation into a shared kitchen. While this allows us to mold our bars and roast and proof our beans, we still have to winnow and grind – tasks that don’t lend themselves to a shared kitchen space. We’re looking at options for where to continue grinding, and will announce when that aspect of our production is back up and running.

In short, as we are now in a certified kitchen with a wholesale health permit, we are no longer a Cottage Food Operation.

Thanks,

David