One of the best signs that Amsterdam is becoming a more and more interesting chocolate place is that it even has its own small-scale high-quality bean-to-bar chocolate maker: the Chocolatemakers.
Many places sell their ‘own’ chocolate, but in practically all cases this ‘own‘ only means that chocolate from one of the few big manufacturers is repacked and sold under another label. Although slowly growing in number, there are still very few places in the world that really produce their own chocolate from cocoa beans (called: bean-to-bar). To a large extend this is probably due to the complex and multifaceted process of chocolate making (which I described here). All the more privileged do I feel when I visit one of those places…
The Chocolatemakers was set up in 2011 by Enver Loke and Rodney Nikkels and everything is produced and packed in their “kleine fabriek” (small factory) in Amsterdam Noord which is a very funny part of the city that is half village-like and half industrial area. Their factory is indeed a tiny one and its interior tells a whole lot about the concept and philosophy of the Chocolatemakers. One of their key interests obviously lies in a production chain that is as sustainable as possible. The cocoa beans they use come from well-selected places in Congo, Dominican Republic, and Peru. The beans from the Dominican Republic even travel to Amsterdam with the ‘fairtransport’ sailing boat of the Tres Hombres. And then there is the chocolate making itself. Many of the machines are very old, in a way they got revived. This begins with the old coffee roaster that is used to roast the dried cocoa beans and continues during first grinding of the beans in the ancient Spanish stone grinder. But there is also plenty of room (and need) for improvisation. A lot of the cocoa grinding is done in curry grinders with attached heat guns from a do-it-yourself store (see picture above).
Other machines are self-made such as the conching machine following the old classical design of the initial chocolate conche which in the ‘modern’ market for chocolate machines has long been replaced by other types of conches.
Pictures show the old coffee roaster that is used to roast the cocoa beans (left) and the rebuild retro conche (right)
When the chocolate is done, this means roasted, winnowed, ground, fine ground, mixed with the other ingredients (such as sugar, extra cocoa butter, milk for milk chocolate), and conched1, it finally needs to be tempered and poured into molds where it sets and becomes the actual chocolate bar2. In the very end chocolate bars are hand-wrapped into the pretty recyclable paper. Sustainability again: the chocolate is delivered using cargo bikes wherever possible!
And how is the chocolate?
Definitely worth trying! I particularly like their milk chocolate with smoked sea salt3 which is such a nice combination. And I was very positively surprised with their new 80% Criollo bar that has a very rich, complex flavor and is very mild for an 80%. In general I noted that their chocolate advanced quite a bit during the last two years, in particular regarding their texture. The first ones I had were much grainier than the current bars (which I definitely prefer!). In the Amsterdam area it is no problem at all to find their nice chocolate since there are plenty of selling points. Many other parts of the Netherlands are decently covered as well. In addition you can also directly order from their website.
If you want to learn more about how the Chocolatemakers make their chocolate, you should definitely contact them. If I am correct they will start doing more regular guided tours through their small factory. And if you speak Dutch (but to quite some extend even if you don’t speak it), you can get a very lively impression of their working place in the following YouTube movie:Footnotes
- See also my longish post on the process of chocolate making. [↩]
- For the tempering they uses one of the only very new machines I saw in their factory, a Selmi Plus EX if I remember correctly. I guess for tempering there has been quite some progress since the 1930s, unlike for grinding or roasting [↩]
- Which is not made at the time I am writing this post, but I was promised it will soon be made again. [↩]