Christopher Nobles recently opened the bean-to-bar chocolate shop Piety and Desire Chocolate (2727 S. Broad St.; www.pietyanddesirechocolate.com). The store functions as a factory and boutique, where the New Orleans native and Loyola University graduate sells chocolates and confections, including collaborations with his neighbors, such as a Broad Street Cider & Ale mulled apple cider caramel and a "Tiki bar" bonbon made with rum from Roulaison Distilling Co. Nobles spoke with Gambit about chocolate.
What is the ethos behind the bean-to-bar business model?
Nobles: There are a few facets to the ethos of craft chocolate. The main storyline echoes that of the craft beer and spirits industry: the pursuit of pushing and pulling the form to its sculptural limits. However, our movement being a global business has a greater thread of social responsibility. Many of us go above and beyond the standards of Fair Trade, paying many times more than that price directly to producers, cooperatives and farmers in what's known as direct or conscious trade. I feel it's my responsibility to source from organic sources, who, by intercropping or abandoning less environmentally sustainable agricultural models, make the world a little bit greener. To that end, much of my packaging is recycled, compostable and even plantable.
What does chocolate-making entail?
N: I spend a couple hours sorting out defects from the beans. My roasts are rather small, so I generally need seven 20- to 30-minute roasts to yield what I need for a 30-to 35-kilogram batch. The seeds rest overnight to cool, after which the hulls are removed in my winnower, which takes about an hour. Before starting, I mill my own sugar with raw sugar from Three Brothers Farm. ... For a single-origin or a varietal bar, I would press a small amount of cocoa butter using a proprietary method. For non-origin stuff — like a dark couverture or milk chocolate — I use nondeodorized, organic cocoa butter. The cacao nibs (cracked, hulled seeds) are refined in my melangeur (grinder) along with the sugar and any additional ingredients that need to be refined or mixed in.
After 24 to 48 hours, this is moved into my conche, which uses heat and agitation to release unwanted volatile compounds and develop the flavor. That continues for a second phase, using force to break apart microscopic particle [masses] and to ensure these particles of cocoa mass and sugar are evenly coated in cocoa butter. Then we have chocolate, but it is not finished. Chocolate must age three to four weeks, during which time the flavor will mellow and settle. At this point, it is ready to be tempered by machine into bars and confections, a whole other process unto itself.
Why the name Piety and Desire?
N: I wanted a name that reflected my family's six-ish generations of New Orleans history in an honorable, non-fleur-de-lis-laden or culturally appropriated fashion. Our historical roots are shallow in the Bywater — one or two folks going back, and I'm the third of the past five generations to settle in (Faubourg) Marigny. (The name) Piety and Desire mirrors the history of cacao itself. Beginning as a sacred food of the gods in ancient
Mesoamerica (among many spiritual aspects), these noble seeds also represented more secular aspects of life, from its use as a currency to its use as an aphrodisiac.