how it's made: Coconut Sugar
If you’re anything like us when we first started making chocolate, you’ve heard about coconut sugar, but aren’t sure what the big deal is or where exactly it comes from. Because we live in Bali and work directly with a coconut sugar farmer (Wayan), we’ve learned all about what it is, where it comes from, and how it’s made.
Let’s start with a few basics.
What Is Coconut Sugar?
Coconut sugar is made from the nectar inside a coconut blossom. In Bali, these blossoms are found on the same trees we get our coconut-water coconuts from. Coconut sugar is distinctly different from palm sugar which comes from the sap of a different type of palm tree and is not as sustainable. In Bali, most of the coconut sugar (including Wayan’s) comes from Klungkung, East Bali.
How Is Coconut Sugar Made?
Harvesting and making coconut sugar is pretty straightforward, but it’s not easy. Wayan and his family farm a plot of land that contains 13 coconut trees. High above the leaves and coconuts lie the coconut blossoms—this is where the sweet stuff is.
Each tree contains several blossoms that will reach maturation every 3 months. When the blossoms are fully grown, but not opened, it is time to harvest the nectar. To harvest the nectar, Wayan climbs the tree and cuts the tip off the unopened blossom—leaving the blossom attached to the tree. The blossom is then tipped into an empty coconut shell and the nectar begins to drain.
Each day, the blossoms are cut back twice a day to allow the maximum amount of nectar to drain.
Once all the nectar is collected, it is boiled over an open fire for 24 hours to thicken and develop the flavors. Before boiling, the nectar is a clear sweet liquid; after boiling, the nectar becomes a dark brown color and acquires its distinct maple/caramel flavor.
After boiling, it is poured into dried coconut shells and left to set. That’s when we collect it!
Even though the sugar has been boiled and dried, it still has a fairly high water content. The cakes arrive quite moist—and since water is the enemy of chocolate—must be dried a bit longer. We chop the sugar cakes into bite size pieces and dehydrate the sugar for 24 hours to yield a dry, crunchy sugar. The sugar is then sealed and stored until use.
Just before we add the sugar to the chocolate, we grind it into a very fine powder. This keeps moisture from getting into the chocolate and makes things a little easier on our stonegrinder.
And that's the sweet spot!