Words: José Berrocoso
CityPages Magazine dives into a chocolate and coffee lover’s paradise.
Kaitxo is the result of the continuous search for the best aromas, flavours and textures of the chocolates and coffees from around the world. Founded in 2017 in Balmaseda, in Bizkaia, in the heart of the Basque Country, by Raquel Gonzalez and Jon Mikel.
There is a story behind each Kaitxo coffee or chocolate, the story of people who select the seeds, care for their crops and harvest using environmentally friendly techniques.
We meet Raquel the learn much more about the brand, their philosophy and their handcrafted process to produce probably the best chocolate bars in the world.
CityPages Magazine: Where does the name Kaitxo come from?
Raquel Gonzalez: Our name, Kaitxo, comes from the two main products we work with, that means KAI Ifor kafe and TXO for chocolate…it was a simple way to describe what we have to offer. Meanwhile, this word is very similar to the basque language word for HI, Kaitxo.
CPM: Tell us a little bit about the story behind the brand.
RG: We created the brand in 2017, but we had been working separately with coffee and chocolate for several years. I had experience in the chocolate world, judging in competitions, teaching about chocolate and having tastings and pairings, and of course, making chocolate for other people.
At the same time, Mikel had had a café since 2007, and since 2015 he started to roast his own coffee for the café. We both were very interested in coffee and chocolate. We realized that they had many things in common…starting from the plants and the different origins. And, as we come from a family that is very interested in quality food, and feels a bit frustrated over how difficult was at that time to find interesting and good chocolate and coffee in the area, we decided to put together a project where specialty coffee and good quality chocolate could meet. We also wanted to create a space where people could learn to appreciate both.
CPM: You are really concerned about the people who select the seeds, care for their crops and harvest using environmentally friendly technique. How was the process to find the right supplier?
RG: The years working with fine quality chocolate and coffee helped us to get a network of contacts that has helped us to have a better understanding of cacao and other ingredients. Nowadays we do not work with just one supplier, but we choose what we consider the right supplier for every kind of cacao we use, taking in consideration many different aspects.
CPM: Can you explain us the entire process since you find your suppliers until the chocolate bar is available to purchase on line?
RG: When we get in contact with a supplier, or the supplier gets in contact with us, the first thing we do is asking for samples to check how the product is. If we like it, then we buy it… for coffee is more “simple”… we just find the right roasting profile to get the best organoleptic qualities of each kind of coffee.
With cacao, the process takes a bit longer. We start finding what we consider the best roasting profile for that specific cacao, always trying to not overroast (coffee or cacao)…so we roast the cacao, then we crack it, and separate the husk from the bean itself…so we get clean cacao nibs. And here start the process when we put the nibs in the melangeur to refine them. At some point we add sugar, some cacao butter, and eventually other ingredients depending on the bar. When we get this mix, that is now proper chocolate and is enough refined, we conche it so it can develope the flavour and aroma, and then we take it out and let it rest for some weeks, depending on the cacao used and the bar.
After some weeks, when the flavour has continued developing, we melt it at the right temperatures to get the snap and desired consistence, and put it in molds as bars. And when they are cold, they are ready to pack, in flowpack, for a better flavour experience.
CPM: What are the key strengths of your products?
RG: We could say that the search for quality in every single ingredient is a key factor in our products. We try to find interesting flavours in the cacao, putting the focus on it, in all our dark chocolate bars, at the same time that we look for traceability in it, and in the other ingredients. The same criteria apply to the coffee. Violets, pistachios, oranges, no matter what, we try to find the good quality ones and when it comes to the flavoured bars, we try to give a different experience in them, different flavours than the ones we can find usually everywhere else.
CPM: What trends are likely to affect domestic chocolate consumption in the near future?
RG: We have observed that more and more people is focusing on health when they buy chocolate. They look for chocolate bars with a higher percentage of cacao.
The higher the percentage, the healthiest, it is what people think. It has been happening the last years, and that is actually good, but when we learn more and more about chocolate, we discover that the percentage is not everything, and it does not tell us about the quality of the bar.
CPM: What has been the most rewarding moment so far?
RG: Probably, when we won a Gold in the World edition of the International Chocolate Awards in 2018 with our white bar made with salted and caramelized pistachios… exactly one year after have created that bar for a pairing with beer… that was a very special moment!
CPM: Any plans for a future expansion into the Middle East market?
RG: It is a very interesting market for us. There is a deep appreciation in the Middle East for high quality products and we would love to expand and introduce our brand over there in the short term. We will set our strategy over the Middle East market in the next coming months.