Undone Chocolate is a bean to bar manufacturer that prides itself with combining health with flavor in its cacao beans, or bridging the gap between art and science. It is located in bustling Union Kitchen in Northeast Washington DC, and it sells 2000 chocolate bars a month the three main flavors of Arouse, Nourish, and Replenish. (Undone 2016) Undone was established in December 2014 by Adam and Kristen Kavalier with Adam being a scientist and PhD graduate in plant biochemistry. Adam specializes in perfecting or bringing out the healthful benefits of cacao beans taking them to his lab where he tests them with a mass spectrometer. (Krystal 2015) As the slogan of the company says ‘we are only as good as our beans.’
In addition to prioritizing health and medicinal elements Undone also enhances organic cacao beans through direct trade with sourcing and purchasing bulk cacao bean pods for over $500 three times mo
re than fair trade pricing of $150, and forming direct partnerships with small specialized partners in Central South America. (Undone 2016) The following ethnographic analysis will explore how the bean to bar company Undone is significant for resolving cacao chain problems from the topics of processing with making the chocolate bars, sourcing with buying the beans with direct trade, its knowledge or educational outreach with advertising, and its artisanship equipment. Arguably by focusing on cacao beans botanically pure and valuable origins with health and trade Undone helps to improve cacao chain issues in an organic aspect with focusing on basic but precise steps that enhances both product and production making it more sustainable with reciprocal benefits.
Part I Processing
Undone takes much care and attention in creating their gourmet organic cacao bars. As I observed touring the facility on a muggy Friday in April much love goes into producing the bars made from the basic ingredients of organic cacao and sugar. The harvested beans are placed on trays to be roasted or prepared for winnowing. I could smell the odors and feel the heat from the convection ovens walking through the shared kitchen. Winnowing separates the nib the dark meat of the cacao bean away from the shell as Adam demonstrated breaking the shell and moving the nib away with his fingers. (Presilla 2009, p.116)
A state of the art mélange rinds the nibs for four days reaching the right crystalline texture and removing all of the bitter taste astringent to the tongue. This requires heating and tempering. (Presilla 2009, p.114) The stone slabs help in making the cacao texture liquefied and creamy. The processed cacao is then poured in bins for aging and flavoring taking up to four months depending on the bean grade. Tempering continues but finished bars are trimmed and stored for the right ‘shine, snap and mouthfeel.’ (Benderly 2016, p.3) It was cool to see the Adam’s staff of two Liz and Meryl working around the clock to make this process a reality.
This refined process prizing health and antioxidants makes Undone a solver in cacao chain issues through its enriching elements. Undone’s emphasis on health reflects early Mesoamericans and connoisseurs who consumed cacao for health purposes. (Presilla 2009, p.12) The focus to blend health and flavor helps to bridge the gap between the nutritional and pleasurable benefits of chocolate. This is better than functional chocolate, which includes vitamins and other health enhancements without considering the flavor.
Undone focusing on the flavor of the beans without adding the extra ingredients of vanilla, or milk refines the cacao chain process organically with including less processed ingredients. (Eber 2012, p.185) As co-founder Kristen puts it putting more emphasis on the cacao beans enriches the health quality, and processing the cacao with less ingredients is more challenging to process and ferment according to Adam. (Sidman 2015, p.3) The concentration on including four key flavors help consumer with more clarity and less confusion with selection. (Eber 2012)
Part II. Sourcing
Undone uses direct trade to source its cacao beans. Kavalier says close partnerships with partners are formed on the ground and it keeps local economy sustainable. Undone harvests cacao beans primarily from Central and South American countries such as
Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia and Ecuador with the Dominican beans providing the most rich antioxidant flavor. (Crawford 2015) Direct Trade networks are important with providing high quality of cacao beans. (Crawford 2015) Relationships are formed with sourcing partners taking direct flights and trips to the site of producers to ensure proper produce. (Crawford 2015) Transparency is promoted with communication and networking to form strong long-term relationships. High quality and selection is promoted with cacao beans themselves where the best are sold at 50% above fair trade prices. (Intelligentsia 2016)
Undone’s policy in applying direct trade to source its cacao beans helps to organically resolve cacao chain problems in reciprocal and existential capacity. Undone purchasing for higher prices at $500 per shipment helps to create more profit for trade partners who are small scale producers, and creates more secure networks for them with larger profits. (Crawford 2015) It also dispels myths that buying smaller batches of cacao are unprofitable with shipping because the quality of the bean is improved. (Eber 2012, p.168) It also improves the quality of cacao with paying more to producers helping them to be more secure in their produce. As Adam puts it in comparing it with fair trade ‘fair trade incentivizes volume not quality,’ and ‘direct trade de-commoditizes cacao beans with ensuring shipment supply with more reliable trade networks.’ (Jacob 2014)
The price of an Undone Chocolate Bar is $8 as a result of direct trade price. Average consumers may purchase a $3 Hershey, but the price of a bean-to-bar Undone bar is worth it considering the stable supply rate and sufficiency. Direct relationships helps to ensure revenue in restrictive low revenue cacao producing nations like Ghana, which limits direct trade partnerships, but ensures quality. (Leissle 2013, p.24) It also ensures more stable or reciprocal trading benefits with neighboring countries in Latin America where cacao was originally produced revitalizing the economy. This helps to form or strengthen existing co-ops in these countries such as El Ceibo, which prizes grass roots organization meeting once every year, and having equal wage and rotating leadership. (Healy 2001, pp.134-135)
Part III. Knowledge Information
Undone prides itself on reaching out to consumers on the health benefits of cacao. The company sets up sampling workshops where Undone Bars are sold such Parcel Holiday Market in DC’s Navy Yard, Yes! Organic Market and Monroe Street. Before formally establishing Undone Adam and Kristen had sampling and tasting parties for friends and colleagues. (Krystal 2015, p.1) As stated Adam’s science background in plant chemistry helps him and Undone understand the medicinal benefits of cacao beans. One of the goals is to have a testing lab and offer courses in chocolate making. (Benderly 2016, p.2) As I looked at my complimentary Undone Bar of pink Himalayan salt I noticed a lot of key attributes about the product.
I noticed in simple terms the amount of ounces and ingredients used to make the bar which is 2.0. ounces. I saw the international locations of where the ingredients were sourced from which the Himalayas and the Dominican Republic. (Undone 2016) I see the nutritional facts of servings and trans fat which are very detailed in percentages. I see the premium and nutritional disclaimers for the health conscious, and the organizational labels that Undone produces its chocolate from which is USDA Organic, Direct Trade and Certified Vegan. (Undone 2016) Most importantly I notice the insignia and labeling which emphasizes the ingredients
used to make the bars, which are assorted in a very appealing and engaging fashion and the Undone symbol which showcases the cacao bean. It’s as if they’re using the ingredients to educate buyers.
Undone’s focus on the ingredients with its advertising and labeling help to educate consumers on the importance of eating single origin organic cacao bars. As Adam notes buyers are interested in what they’re eating. Undone’s knowledge base with reaching out to customers helps to resolve cacao chain problems in a salient and transparent standpoint. Undone with the displaying of its ingredients both in image and words on its labels help demystify chocolate making process with presenting the ingredients.
It also helps to de-exotic cacao with not closely associating it with its country of origin. On Amano chocolate bars containing 70% cacao their wrapper labels features ominously dark colors alludes to its Ghanaian origins ‘invoking an ominous fear.’ It also exoticized the location featuring specific West African locations. (Leissle 2013, pp.26-27) Whereas with Undone the labeling is bright neutral covered reflecting the ingredients. It uses a cardiogram symbol, and the naming of the ingredients is different from other companies in naming the health and nutritive qualities. ‘It is like the name of vitamin water invoking the feeling it promotes’ according to co-founder Kristen. (Sidman 2015, p.2)
Part IV. Artisanship Equipment.
The resourceful and innovative artisanship with the facilities and equipment is the additional factor that Undone instrumental to organically resourceful to resolving cacao chain problems. Undone applies a lot of innovative equipment to its establishment. This includes Indian style grinders that grind the cacao or utilizing the space in Union Kitchen. Adam took up carpentry studying at Cornell and picked up useful process based skills. (Benderly 2016, p.1) As he said chocolate making and repurposing requires a lot of creativity with the remaking of machines.
Undone’s measure with the revamping of equipment helps to resolve cacao chain problems with resourcefulness. Revamping equipment and applying historical artisanal methods creates an ongoing progress of cacao production with resilience and improvisation. Undone as a smaller start up company reflects the issues that small bean-to-bar companies face with starting their own business. (Martin 2016) Undone also helps to organically resolve cacao-chain issues in a connective way by using artisanal measures to reach out to the community. (Martin 2016) I realized this when I received my Undone bar from Adam and given a tour of the facility. US small manufacturers of chocolate ‘pride themselves on changing the world with direct transparent trade, and building their businesses in the European artisanal fashion of reaching out to local communities through quality tasting experiences.’ (Eber 2012, p.156)
Image 1: http://tech.co/4-startups-sweet-tooth-2015-12
Image 2: http://realeverydaybusiness.com/reb017-chocolate-making-and-food-incubators-with-adam-kavalier/
Image 3: https://www.washingtonian.com/2015/02/12/how-to-pick-healthy-valentines-day-chocolates/
Image 4: http://www.ecogrounds.com/source
Image 5: scanned document
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