The once London-based bean-to-bar chocolate maker, Beau Cacao, has recently made a big move! Known for using cacao from Malaysia, having super shiny chocolate bars, gorgeous packaging and the “Chocolate is Changing” motto, where and why did they move and how does this effect their chocolate making? What does “Chocolate is Changing” mean? Thanks to Bo San Cheung and Thomas Delcour of Beau Cacao you will find out all this and more below!
Bo San Cheung and Thomas Delcour of Beau Cacao
Victoria Cooksey: What is one of your first memories involving chocolate?
Thomas Delcour: One of my most fondest memories was typically at Easter. In the late 80s we used to have family gatherings at my Grandma’s garden where my Mother and Aunties planted chocolate eggs in the garden for all the children. I was pretty good at finding most of the eggs, but I was better at eating them.
Bo San Cheung: Actually, before the whole chocolate discovery I didn’t eat much chocolate. Until me and Thomas ate a chocolate bar by Original Beans ‘Piura Porcelana’ in 2012 and it definitely struck a chord, especially the story – it resonated with us so well.
V.C.: So far your cacao has been from Malaysia. How did that decision come about? What would you like people to know/understand about the Malaysian farmers that grow it?
Beau Cacao: We both met as travellers in New Zealand, and a few countries later we travelled in South-East Asia for a few months. It truly connected with our hearts, and each place had unique character. With my heritage being Chinese, inspired by Marou in Vietnam, knowing that cacao grows in Asia it felt almost natural to research this part of the World — Malaysia came up as previously one of the largest cocoa producers in the World. No one had this origin, we asked ourselves why. And this sparked our curiosity as to what happened, what it is today, and how could we find out more (as the Internet wasn’t proving to be much success back then). However, during our research Malaysia has a very interesting background, mix of ethnicities, spices and an abundance of crops. Exciting.
Starting a chocolate company isn’t easy, but we wanted to take all the right steps to forming a chocolate company based on values. From our perspective to be a chocolate maker you must connect with cacao in person. We have to say that meeting farmers and cooperatives across Sarawak and Sabah, East Malaysia, opened our eyes to daily people’s lives in cacao farming — This is truly important to know exactly where your ingredients come from.
Individuals growing beautiful cacao, maintaining their crop throughout the year – witnessing what they do, how they do it and in the hot weather conditions is incredible. These people need to be credited, and that’s why we dedicate our bars to farmers by putting their name onto it. It’s well deserved and beyond. Can you imagine that all their hard work of growing, harvesting and processing cacao goes to one large processing centre and … it disappears; No one knows the flavour profiles of that particular Estate. Almost feels wrong.
By us focussing on one origin, one country—Malaysia, it helps us to better understand our offering and to be involved in every process right from the seed.
V.C.: I have ordered your bars on multiple occasions and they always arrive so shiny and snappy. In other words, you make it look easy. Looking back to when you first learned to temper chocolate what were some of the difficulties? Any tempering tips for new makers?
Beau Cacao: Tempering has been one of the most challenging steps of the chocolate making process. We had to look deep into the chemistry because a lot of the times it was going wrong. You learn a lot when you temper by hand, and it can be frustrating at times – there are a lot of factors involved such as the room temperature, humidity, temperature of the mold, chocolate temperature, thermometer accuracy, marble table, cooling, chocolate fluidity… We’d never let a chocolate bar go out if we weren’t happy with the results, people are paying for the experience – and our duty is to fulfill it to our maximum.
Beau Cacao Bar Pic in Port Towsend, WA
V.C.: Last year you offered a tea and chocolate pairing set. How did that collaboration come about? What are some tips for matching teas with chocolates? Besides tea, are there any other items/beverages you enjoy pairing with chocolate?
Beau Cacao: During our design process with Socio Design, they put us in touch with Tea&Glory who are one of their clients too. They have a similar sourcing story to us, and they’re worth looking up — We spent a lot of time with Andy (founder and tea sommelier) tried many teas with our chocolate and eventually paired two favourites. We paired it served hot and cool to see the differences, and analysed what were the new flavour profiles created once consumed at the same time.
For tips, you can find a wide variety of flavours within Oolong tea, and once you start diving into how tea is processed and handled it really gives another experience. There’s much to learn in tea, it’s best if you found a tea sommelier to help you pair.
We found that tea is one of our favourite ways to pair with chocolate. Snap the chocolate and slurp the tea, naturally they just melange because of the temperature and create new flavours. We like to pair chocolate with white wine too, but we’re quite particular about it, and our third favourite is bread – that’s the French side coming out.
V.C.:How do you define craft/specialty/fine chocolate?
Beau Cacao: To define all three is quite subjective, and we can only go on by how we approach it;
In this fast paced technology driven World we live, we are more convinced that people need craft, they need to be connected to the lives who are involved in our craft. By connecting with others it reminds us that we are human, that there’s someone out there growing these beautiful cacao trees with absolute adoration, harvesting the pods in 30° plus degrees and finely tuning their fermentation and drying methods to get high quality cocoa beans.
A consumer receives a particular experience – story from seed to product, that’s true craft. We want to reward the consumer with a unique experience; That experience is driven by emotions, aesthetics, brand, usability of the product. If it’s not functional, it isn’t right. If it doesn’t give you a melting sensual experience, it isn’t right.
For us, the word ‘fine’ is a global understanding that implies the highest quality. Making chocolate fine is all about the above, the highest quality of ingredients, never cutting corners, and a successful user experience.
V.C.: Bo San Cheung, from your personal IG page posts it is clear you have made a major move. Where are you located now and what lead to the move?
Bo San Cheung: Yes, we’ve moved! At our conceptual stage of Beau Cacao, we initially wanted to move to where the cacao grows – in Malaysia. From a relationship growing and sustainable perspective, this makes much more sense and in return we’ll keep on improving and making new products. One year later after we launched in December 2016, we were approached with an incredible opportunity to move closer to the cacao in Singapore. This has been a huge life-changing experience, you go through a lot, and luckily we’re two that support each other extremely well, family that are so loving, and friends that are cheering us on. Now we’re super stoked and can focus on scaling, making new products, and being right next to the cacao farmers and all the local ingredients!
V.C.: How has the move impacted your chocolate making? Will your chocolate bar offerings be changing? When should people start being on the lookout for those changes?
Beau Cacao: Packing up and moving countries paused our chocolate making. We’re in the process of setting up our new workshop, scaling our machines and hiring people. Our offering will be seasonal, with a wider variety of products and at this time I can’t say when they will be.
V.C.:Your motto is “Chocolate is Changing”. What do you feel those changes are? What would you like them to be? How has chocolate making changed you?
Beau Cacao: Chocolate has global recognition. But is it the right recognition? Not at all. We raise questions to ourselves, for example; How is it possible to sustain the quantity of production for the ever increasing population? How can we make the right moves at the beginning to increase the chances of people understanding the journey to chocolate the way we do? And is dairy a sustainable product?
Our chocolate journey has challenged us, it has changed our mindset of living. There are just so many sustainable-related questions that have been raised during our journey, that resulted in: We want to make a positive impact with Beau Cacao. We care for the planet and the people’s future. We totally understand that it’s doable and will take time to implement – we know that there are people like Willie Smits who has revolutionised rainforest restoration techniques in Borneo (Indonesia) and inspirational chocolate company like Original Beans that are big on conservation.
Chocolate IS Changing — The understanding of terroir affecting flavour profiles will be understood, cacao traceability right to the point of harvest and who by, all our products will be handled with thought and will always be animal-free.
Thank you so much Bo San Cheung and Thomas Delcour for this interview!