For an exceptional chocolate experience, there is one crucial ingredient besides the premium- quality cocoa: perfect timing. “Time plays a decisive role, from the fermenting and roasting of the beans to the conching of the cocoa mass,” says Kay Keusen, owner of the Taucherli chocolate factory in Adliswil. Before we are allowed to watch cocoa being turned into chocolate, Keusen takes us into the warehouse. There, jute sacks chock-full of cocoa beans are piled up. There is a slightly acidic odour in the air. “The beans are fermented before leaving their country of origin,” Keusen explains. “After that their pH value is between 5 and 5.5. So they are pretty acidic by the time they reach us. And you can smell that.”
Two tattoos are emblazoned on Keusen’s forearms: a cocoa fruit cut in half lengthways on the right and a chocolate bar on the left. The letters underneath form the words “Bean to Bar”, the credo of every chocolate manufacturer who works without externally sourced couvertures. “I carry out each individual work step here in the factory,” says Keusen. “That’s how I know exactly what’s in my products: it’s the only way I can guarantee supreme quality.”
“ONE YOU CAN’T FAIL TO LIKE”
This elaborate manufacturing technique, rare nowadays, is also used for the Beyer chocolate watches. Their basis is cocoa beans from ABOCFA, Ghana’s first organic fair-trade co-operative, giving a harmonious, caressing cocoa. “One you simply can’t fail to like,” Keusen adds with a grin. He pays ABOCFA double the fair-trade price. This helps the cooperative to guide the lives of its members in a positive direction and gives Taucherli preferential access to the best beans.
Immediately after harvesting, the cocoa beans are stored for five days in well-sealed boxes lined with banana leaves. The leaves stimulate the bacterial process necessary for fermentation. The precious raw material is then dried on wooden trays under the tropical sun for one to two weeks, after which the beans are shipped. The first step performed by Kay Keusen at his chocolate factory is to roast the beans. 25 minutes at 140 degrees Celsius are the parameters for the Ghanaian Beyer cocoa. This generates up to 400 different aroma compounds. Keusen: “It’s only now that you experience the pleasant facets one associates with cocoa.”
After roasting, the beans are shattered and the hulls removed from the kernels using a kind of hairdryer. This results in what are known as nibs, which Keusen crushes further with a stone roller. Then the core process of chocolate-making begins: grinding and conching. Keusen adds fair-trade raw cane sugar and Swiss milk powder, both organic, to the cocoa. The mechanical processing raises the temperature to just over 60 degrees, causing cocoa butter to be released. This gradually coats the cocoa and sugar particles, and what was previously a powdery mass takes on a viscous consistency. During this phase, as the texture develops, so does the flavour, while unpleasant characteristics such as the dominant acidity disappear. But a word of caution: there are risks to conching for too long. At some point, the cocoa loses its soul; you would no longer be able to taste where it comes from.
Keusen produces three different chocolate watches for Beyer. The cocoa that goes into the dark and milk chocolates spends 120 hours in the stone mill. The result is a harmonious flavour profile that retains its personality. Just the way perfectionist Kay Keusen likes it. The cocoa content of the brown chocolate is 35 percent, and 69 percent for the black chocolate. “Usually, milk chocolate contains only 32 percent cocoa. However, as I also like a few strong notes here, I decided to add an extra three percent,” Keusen explains. To give his chocolates the finishing touch, he adds some vanilla from Madagascar: “Vanilla has a mellow flavour and is just as good for the lighter chocolate as for the darker chocolate.”
WHITE, A SPECIAL CASE
The third chocolate watch is a special case: it is made of white chocolate, for which the whole cocoa mass is never used, only the butter extracted from the beans. Keusen also buys the cocoa butter from ABOCFA and mixes it with the other ingredients in the stone mill for 35 hours. Because he uses caramelised milk powder and then also caramelises the mixture in the oven, a special flavour profile is created that is reminiscent of fudge. The cocoa butter content of the speciality is 32 percent; the prescribed minimum is a mere 20 percent.
Pouring the Beyer chocolates into the moulds is a special challenge. After all, the end product isn’t just bars, but little watches – modelled on the one that hangs outside the Beyer shop on Bahnhofstrasse. “The diameter of the moulds is around five centimetres, so when pouring you have to take care that the liquid chocolate fills even the tiniest of cavities,” Keusen explains. The carefully designed packaging of the giveaways reads “Out of love for genuine craftsmanship”. This sentence builds a bridge between the cocoa co-operative in Ghana, the Taucherli chocolate factory in Adliswil, and Beyer, the oldest watch shop in the world.
The chocolate watches will soon be available from the latter in presentation boxes made especially for Beyer by carpenter Beat Hübscher in his workshop on Zurich’s Langstrasse. “I was very pleased that Beyer didn’t just want to buy a good chocolate off the shelf, but was involved in the development process from the word go and wanted to ensure the complete traceability of the production chain,” says Kay Keusen. “For me, it is important that everyone who contributes to the success of the product is valued equally. Knowing that their trading with us improves the lives of Ghanaian farmers is one of the best parts of my job. That Beyer sees it the same way makes our project a matter of the heart.”
Kay Keusen began his career as a road builder before moving to Africa, where he developed his own mobile phone brand. After taking over Taucherli from the four founders in 2015, he decided to stop refining couvertures bought elsewhere, and instead to produce the chocolate himself from scratch. The Academy of Chocolate has honoured Keusen multiple times, awarding him the Gold medal for the first time in 2021.