Katalin Csiszár and Zsolt Szabad woke one day wanting to make chocolate. So they acquired the skill and knowledge and made the daydream a reality. Now they already have a few employees and operate their own chocolate factory, the Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé Csokoládékészítő és Kereskedelmi Kft. in Budapest.
The chocolate factory is in the far west of Buda. The reddish-brown brick building used to be a granary; today the couple share it with designers, musicians and soon a restaurant too. You can feel the sweet smell of molten dark chocolate already at the door.
“Everything began in Venezuela, the whole chocolate culture as we know it today” Csiszár says. However, the Buda chocolate producers use not only beans from Venezuela but also elsewhere. When the beans arrive at the factory, first they are washed and fermented. The fermentation especially is a very important step in the processing of cocoa beans.
“The cocoa plants might be grown on a prestigious plantation, but when the farmer does not complete an ordinary fermentation process [a washing and drying process], we unfortunately can’t use the beans. This is a complex process during which it’s easy to lose their taste,” Csiszár explains.
“There are more than 600 aromas in chocolate, and of course we can’t feel all of them,” she says. “The taste is influenced by the climate and by adding fruits and other materials during the fermentation process.”
The fruits of the cocoa tree are reaped and cut up. Actually the part we eat are the seeds; these are what chocolate is made of. In order to know how the chocolate will taste in the end, it is necessary to break the crust-like shell. The raw beans already might taste different according to type, plantation and farmer.
Nutty, grape-like, warm, cool, sweet, bitter or another taste note that reminds of coffee – these are aromas that can be recognised in the raw beans already before processing or adding external aromas. Basically the chocolate manufacturers work with many bean types but there are four main ones: the especially noble Porcelana beans, a subspecies of the Criollo cocoa from Venezuela; Chuao beans, which grow only on the Chuao Peninsula in Venezuela; Trinatario beans from Madagascar; and Criollo beans from Venezuela.
“I have recently tried some beans from Ecuador,” Csiszár says. “The Forestero beans are picked in the wild by locals, however the fermentation was bad. Normally the Criollo is my favourite bean, which naturally has an interesting taste. It’s mild, sweet and fruity and nutty at the same time. Its taste is gentle but very aromatic.”
How the beans become chocolate
Csiszár and Szabad process their beans themselves. First they carefully roast the fermented beans in an oven. The machine looks ridiculously small, hardly larger than an oven in a normal home.
“It’s hard to control the roasting process in a larger oven and reach an even roasting result, so we prefer to work with our small one, which allows more precision,” Csiszár says. If the temperature is too high, many natural aromas are lost. In the end the versatility in taste is lost and a sour-bitter taste comes forward.
Most of the beans are processed into chocolate flour and finally into chocolate paste. It takes a long process to have a chocolate paste ready for further processing. At the end of the process the batter is stirred for as long as 24 hours. This way of preparation makes it especially soft and creamy.
Cane sugar is added to the chocolate paste. The hazelnut paste, tea, nuts, lavender, olive bread – or in short, anything that the heart desires – are added in only later in the process. The natural aromas are purchased from Hungary, whenever it’s possible. The makers insist: “We take into account not only the place our ingredients are coming from, but also from what kind of people they are coming from.”
They buy the beans from a distributor working as a family company. After Csiszár and Szabad earned an international chocolate award, farmers began sending them tasting packages more and more often. They try about 30 kinds of beans every year, from which they pick maybe two or three in the end.
The ready-made product and its packaging
The factory does not use preservatives and flavour enhancers. Their assortment contains chocolate bars, pralines, bonbons, caramelised nuts, roasted chocolate beans, chocolate drinks, fruits and beans filled with chocolate.
“Many people think that eating chocolate is unhealthy,” Csiszár says. “However, when the ingredients are the right ones, they are natural and do not contain a lot of sugar, then it can be rather healthy.
“The cocoa fruit contains especially a lot of magnesium and in addition to that it’s an unbelievable source of energy. Chocolate can give you strength and stimulate digestion – it does not have to make you fat. Of course I am talking about high-quality products and not cheap chocolates from industrial production.”
The different chocolate bars are decorated by imprints inspired by historical ceramic tiles. Csiszár designs and produces everything herself, ranging from the packaging to the pralines. The packaging is made of recycled paper, the products are hand-packed and the materials are toxin-free and reusable.
She comes from the artistic field originally, having studied graphic design, illustration and animation. Szabad on the other hand has a technical background, being an engineer. While she takes care of the creative aspect of their work, he repairs and builds a part of their machines himself.
Plans for the future
Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé Csokoládékészítő és Kereskedelmi Kft. sells its products in Japan, Sweden, Spain, Bulgaria, the USA, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Hong Kong, Germany, Canada, England, the Netherlands and of course Hungary.
Most recently they have started a partnership with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, which means that part of the income goes to save gorillas. Csiszár began donating to the foundation at the age of 12.
The chocolate factory is organising tastings and trainings in their showroom in the upcoming weeks.
The Chocolate Shop of the Rózsavölgyi Csokoládékészítő és Kereskedelmi Kft.
6 Királyi Pál utca, District V
Open Monday to Friday 10.30am-1pm, 1.30-6.30pm, Saturdays noon-6pm
You can find more information and the online shop on the website at www.rozsavolgyi.com