Pink pepper

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Pink peppercorn, or false pepper plant, grows on beautiful, weeping, evergreen trees which can grow to a height of 15 metres. They are occasionally used to provide plantations with shade, as their distinctively aromatic leaves can measure up to 20cm. The tree’s fruit flowers in spring, producing creamy-white bunches. The fruits are dried as soon as they reach maturity. The resulting pink peppercorns are aromatic, mildly spicy and slightly sweet.

 

Cocoa butter

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We only use pure cocoa butter in our chocolates. When cocoa beans are pressed, two substances are produced: solid cocoa mass which is used in the production of cocoa powder, and liquid cocoa butter. Before it can be sold, it is deodorised, purified, tempered and molded. The chocolate producer reincorporates the butter into the cocoa paste – which already contains a natural amount – to ensure the consistency and colour of the chocolate.

Combava

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Combava (also known as combawa, cumbava, cumbaba, makrut, and kaffir lime) is a citrus fruit named after the Indonesian island of Sumbawa, located to the east of Bali. It was brought to the Indian Ocean by Pierre Poivre at the end of the eighteenth century. The fruit, and especially its leaves, are used mostly in South-East Asia, la Réunion and Madagascar.

Combava leaves, which reveal their strong aroma at the slightest touch, are rich in essential oils, giving off a sharp, fruity, citrus odour which nonetheless remains remarkably refreshing and original.

The combava fruit itself is round, small (5-8cm), green, bumpy and coarse in texture. It too is rich in essential oils.

Sea Salt

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Sea salt is the thin layer of white cristals that form on top of the salt marsh as a result of the evaporating effect of the wind. This layer is most likely to form on summer nights, when the difference in temperature between the warm air and the surface of the marsh is sufficiently large. Blown by the wind to the banks of the salt marsh, the salt crystals are not given the time to develop into rough salt. Unlike the salt harvest, which occurs once annually, sea salt is collected manually from the marsh surface daily for one month every year. Sea salt is gathered with a tool known as a lousse, which is designed to prevent the grains from sinking. The product is subsequently drained and dried in the sun.

Our sea salt comes from the Menabe region in the west of Madagascar. Menabe means ‘big red’, taking its name from the laterite that covers the earth and colours the region’s rivers.

The region offers an enormous diversity of unique landscapes such as the magnificent Baobab Alley. The local wildlife is equally diverse, offering lemurs, crocodiles, fresh water turtles and birds. Small, wood-hutted villages provide a stunning backdrop. But the Menabe region is not only a Garden of Eden and a stunning nature reserve; it’s an invitation to discover a fascinating new world!

Cocoa nibs

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With their shells removed, the roasted cocoa beans are coarsely ground to obtain cocoa nibs. Cinagra use the nibs as an ingredient, but they may also be used as a spice.

 

Sunflower lecithin

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We use Sunflower lecithin in our chocolate. Sunflower lecithin is an emulsifier and binder. It’s role is to bind the vegetable fats present in the cocoa butter to the other ingredients (cocoa paste, sugar). Our chocolate contains only 1% lecithin.

We consider it important to explain the role of Sunflower lecithin, which is often wrongly criticised.

This natural emulsifier allows fat (especially cholesterol) to dissolve into the blood. It is naturally rich in choline and inositol, which boost levels of so-called ‘good cholesterol’ and reduce levels of ‘bad cholesterol’. Additionally, lecithin is a member of the phospholipid family, which serve to maintain the fluidity and permeability of cell membranes. They also regulate the phosphorus metabolism, acting against memory loss, mental tiredness, concentration difficulties, insomnia and sexual problems. Finally, within the brain, lecithin transforms into acetylcholin, a neuromediator necessary for the maintenance of mental functions and emotional stability.

Dried grated Coconut

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Dried slowly in the sun to bring out its delicate flavours, grated coconut gives the chocolate an exotic touch. Very nutritional, it is an excellent source of energy and fibre.

Bird Chili

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Loved by birds, the bird chili (Capsicum frutescens) is a small red or green pepper. It is one of the 2,500 species that make up the Solanaceae family. The bird chili is an 8 on the Scoville scale, slightly hotter than Cayenne pepper.

Black pepper

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In the north west of Madagascar, pepper is considered a supplementary crop, growing in the spaces between cocoa, coffee and banana trees.

The Sambirano Valley, which always holds an honoured place in our products, is the home of Madagascan pepper production. The local produce figures among the world’s most highly valued pepper.

Madagascan black pepper is harvested from November to March, before being dried in the fresh air. Pepper trees produce three types of pepper: green, black and white. Immature green peppercorns are salted quickly, allowing them to retain their tenderness. The black peppercorn is the fully mature fruit, and is dried with its flesh still attached. White peppercorns are black peppercorns with the flesh removed after the retting process is complete. Madagascan black pepper is notable for its small, extremely dark and crumpled grains. They offer very aromatic notes, with an intensely spicy and warm finish.

Voatsiperifery Pepper

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Voatsiperifery pepper is very rare and largely unknown, even in Madagascar. It is also referred to as ‘wild pepper’, as it is not actively cultivated anywhere. Instead it is gathered by hand from deep within the islands tropical rainforests. It is the fruit of a liana which grows exclusively in the Madagascan rainforest. It is surprisingly fresh, offering enchanting notes of citrus fruits and flowers. Although its spicy kick is relatively gentle, it remains incisive and tenacious.

Whole milk powder

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The powdered milk we use to make Menakao chocolate is made from dried whole milk.

Sesame

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Sesame is a plant of the Sesamum genum, widely cultivated for its seeds. Known for its excellent nutritional value, sesame is grown in the Madagascan highlands.

Cane sugar

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Cinagra uses cane sugar which grows naturally in the Menabe region. Unlike several other producers, we do not use beet sugar.

 

Vanilla

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Vanilla pods were first harvested from wild orchids in Mexico. Having fallen to the ground when ripe and subsequently fermented in the undergrowth, the pods give off an exquisite aroma. The first recorded mention of vanilla is in the Chronicles of the Aztec sovereign Itzcoalt (1427-1440). The Aztecs knew how to prepare the spice so as to preserve its aroma, and probably used it for centuries as a means of softening the natural bitterness of their chocolate drink.

Hernán Cortès brought the first vanilla plants to Europe in 1518. For more than two centuries, Mexico monopolised the production of vanilla, as countless attempts to recreate elsewhere the conditions required for it’s growth ended in failure. It was only in the nineteenth century that people became aware of the importance of Mexican bees in the pollination of vanilla plants. It took botanists two centuries to realise that the flowers need to be fertilised manually, one at a time!

Today Madagascar is the world’s largest vanilla producing nation. Optimal soil composition, especially in north eastern regions, coupled with an ideal climate and the centuries-old expertise of the population, contributes to the high quality of the vanilla produced on the island.

We only use Madagascan vanilla in our Milk Chocolate 44% Madagascan Vanilla. In order to preserve the natural flavour of the cocoa, our dark chocolate does not contain any vanilla.