DERRY — Culinary students from Concord Regional Technical Center got to see Wednesday how chocolate gets made from scratch.
While many chocolate producers in the United States get pre-processed chocolate imported or produce it in large-scale manufacturing facilities, Scott Watson has taken a different route with Loon Chocolate, which he founded in May.
He imports the cocoa beans and makes the chocolate in small batches.
On Wednesday, nearly a dozen students at Creative Chef Kitchens in Derry — a shared commercial food business incubator space — got to try their hand at making some chocolate after a presentation by Watson on how the process works.
Students manually separated the interior bean “nibs” from their shells, a process that is usually done by automatic equipment. Watson explained the nibs are bean core from which the cocoa is extracted.
“That’s where all the gold is,” Watson said.
Watson will process the cocoa from the nibs the students helped to extract, make chocolate bars and send them to the school.
Baking teacher Melissa Wilkins said she plans to sell some of the chocolate to raise money for the kids’ extracurricular club, Loaf and Ladle.
Students also got to sample generic commercially made milk chocolate, which Watson said had about 15 percent cocoa, before trying three varieties made by Watson.
They ranged from 50 percent cocoa to 70 percent and a new 83 percent cocoa made with beans from Fiji that will be unveiled at the Made in NH Expo on March 22.
“You are some of the first 15 people to taste that,” Watson told the students.
Bob McIntosh, a culinary teacher with CRTC, said the students come from Concord, Pembroke and Merrimack.
Watson explained that the beans he uses come from five different countries, including Belize and Bolivia, and are fermented and dried before they’re shipped to the U.S.
Watson said he used to be head brewer at now closed Nutfield Brewing Company until 2002. He later taught himself how to make chocolate, remarking on how similar the process is.
He is targeting more health-conscious consumers and people with more sophisticated palate, banking on trends in craft beer, cheese and coffee for more artisanal and premium products.