The Artisan Chocolate from Alicante
Industrial handicrafts activities that contributed to the economic development of many towns in the Valencia region, and by extension of the province of Alicante, deeply marked further industrialization, to start, allowing its gradual integration into national markets and later international, and laying the organizational foundations of the rear hatch of companies solidly integrated within a free market economy.
Craft activities in Villajoyosa – Alicante have emerged as an important support for the economy and, by extension, as a valuable complement to agricultural activities. Once the technique of cocoa processing was introduced, the office of Xocolater, and chocolate manufacturing, extended that office among numerous families of “La Vila”, which later, became owners and founders of major chocolate companies.
Making chocolate in Villajoyosa – It was performed in the home funds of Xocolater, accounting for the processing by enlisting the help of family labor. It’s important to mention that at this early stage it was common alternation of labor between agriculture and the activity craft of processing.
Generally the Xocolater was manufactured on behalf of the residents of the Vila themselves. When the customer demanded product, the artisan traveled to his home in a small truck transporting heavy and bulky instruments. On other occasions, either for personal use or for resale, the customer facilitated the raw material to be prepared by the Xocolater. It was, in many cases, a thriving street trade that had as its main characteristic the clear delineation of their “Volta” or shopping area offering the product under its own brand.
It is worth mention that the crushing and grinding of cocoa demanded a huge physical effort. The whole operation was performed manually “handmade”, deftly handling a roller stone (“corró”) which rubbed against another concave stone. With this operation a thick broth was obtained by using a small burner which heated while the product was deposited in a “artesa”. Then the procedure was repeated in order to obtain a finer paste which is subsequently incorporated into sugar, flour, cinnamon, vanilla and other ingredients each craftsman saw fit to add.
The end result was obtaining Stone Chocolate – “Chocolate a la Piedra“, very rudimentary in its physical appearance, but for its pleasant taste and aroma was the subject of a timely and faithful demand.
The consumer market of the Chocolate a la Piedra manufactured in Villajoyosa, as well as being firmly established in the locality, was distributed in other areas of the region and eventually the peninsula. On bridle paths, difficult transit journeys were made sometimes on mules with carriages forming caravans of several Xocolaters. The sales were made “door to door” and there was implicit respect for the “commercial area” of each Xocolater. Until the last third of the nineteenth century, each Xocolater had “verbally” assigned their geographical commercial area.
The hard work of preparing the chocolate via a “handmade fashion” lasted beyond the second half of the XIX century, until the gradual introduction of the first mechanical process and the following progressive transformation of the traditional nature of chocolate making. The more traditional chocolatiers, with their inadequate organizational and production and who are unable to adapt to new market requirement methods, are being replaced by more technologically advanced factories, and therefore aimed to compete in open oriented and developed markets.
In chocolate processing, sugar beet and cane is used in addition to the cocoa as is Ceylon, cinnamon and vanilla. In the chocolate segment aimed at low-income consumers, rice flour was also used, supplied, like peanuts, to commercial houses located in the province of Valencia.
The expansion of demand, and above all, increasing competition in the market chocolateries by other national industries eventually forced a better selection of the raw materials used (cocoa). Most of the cocoa consumed for the production of chocolate came from Spanish Guinea (Fernando Poo variety) and Ecuador (Guayaquil variety), the latter variety, with higher prices. They were also subject to import other main stream suppliers like Isabel type, Samoa and Mexican, used to mix different varieties of existing formulas and chocolate.
Pascual Madoz, in 1858 register , along with a confectionery industry prosperous, the existence of 22 “stones” are used for the manufacture of chocolate that five years later they amount to 38, reaching production in a thousand gallons per month.
In the early years of the second half of the nineteenth century, a manual mill begins to be used for crushing and grinding cocoa beans. First cocoa was toasted to facilitate its descaling. Then it was ground, while the pasta is heated, first using an energy source coal, later, by using stoves. To the acquired chocolate and once body was heated, rice flour was often added. The resulting mass is piled and weighed, then deposited in paper molds “brick” (xocolate brick), where it is then flattened. Then it was placed on a counter, and by mild shaking the chocolate was shaped. To mark the pointing ounces, metal instrument divided into eight cavities are used. Also “xocolate brick” is made adapting to a mold or “Rajola” wood, generally rectangular, of low thickness, whose capacity ranged from half a pound and half a kilogram. Finally, the chocolate is deposited in a cellar (the dryer) of the Xocolater ´s house, which is specifically built for drying chocolate. Although more importantly than drying, it’s intention was to cool the chocolate slowly.
The second phase of the industrial process in Villajoyosa would begin with the introduction of a mill known as “malacata” in the last third of the nineteenth century. It’s production reached 250 kilograms per day. It was equipped with conical mills circular cylinders ran by animal traction, allowing for a more easily crushed cocoa, and helping with the difficult task of mixing sugar. This technological innovation lasted among some of its operators until the thirties of the twentieth century.
From the first decade of the twentieth century, the process of making chocolate is machined completely. The widespread use of electricity as a primary energy source for the manufacture of chocolate, allowed to modify the manufacturing processes.
The mill powered by horses or manually will be progressively replaced by mills with gas-oil engines, and later electric engines. They system and pulleys transmission belts allowed for various operations of grinding and mixing, considerably increasing production, while higher quality chocolate was obtained.
The need to consolidate the presence of chocolate traditional factories in the increasingly competitive domestic and international markets, leads to high financial investments, with clear implications for the productive and commercial organization. The complexities of this new scenario inescapably impose structural changes and new spatial strategies especially affecting the commercial area.
Therefore, there were industries that combined semi-craftsmanship processing (mills cavalry), with the use of new machines. While simple mills were used in factories of low production, doubles and triples were employed by industries with higher rates of production, which would incorporate kneading machines, mixers rotary hearth and refiners, authorizing more homogeneous mixtures and resulted in more refined cocoa.
The shift to new forms of productive and commercial organization, led to the gradual shift away from family industry and chocolatera became understood as inherent in the system development process, whose reproduction is inextricably linked with the emergence of new forms of production, generating serious imbalances affecting equally throughout the territory.
In this regard, the scale of industrial production of chocolate drifted to a business specialization, whose growth is no longer dependent on certain local skills, and it resulted in the disappearance of many cottage industries with limited financial resources. In recent decades this process also affected other sectors of the province and country and is closely associated with the concept of globalization and internationalization of the contemporary economy.