Even if it didn’t give us chocolate, Theobroma cacao would be a fascinating tree. Viewed from a purely botanical perspective there is much to admire and wonder about, from its minute delicate flowers to its glossy green leaves that move to follow the sun’s path across the sky. In today’s post we look deeper at the pollination habits of this native of the Amazon rain forest.
We get asked daily at The Chocolate Project what our favourite bars are. While we love all the bars we carry some certainly have an extra-special place in our hearts. Here I'll attempt to quantify exactly why each of these bars is meaningful to me. If I was stranded on a desert island this is the chocolate I'd want to be a castaway with.
The first “Brasil Bean to Bar Chocolate Week” is taking place May 3-6 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. As we couldn't attend, we thought it would be a great opportunity for us to introduce you to Brazil as a cacao origin. Brazil has much to offer the world of fine chocolate... but what's the history of cocoa and Brazil, and why is it not often talked about?
An interview with Tom, co-founder of Goodnow Farms Chocolate.
@thechocpro: Could you briefly introduce yourself and Goodnow Farms?
I'm Tom Rogan and my wife Monica and I are the owners Goodnow Farms chocolate. We started the company in 2015, although we were making chocolate long before that. We spent several years developing our cacao sources in Central America, South America and Mexico before deciding to start making chocolate professionally. Our goal with Goodnow Farms is to make incredible craft chocolate while also sourcing our cacao beans ethically and sustainably.
You have tasted some (or lots) of chocolate in your life. Perhaps you've come by The Chocolate Project for our tasting days, or have experienced single-origin chocolate. Maybe you've found a favourite origin or chocolate maker. But you have more questions: I know that I do. There is so much to explore and learn regarding chocolate, and you would like to delve deeper. Where do you start? We have compiled some great resources to start you on your quest for knowledge, at your leisure. These are a few of our favourite go-to resources for beginners and intermediates.
The Ninth Annual Northwest Chocolate Festival took place in Seattle, WA on November 11-12 this year, and I was excited to attend for the second time. It has sure expanded from my first visit two years ago. It is the top show for artisan chocolate in North America, and one of the best in the world. My favourite aspect of this event is the large Education Program: each day there is a full schedule of workshops, classes, and seminars to attend. These range from speakers sharing stories from origins & farmers; tasting workshops to try fresh cocoa pod fruit, traditional drinking chocolate recipes, baking, and chocolate pairings such as wine & cheese; technical workshops on evaluating chocolate, roasting cacao, tempering, genetic diversity; supply-chain seminars; book-launches; and many more. The most difficult part is choosing which session to attend. And that's all in addition to the exhibitors on the main show floor and all of their information and tastings. Really, one weekend is not nearly enough to absorb it all!
Our weekly Saturday Chocolate Tastings are back for the fall!
Each Saturday, we pick a chocolate maker or cacao growing region to feature, and open 4-6 bars for you to taste, compare, and explore! Saturday Tastings are usually ready to go at 11:30am on Saturday mornings, and run until 3:30pm (or the samples run out).
Check our social media to find out what we are featuring each week! You can find as @thechocpro on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
One of the most commonly cited differences between commercial chocolate and artisanal chocolate is that big commercial producers use beans from West Africa and craft chocolate makers do not, preferring beans from New World sources such as South America, Central America and the Caribbean. The implication here is that West African beans are of poor quality and suitable only for mass-produced industrial applications. It is a refrain that gets repeated time and again, but is it really true?
We've heard some pretty crazy stuff over the many years of running The Chocolate Project and answering questions. The internet is a prime source of shockingly inaccurate information about the chocolate world and so here we'll try to set straight a few of the most common myths. Keep reading here to learn more!
We talk a lot about single-origin chocolate here and wax poetic about exotic flavour notes and rare strains of cacao. Yet rarely do we pay tribute to the magical substance that makes up most of a chocolate bar: cocoa butter. Once cacao beans have been roasted and winnowed they break up into nibs, which look like coarse brown gravel but are in fact more than 50% cocoa butter. A heavy stone grinder and the magical combination of time, heat, and motion reduce the nibs down to minute particles, each enrobed in its own tasty jacket of fat.
Conching further refines this process and tempering provides a finished chocolate that has sheen, snap, and a lush and gloriously slow melt.
So just what is it about cocoa butter that is so special?
The process for converting the fruit of the cacao tree into chocolate is a complex one. Fermenting the fruit pulp and seeds together is the first critical step and one that is not well understood by chocolate lovers. In today's blog we will take some basic steps toward explaining this remarkable transformation.
Our recent trip to Costa Rica this January was an eye-opener in many ways. The pristine rain forests and volcanic mountain slopes of this Central American country should be capable of producing sublime cacao. Historically though, Costa Rica has only rarely fulfilled this potential. For decades most Costa Rican cacao has been the Amelonado-type Forastero grown in large open field blocks, similar to how bananas and sugar cane are grown. This type of mono-cropping is a recipe for disaster with cacao and, sure enough, in the early 1980s a fungal disease called Monilliasis virtually wiped out the entire nation's production.
As we've been preparing for our huge craft chocolate retrospective we have planned for November 18th and 19th, I have been overwhelmed by the response and level of input from many of the world's finest chocolate makers. In the process of soliciting bars from them I have been asking why they keep at it, what advice they would give to up-and-coming chocolate makers, and what they feel is the future of the craft chocolate industry. Their responses have been enlightening, to say the least. A few constant themes have emerged and I feel informed enough to draw up a brief summary based on their input.
Which also has me thinking about the world of Chocolate Awards and how they play into all this. There are a number of organizations that taste, rate, and issue awards for chocolate bars and confections. The two most prestigious are the International Chocolate Awards (ICA) and The Academy of Chocolate Arts (ACA). You might think of these two as the Oscars and the Golden Globes of the chocolate world.
The process of conching is unique to the chocolate industry and critical to the production of fine chocolate. Yet it remains an arcane mystery to most chocolate lovers. Join us in today's blog as we delve deeper into the wonders of the conche...