The Northwest Chocolate Festival 2017 | TheChocPro

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!

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Saturday Chocolate Tastings are Back!

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.

See you on Saturdays!

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Is it time for a second look at West Africa? | TheChocPro

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?

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An Ode to Fat | TheChocPro

An Ode to Fat

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?

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Costa Rica Trip | TheChocPro

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.

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Pride and Prejudice: The Ethical Dilemma of Chocolate Awards | TheChocPro

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.

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