By Stephanie from The Chocolate Project.
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 sample 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! I have many stories to share with you, and will do so in future blogs and on the @thechocpro social media accounts.
The highlight of the festival for me was attending the seminars on farmers and origins. I heard Simran Bindra speak about Kokoa Kamili (Tanzania), Dr Charles Kerchner discuss the creation of Reserva Zorzal (Domincan Republic) (a bird sanctuary and cocoa producer), an overview of the history of Guatemalan cacao presented by UnCommon Cacao and Cacao Verapaz, an update on Columbian cacao presented by UnCommon Cacao and Cacao de Columbia, and the story of Madagascar Cocoa and the Bejofo Estate from Bertil Akesson himself! If you have ever tasted ANY craft chocolate, it is highly likely that you have had a bar produced from cocoa grown in one of these origins.
And the most moving speaker of all was Shawn Askinosie of Askinosie Chocolate, presenting the book he wrote with his daughter Lawren, “Meaningful Work: A Quest To Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul”. Shawn is a powerful speaker, and the moving, personal stories that he shared about his life and his chocolate work, had most of the audience shedding tears. I am (slowly) reading the book as time permits, and highly recommend it to you.
I'm looking forward to attending the 10th Annual Festival in 2018, and I encourage all of you to attend. Seattle is only a short ferry-ride away from downtown Victoria, and single-day festival tickets can be purchased (although I recommend buying the weekend pass). And you'll want to pick up one of the great reusable NW Chocolate cloth bags to carry all of the info & chocolate that you'll be picking up!