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.
If books are your preferred method for research, we have two suggestions to start you on your journey. The first is The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes by Maricel Presilla. This book is a staple on every chocolate fanatic's bookshelf. Maricel explores the history of cacao, from its origins with the ancestral mesoamericans, through it's introduction to Europe, the creation of the first “chocolate bar” as we know it today, and advances in chocolate-making technology (check out the conche!). If genetics is your interest, she gives an overview of cacao types (an area of study that is constantly being refined) and where cacao is grown and why. In addition, the book contains some fabulous chocolate recipes.
The second book that we recommend is the recently published Bean-to-Bar Chocolate: America's Craft Chocolate Revolution (2017) Megan Giller. This book looks in-depth at the artisanal chocolate movement in the US (and Canada gets a mention!) that has really kicked off over the last decade. This is the book to read if you want to learn more about who is making the chocolate that you are currently enjoying. It is beautifully illustrated (check out Chocolate's Green Beginnings, page 22), with gorgeous photographs of chocolate bars, chocolate packaging, and the chocolate-making process. If you are a visual learner, you will appreciate this book. Throughout the book, you will find recipes generously shared by the chocolate makers featured. As a bonus, check out her blog Chocolate Noise.
For those of you who would like to listen to stories, we cannot get enough of The Slow Melt podcast. This is the ultimate podcast for learning more about the world of chocolate. Hosted by Simran Sethi, this podcast explores the people, the places, the producers, the problems, and the potential of cacao and chocolate. Guests include chocolate makers, experts, conservationists, scientists, and more. Simran leads the listener on a multi-disciplinary journey into the world of chocolate, and wow are there many ways to approach this delicious treat. The Slow Melt team has also compiled a thourough list of resources for you to explore. Savour chocolate, and savour knowledge.
Bonus listening: Also give a listen to the Makers Series, which spotlights individual chocolate makers, what they're doing, hear the stories and their inspirations, and join along yourself with a guided tasting. We carry many of the bars featured in the tastings.
Wouldn't it be great to visit a cacao farm? The next-best-thing is to join Sunita de Tourreil of The Chocolate Garage at origin through one of her trip videos. She has travelled to cacao origins to speak with farmers and chocolate makers about... you guessed it: chocolate! Check out Nicaragua, Cuba, and Hawaii, with more to come. The videos are under 25 minutes each. Much better than binging on Netflix. If you are really keen on exploring, The Chocolate Garage offers guided origin trips, so check out their website for an upcoming adventure.
If you'd like to learn more about cacao farmers, origins, and the agricultural side of chocolate, check out the sourcing reports from chocolate makers. Dandelion Chocolate publishes an annual sourcing report. This report gives a great overview of what they are doing each year, as well as going into details about everything from their relationships with the farmers (how much they've purchased annually and total lifetime), fermentation and drying styles, and why they work with these specific farmers. The latest report was published in early November and is reviewing the 2016 season.
Or, you can follow along with Shawn Askinosie on his visits to partner farms. Shawn publishes a Cocoa Origin Travelogue during every visit. He is currently in Davao, Philippines on the first trip of 2018. This is a great way to learn what direct trade is all about, and to learn more about the community-building projects that are so integral to the Askinosie Chocolate business model. Askinosie also publishes an annual sourcing report for those of you who want to learn more.
And if you would like a guided journey and tasting into the world of artisanal chocolate, we will be offering an “Intro to Artisanal Chocolate” workshop on February 24 (see above for details). Of course David and I are always happy to talk chocolate and answer any questions that you may have, so please don't hesitate to drop by or write to us. Happy learning!
By Stephanie Sketchley
Cover Photo from Askinosie's Travelogue: Davao 2018