TheChocPro | Consider the Cacao Flower

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.

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TheChocPro | Chocolate Educational Resources

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.

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TheChocPro | The Northwest Chocolate Festival 2017

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

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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TheChocPro | An Ode to Fat

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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TheChocPro | Costa Rica Trip

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

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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TheChocPro | Building a Chocolate Cellar

We get asked many questions about storing and collecting chocolate. With the warm days of summer approaching it seems like a good time to tackle this subject. A dark chocolate bar is a remarkably stable and durable product, yet many people seem unsure of just what to do with it once they've bought one. It is best to think of a fine chocolate bar just like a fine bottle of red wine and treat it the same.

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TheChocPro | Chocolate Collaborations: Beyond the Cacao

This month's blog is not about chocolate so much as it is about the the cool associations that happen between creative people. Artisanal chocolate makers seem to have an affinity for others who are trying to craft a quality product in a pure and ethical way and lately many of them have been partnering with these folks to create some very interesting bars. Shawn Askinosie was one of the first and his “CollaBARation” line showed just how far down this path one could go.

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TheChocPro | Cacao Tree Species

While cacao has been used as a food product by Mezoamerican peoples for over 3000 years, the "chocolate bar" has only been around since the 1850's. Before that chocolate was enjoyed primarily as a beverage. There are over 80 different varieties of cacao trees used for making chocolate. Like apples, or wine grapes they all have their own unique flavour profile and some are far superior to others.

Just how geekish are we feeling? Grab your favourite chocolate bar and read on here...

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