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“Oh, note of raspberry! You mean there are raspberries in this chocolate?”

The struggle is real.

Average consumers still don’t know that chocolate can have more than a “chocolatey” flavor. They don’t expect to taste berries, exotic fruits, nuts or spices in their 70% plain dark bars. How to blame them! As a kid, nobody was probably ever fed the finest chocolate in the world. From Hershey’s to Kinder, the chocolate snacks for children contained little cacao and lots of sugar, milk and vanilla. Not that flavor mattered much, as these treats were devoured in a matter of seconds anyway.

This ‘mindless eating’ associated with chocolate since a tender age didn’t create the best environment for craft chocolate. A lot of explaining and tasting is now necessary to change this habit. Consumers have to learn how to enjoy the different flavors that chocolate can deliver.

This is why Tasting Notes were written on craft chocolate bars in the first place.

A cocoa bean contains around 600 aromatic components.

Tasting notes indicate the aromas contained in a chocolate bar when you taste it. These are not added ingredients, but the intrinsic flavors of the chocolate itself. They are achieved in a million ways. Some involuntarily (genetics and terroir), some voluntarily (roasting and conching techniques). Interesting aromas are what differentiates craft chocolate from industrial chocolate.

Craft chocolate aims to preserve the original aromas of cacao. Industrial chocolate dilutes the intrinsic flavors of cacao with sugar, milk, vanilla and other flavorings to keep the price tag low. The distinction is clear: craft chocolate is for savouring; industrial chocolate is for mindless eating. And for those who want to savour, the majority of craft makers includes Tasting Notes on their packaging.

This indication serves three main purposes:

  1. To make consumers understand that chocolate can taste of something other than “chocolatey”.
  2. To help consumers make a purchase based on the flavors they prefer.
  3. To guide consumers during their tasting experience.

Tasting Notes also help the storytelling of a chocolate bar. They reveal the unique personality of that specific chocolate, and differentiates it from all the other bars on the same shelf. This way, consumers can enjoy guidance in their purchasing and tasting experience, and craft makers have a tool to differentiate themselves from a growing competition.

It seems like a win-win situation for everybody, but there’s a catch.

Although Tasting Notes are a great marketing and educational tool, there is something politically incorrect about indicating them on the packaging of a craft chocolate bar.

Chocolate made from the beans on a small scale is subjected to many variables that impact its end flavor.

The biggest enemy for those who make chocolate starting from the beans is inconsistency.

Depending on the conditions at origin, the supply of cacao beans is impacted in both quality and quantity. Since most of the suppliers of fine cacao are small farmers, many factors influence flavor: weather, fermentation practices, quality protocols, time of harvest, even political instabilities. Also the chocolate maker contributes to this confusion. From buying new equipment to switching suppliers, any change inside the chocolate factory can affect the end result.

The craft chocolate movement actually takes pride in this inconsistency. While big manufacturers offer the exact same product over time, craft makers respect the cacao beans they receive and make the best out of them in the moment, surrendering to any difference from batch to batch. Unfortunately, the package that wraps such inconsistent chocolate often remains the same.

So it happens that the new batch of chocolate tastes different, but it is sold in a package with Tasting Notes from the previous batch. Or the one before that. Or who knows from how long ago.

Considering inconsistency in craft chocolate, is it a good idea to write the Tasting Notes on the packaging?

This topic has been discussed at Chocoa, the largest gathering of chocolate professionals in Europe that takes place every February in Amsterdam.

In the Chocolate Makers Forum, chocolate expert Clay Gordon from The Chocolate Life (now The Maven) was the mediator of an interactive conversation all about the challenges and the opportunities of being a craft chocolate maker. From brand identity to logistical difficulties, every aspect of bean-to-bar making was analyzed and discussed. When it was time to talk about packaging, Clay posed to the audience a very practical question:

“As a craft chocolate maker, what do you do if your new batch of chocolate tastes different from the previous one, but you still have hundreds of packages with the old Tasting Notes?”

Chocoa took place at the Beurs Van Berlage in Amsterdam, February 2018.

Many craft chocolate makers in the room candidly admitted that they would keep using the old wrappers, even when they knew for a fact that the Tasting Notes of the new batch were different. Packaging is expensive after all, and they didn’t see the value of throwing it away just because the Tasting Notes had changed.

All good for the maker, but we can’t say the same for the consumer.

It is true that Tasting Notes are subjective. Everybody tastes different things in chocolate. But there is someone more trustworthy than others: the maker who created that chocolate. Among all opinions, what’s more reliable than the opinion of the person who voluntarily tried so hard to achieve those specific flavors? This is why consumers look up so much to the Tasting Notes written on the packaging of craft chocolate.

Identifying tasting notes is the favorite game of craft chocolate lovers. Floral, fruity, herbal, nutty, spicy. These aficionados try to find the best words to describe the flavor of what they are tasting. It takes sharp focus to conduct this exercise. This is the quintessence of mindful eating!

If the Tasting Notes are written on the chocolate bar, these aspiring connoisseurs would compare them with their own results. This could be the reason of great pride or great insecurity, depending if the results matched or not. But what’s the value of using a reference that even the chocolate maker knows isn’t right? Are consumers being taken for fools?

Frustration gets even bigger when consumers make a purchase based on those Tasting Notes.

After some tastings, chocolate lovers develop their own preferences. Some love fruity notes, some enjoy their chocolate spicy, some like to keep it simple with nutty or chocolatey notes. If new chocolate is wrapped in old packaging (with different tasting notes), consumers receive the wrong guidance. They are using an inaccurate piece of information to make a purchasing decision. And it is $10 for a chocolate bar we are talking about!

This is why writing Tasting Notes on craft chocolate packaging might not be a good idea. They definitely teach new consumers that chocolate can taste of something, but will end up confusing and irritating those who spend the most money on it.

When there is no indication of Tasting Notes, consumers are free to come up with their own conclusions.  There is no pressure of comparison, but mostly there is no doubting themselves based on wrong information. It is also a wise decision for chocolate makers, who can keep using old packages even when the Tasting Notes change. They optimize costs and avoid complaints.

After all, no guidance is better than wrong guidance.

What do you think of Tasting Notes written on craft chocolate bars?

I did NOT get paid and did NOT receive any kind of favor for writing this article. These are my honest opinions at your service.

The post Tasting Notes Written On Craft Chocolate Bars: Is It A Good Idea? appeared first on The Chocolate Journalist.

Tasting Notes Written On Craft Chocolate Bars: Is It A Good Idea? was first posted on March 4, 2018 at 8:27 am.
©2012 "Welcome to My Blog". Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact me at partners@DanAndJenniferMedia.com
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Some inclusions in chocolate are meant to be immortal.

For example, salt in chocolate will probably never go out of style. You know why? Because adding salt intensifies the body’s ability to taste sweetness in sugar. When added to chocolate, salt manages to alert sensors in our intestines and on our tongue that normally don’t alert sugar. Pretty much a second sugar detector. This is why we love it so much in chocolate.

Another inclusion that will last for a very long time is nuts. Whether you prefer classic choices like almonds and hazelnuts, or want your chocolate fancy with macadamia nuts and pine nuts, the pleasure is served. Crunchiness and smoothness in one bite. Plus the health benefits that consumers always long for. Basically, nuts in chocolate is a neverending trend.

Then we can think of berries. Unlike other fruits, berries go well with any kind of chocolate really. In dark, milk or white, they are a versatile inclusion and can be added fresh, frozen-dried, in the form of an oil or as a creamy filling. Their taste is tart, almost citrusy-like, but sweeter. The resulting chocolate is a fresh mix of sweet and sour that conquer everyone’s heart.

But what are some intriguing, unexpected and definitely more curious inclusions we will be seeing this year?

If 2017 has been the triumph of healthy flavors like ginger and turmeric, chocolate makers are going back to some heavier, creamier inclusions in 2018, together with floral additions, trendy spices and superfoods.


For those who don’t know it, tahini is a sauce obtained by toasting and grounding sesame seeds. It has a yogurty consistency, and it is often used in vegan (but also non-vegan) diets as a dressing for salads or as a base to make hummus. Surprisingly, chocolatiers around the world are liking this unusual ingredient. Blended into caramels or directly added to the chocolate, it confers a creamy consistency and a toasted aroma without any added crunchiness. Naive Chocolate in Estonia makes a Milk Chocolate Bar With Tahini, while Zotter Chocolates in Austria sells a Tahini Palestine bar. The trend is also catching up in the US.


Brown butter is achieved by melting butter over medium heat until it turns into a toasty-brown color. With its rich nutty taste, it pairs really well with chocolate. Was somebody trying to find an alternative to the more traditional caramel? Maybe. Nonetheless, US chocolate makers seem to be the most passionate about this pairing. Solstice Chocolate in Utah likes to add brown butter to white chocolate, while Creo Chocolate in Oregon prefers to make it with dark chocolate. Dick Taylor in California gives it a twist by adding nibs and sea salt to the sweet mix.


When fine chocolate meets prestigious hazelnuts from Italy, it makes one of the most delicious treats ever invented: gianduja. The traditional recipe of gianduja accounts for very simple ingredients like cacao, sugar and toasted hazelnuts. All the ingredients are finely refined together to create a soft and delicate chocolate paste. Today, gianduja is found on the market in many forms and shapes: as a spread in a jar, as individually wrapped chocolates, and now also as chocolate bars. Not only Italians, but also chocolate makers from other nationalities are experimenting with this recipe born in Turin in 1826. Chocolate Tree in Scotland makes a dairy-free Gianduja bar using Peruvian cacao, while Hogarth Chocolate in New Zealand sells a Dark Hazelnut Chocolate (Gianduja) that has won 3 Awards in 2017.


We have already seen many Coconut Milk chocolate bars popping up on the market since 2016. However, coconut milk is only meant to increase in popularity in the next years. Consumers who are ditching dairy for lactose intolerance, skin problems or ethical reasons can still find creamy enjoyment in chocolate made with coconut milk. Extracted from the coconut flesh that is grated and soaked in hot water, the result is chocolate deliciously nutty and buttery. Countless are the chocolate makers from the West to the East side of the world who are already selling chocolate bars made with coconut milk. From the internationally acclaimed Marou Coconut Milk Ben Tre 55% made in Vietnam, to the Coconut Milk Bar by Raaka Chocolate in Brooklyn, to an entire assortment of Coconut Milk Bars offered by the all-vegan Charm School Chocolate in Maryland.


What changes between the older lavender trends and the lavender trend in 2018 is quality. In the past, many Lavender bars had very strong aromas, almost resembling beauty products like shampoo or body creams. Cheap essential oils were poured in with no mercy, resulting in chocolate way too floral and with a chemical finishing. But thanks to a greater attention to quality, lavender is loosing its bad reputation in the chocolate market. Chocolatiers are paying more attention to their suppliers and are opting for higher-quality essential oils. Remarkable are the Lavender Bar 60% by Manoa Chocolate in Hawaii and the Ooh La Lavender by Markham and Fitz in Arkansas.


Chai is the word for “tea” in many parts of the world. The traditional way to make Indian Chai (the version that has become increasingly popular throughout the world) is with black tea, heavy milk, a combination of spices and a sweetener. With the boom of chai drinks on the market, also the chocolate industry couldn’t pass on such successful trend. Trying to stay as close as possible to the original recipe, craft chocolate makers are incorporating the typical chai spices (cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and pepper) in milk or dark chocolate. The result is slightly spicy chocolate with many intriguing flavors. Villakuyaya in Ecuador is renowned for its Masala Chai Bar 65%, while Chocolate Tree in Scotland makes a marvellous Chai Spice bar.


In 2018, the definition of “superfood” is still surrounded by blurred lines. There isn’t an accepted definition of the properties that a food should contain to be called “super”. It is mainly a marketing term used to describe foods with supposed health benefits, usually by their own advocates or producers. However, whether you believe in superfoods or not, there is no question they are becoming a tremendously popular inclusion among chocolate makers. The superfoods that have been lately incorporated in chocolate are spices, berries, seeds, rare fruits and some not-so-well-known powders. Among the most popular: matcha, spirulina, lucuma, maca powder, goji berries, turmeric, chia seeds, mulberries, reishi mushrooms. Chocolate brands in the US like The Chocolate Conspiracy, Yes Cacao and Live A Lot Chocolate are at the forefront of this new trend.

In 2018, chocolate makers are definitely putting more attention to the quality of their inclusions. Not only the chocolate itself has to be flavorful and with a nice texture, but also any addition needs to be carefully chosen. Consumers are now demanding high-quality in every single ingredient.

What other flavors do YOU think will be trendy for chocolate in 2018?

I did NOT get paid and did NOT receive any kind of favor for writing this article. These are my honest opinions at your service.

The post Top 7 Chocolate Flavor Trends For 2018 appeared first on The Chocolate Journalist.

Top 7 Chocolate Flavor Trends For 2018 was first posted on January 5, 2018 at 5:37 am.
©2012 "Welcome to My Blog". Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact me at partners@DanAndJenniferMedia.com
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When it comes to cheap chocolate, the flavor of the cacao used doesn’t really matter.

Its tasting notes are mitigated by powerful ingredients like sugar, butter and milk. Sadly, cacao becomes just another unremarkable addition in the ingredients list. This makes sense though. The ultimate goal of low-quality chocolate is not savoring, but mindless eating. So whether it is fine or bulk, flavorful or flavorless, cacao is mercilessly overlooked in cheap chocolate.

But with craft chocolate, it’s another story.

The flavor of the cacao used is really important in craft chocolate, not so much in cheap chocolate.

Here cacao is King.

Its flavor is the main reason why consumers decide to pay a higher price-tag for their chocolate (unless they are deceived by clever marketing). Often accompanied only by sugar, cacao can’t hide behind other flavors. Its tasting notes are in the forefront, constantly scrutinized by attentive chocoholics.

Since this is chocolate crafted from the bean, every step of the process has the power to influence its end-flavor. The main players are genetics, terroir and fermentation at origin, and roasting and conching in the kitchen. But there are also other less remarkable steps that still have an impact, like transportation and storing.

The product delivered to consumers can therefore be inconsistent for many reasons. We can divide them in two categories:

  • nature. The cacao tree is known to be very promiscuous. In the same farm, there can be many different varieties of cacao. But also the same tree can give birth to cacao pods with different genetics. Not only this, but even inside the same cacao pod there are cacao beans of different colors. Moreover, weather changes at origin are frequent and uncontrollable. It is clear how cacao farmers have limited control over what they are harvesting due to the behaviour of the cacao tree and the frequent changes in the weather (together with other thousand factors).
  • human nature. So many variables affect the products that come out of a chocolate laboratory. Times, temperatures, machines, techniques. Also the skills of the chocolate maker might vary. He/she can do a very good job with certain cacao beans, but find more challenges with others. Even daily mood or energy level can influence the flavor of the chocolate. After all, an artisanal product is affected also by the physical and mental conditions of its creator. While bigger companies manage to keep consistency thanks to innovative hi-tech tools, smaller manufacturers can’t afford such luxuries.

This uncertainty in the end-result is considered by many “the beauty of craft chocolate”. But the marketplace might say otherwise.

The demand-supply game requires some level of consistency. Consumers expect to spend their money on chocolate that tastes like the last time they bought it and enjoyed it. Among many choices, they trust those brands that can deliver products that match their previous positive experiences. If they feel betrayed, it will be hard for a brand to get those customers back.

So, is inconsistency the beauty or the damnation of craft chocolate?

Let’s analyze what’s good and what’s bad about consistency and inconsistency in chocolate flavor development.

Should the flavor of craft chocolate be consistent or inconsistent?


Consistency in craft chocolate means that (ideally) a specific chocolate bar will have the same flavor profile over time. In this scenario, consumers can rely on a specific set of tasting notes that belongs to that bar. This is in fact the first advantage of consistency: returning customers.

Even consumers who understand the fluctuating nature of craft chocolate need some predictability during their shopping. They expect the same flavor from the same chocolate. It doesn’t matter how well educated they are on the subject. They are not afraid of manifesting their disappointment whenever a chocolate maker changes supplier, recipe or doesn’t keep up with standards and expectations. And if consumers are not happy, retailers and distributors are not happy either.

Consistency is a touchy subject for craft chocolate retailers and distributors.

It’s not easy to have craft chocolate makers as suppliers. Some of them take bean-to-bar making as a hobby and can’t guarantee a stable supply. Some others only produce in small quantities. There is also the frequent problem of interrupted supply of cacao beans at origin. If the chocolate maker changes supplier for a specific Single Origin bar, this might taste completely different from the previous one, even though it might hold the same country of origin on the packaging. In this chaos, those who sell directly to end-consumers need to guarantee quality standards for the products they sell. To them, consistency is a priority.

Last but not least, coverture made of craft bean-to-bar chocolate seems to be a new potential niche. Professional pastry chefs are developing great curiosity for this kind of chocolate, to the point that some of them become chocolate makers. This opens the doors to craft chocolate being sold in bulk for business-to-business purposes. But also pastry chefs need to serve desserts that are consistently good to their customers. The chocolate needs to guarantee a consistent harmony with all the other ingredients used in the recipe.

But why should inconsistency be forgiven to other fine foods (like wine and olive oil) and not to chocolate?

Craft chocolate has many similarities with fine wine.

A wine expert knows that the best wines in the world are not made in large quantities.

They often come from small-scale companies that still use artisanal techniques. The vineyard is guarded by the attentive eyes of the owner, who personally handles the wine-making process and adds very little preservatives to the final product. It sounds a lot like craft chocolate. And like craft chocolate, even fine wine is highly affected by weather changes, genetics and diseases (compared to a larger production that can handle these variables more efficiently). Quality standards and flavor profiles widely vary depending on the season. This is why any suggestion about a specific bottle of wine is often accompanied by the year of harvest (of the grapes).

The same mentality should be used for craft chocolate.

If a chocolate bar had the same flavor profile over time, the beauty of craft chocolate would be lost. When consumers taste craft chocolate, they take joy in knowing that they might never try anything like that again. That the unpredictability at origin might interrupt the supply of that fine cacao forever. Or that the chocolate maker might decide to stop the production of that specific bar.

What makes craft chocolate special is the appreciation in the moment. It’s those specific tasting notes that might not be achieved in the next batch.


Inconsistency is definitely charming. Consumers never know what to expect from a craft chocolate bar. And let’s admit it, that’s kind of exciting.

On one side, consumers get attached to their favorite products, and can get upset with so much volatility in the craft chocolate world. But on the other side, this same volatility is what keeps them interested and curious.

Because the assortment of a chocolate maker changes so often, consumers are always looking out for the next product release. They are anticipating new origins, new flavors, new stories. They also know that a specific bar might not taste the same the following year, and they like to keep track of the changes. The assortment of a craft chocolate company can be compared to the seasonal menu of a restaurant. Chefs are excited to work with fresh ingredients, experiment with new products available, not knowing if they are ever going to get those same flavors again. And the clients of the restaurant anticipate the chef’s new creations.

At the same time, inconsistency might not matter as long as the flavors are consistently good.

Is inconsistency in craft chocolate truly a problem after all?

A chocolate maker that puts on the market consistently good chocolate might be forgiven for his/her inconsistency. Flavors may change, origins may change, recipes may change. But if the artisan manages to deliver quality and flavor in every product, consumers might stay loyal even to a variable assortment.

However, there is one occasion where inconsistency becomes truly problematic: the Chocolate Awards.

There is a high risk that the chocolate tasted during these competitions is not going to be the same purchased by consumers. Any chocolate expert knows that the flavor of bean-to-bar chocolate made on a small scale can vary from batch to batch. Even with the same origin and the same making process, two chocolate bars can come out different from one another depending on when they were produced. It might be because of the supplier at origin, because of the current season or because of the skills of the maker. This is the same reason why the indication of the Batch Number in craft chocolate is becoming as important as the Year Of Harvest in fine wine.

As mentioned earlier, craft chocolate is to be appreciated in the moment, because it might be a unique, unrepeatable experience. But when the sticker of an award is appointed on the same chocolate bar throughout months and years, it creates the false illusion that the product is consistently good and worthy of attention. On the contrary, the volatile nature of craft chocolate encourages us to challenge the quality of a chocolate bar at every tasting.

Inconsistency can also compromise the relationship with distributors and retailers.

Consistency is very important to those who have to sell directly to consumers. If a chocolate maker can’t deliver a consistent or consistently good assortment, third parties might decide to interrupt the collaboration.

At this point, should craft chocolate makers try to achieve more consistency or should inconsistency be embraced and celebrated?

The best approach might lie in the middle way.

On one side, there are solutions to achieve more consistency in the craft bean-to-bar world. One of these is for chocolate makers to take detailed notes during every step of the process to find the reasons behind flavor changes from batch to batch. Working hard at origin to establish strict protocols and efficient practices is also a crucial step to take.

On the other side, there are solutions that help inconsistency be appreciated. Educating consumers on the bean-to-bar process is definitely one of them. This way, consumers are made more aware of the fluctuating nature of the flavors in craft chocolate. They can learn to appreciate the beauty of inconsistency and embrace the always-changing assortment of a craft chocolate maker.

What do YOU think about Consistency and Inconsistency in craft chocolate?

I did NOT get paid and did NOT receive any kind of favor for writing this article. These are my honest opinions at your service.

The post Consistency VS Inconsistency In Chocolate Flavor Development appeared first on The Chocolate Journalist.

Consistency VS Inconsistency In Chocolate Flavor Development was first posted on December 21, 2017 at 7:29 am.
©2012 "Welcome to My Blog". Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact me at partners@DanAndJenniferMedia.com
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October is a special month for London.

After the long summer break, the capital of England becomes the center of attention for every chocoholic in the world. For an entire week, the sweet Food of the Gods is glorified from all perspectives. Workshops, tastings, events, lessons, shows. Chocolate is everywhere, from special discounts at the supermarket to pop-up shops offering a fine selection. There is no escaping the sweet rush! Even those who “I don’t care much for chocolate” are captivated by the joy of such celebration and dragged by their chocoholic friends to the best gatherings in town.

During this time, one of the events nobody wants to miss is The Chocolate Show, UK’s largest event dedicated to chocolate.

The Chocolate Show in London is one of the most anticipated events by chocoholics around the world.

On October 13-15, the Olympia Exhibition Center in Kensington, London hosted The Chocolate Show 2017. With 50+ chocolate companies on the exhibitors list, the event managed to offer a vast selection of the finest chocolatiers and pastry makers from the UK and around the world. Also celebrity chef demonstrations, chocolate workshops, sculptures, pop-up chocolate restaurants and professional tastings delighted the hungry attendees.

For regular consumers, this was a special occasion to indulge in delicious chocolate. From a professional point of view, The Chocolate Show was a great chance to discover the latest trends in the industry. What were chocolate companies offering? What were consumers asking for?

Let’s have a look at the latest trends from London:

White Chocolate With Inclusions Becomes Incredibly Popular

This trend has been going on for one year now. Chocolate makers and chocolatiers take plain white chocolate and give it texture and flavor with all kinds of inclusions: raspberries, pistachios, cocoa nibs, matcha. Thanks to the use of high-quality ingredients, white chocolate is slowly but steadily transitioning from a cheap candy to a fine food to be savored just like dark chocolate.

Danish maker Friis-Holm has just launched 3 new bars, including white chocolate with inclusion of cacao nibs. All vegan white chocolate with inclusion of raspberries by British chocolate maker SOLKIKI. Raspberry Lemonade white chocolate bars are the first ones to sell out at Zara’s Chocolates booth.

Lacking the typical flavor of cocoa, white chocolate is often accused of not being chocolate at all. But this doesn’t seem to concern consumers. White chocolate with inclusions was the first kind of chocolate to be sold out at The Chocolate Show in every booth. Even if plain white chocolate can be bland, boring and uninspiring, it can be turned into an intriguing delicacy with the addition of crunchiness (nuts, cocoa nibs) and flavors (spices, teas). Especially when it’s made by small companies with artisanal methods, consumers trust the short ingredients list and the freshness of ingredients.

Consumers Are Educated And Prepared On Chocolate

All the efforts made in the past years to educate consumers on fine chocolate are finally giving results. Exhibitors at The Chocolate Show revealed that they had less explaining to do than they expected. Already familiar with terms like “bean-to-bar” and “single origin”, regular consumers came prepared on the basics and ready to ask more challenging questions.

The level of education among consumers regarding chocolate is definitely increasing.

Conversations on cacao percentages and ingredients lists are officially over. Consumers are finally graduating from that elementary level of knowledge. Now they can name the major countries where cacao is grown, are familiar with the bean-to-bar process and can tell the difference between craft and industrial chocolate. This is the result of a jointed effort. On one side, consumers are more careful about the food they eat and love to conduct their own research. On the other side, the fine chocolate community worldwide has already spent a decade giving consumers all the knowledge to make conscious choices. Conversations with potential customers now focus on more advanced topics, from flavor to fermentation to the well-being of cacao farmers.

100% Cacao Bars Occupy A Prominent Position

The no-sugar trend has no intention to stop. Actually, it is only increasing in popularity. This could be easily told by the prominent position that 100% cacao bars were occupying at The Chocolate Show. If in the past years this kind of bar was kept in a corner, now it is proudly shown in the front row.

Legendary chocolate maker Duffy’s showcases his 100% chocolate bars right at the front of his booth. Manchester-based Dormouse Chocolates makes a 100% cacao bar with Single Origin fine cacao from Guatemala. An attendee of the show buys 3 No-Sugar Madagascar bars from Scottish maker Chocolate Tree.

Because of this popular demand for sugar-free chocolate, every chocolate maker has a 100% cacao bar included in the assortment. But the standards have raised also for this kind of chocolate! Consumers expect it to be flavorful, with some interesting tasting notes that can distract from the lack of sugar. This is not chocolate “for punishment” anymore, but to be savored and enjoyed like any other dark chocolate.

Strong Need For A Community Of European Chocolate Makers

Chocolate makers in Europe look up to chocolate makers in the United States. Observing from afar, they often envy how on the other side of the world knowledge around craft chocolate spreads fast and wide. This happens thanks to an open community of American chocolate makers ready to help each other and share information. In Europe, this sense of community is still in development.

European chocolate makers don’t feel like they belong to a community.

European chocolate makers wish they had more opportunities to come together as a community. Some events like Origin Chocolate in Amsterdam are already in place to achieve this goal, but don’t seem to be enough. In the US, professionals can meet at the Chocolate Makers Unconference in Seattle and at the Fine Chocolate Industry Association events in New York and San Francisco, just to name a few. The attitude of the craft chocolate community in the US is also very different. So called “competitors” visit each other’s chocolate factories, exchange opinions and often call up one another for help. They understand that choosing collaboration over competition means contributing to the well-being of the entire industry. In Europe, chocolate makers tend to be reluctant to the idea of opening the doors of their factories or sharing precious info with other companies, jeopardizing the creation of a real community.

Consumers Ask For Award-Winning Products

At the end of its first day, The Chocolate Show hosted the International Chocolate Awards ceremony that announced the winners of the World Final competition. The following day, every winner exhibiting at the show proudly put on display their awards. Most of those same products sold out within the day.

Russell and Albert from 5D Dimension Chocolates proudly show their GOLD award for the Banana Cardamom chocolate. Peruvian maker Shattell wins Best In Competition GOLD for its Chuncho 70% chocolate bar.

The International Chocolate Awards have raised some criticism lately. Many believe that the awards handed are way too many, and that the tasting method isn’t quite professional (for example, the panel tastes a lot of chocolate in one single day, running the risk to misjudge the last samples). However, it’s undeniable that the system of the Awards works wonders to sell fine chocolate. Consumers looking for signs of quality are reassured by the stickers of the Awards appointed on chocolate products. These are like stamps of approval from professionals in the industry, giving the message that those same products are worth their price tag. At the same time, chocolate makers can sell more chocolate when they win awards. Seems like a win-win situation, right?

More Countries Of Origin Are Making Their Own Chocolate

Recognizing the finesse of the cacao grown in their own country, chocolate makers are inspired to make chocolate that celebrates their heritage. The most popular producers of fine cacao, like Peru and Ecuador, are already accustomed to this trend. But this new phenomenon is also taking place in unexpected countries, like Taiwan and the Caribbean.

Taiwanese bean-to-bar company Fu Wan has grabbed the attention of all the attendees with its fruity cacao and delicate inclusions. St Vincent Cocoa Company in the Caribbean is now making chocolate with the cacao beans from its own farm.

Tired of giving away their precious cacao, farmers have started to see the potential of making their own chocolate for better profits. The path they follow is usually the same: they first produce small quantities of chocolate bars to sell to the local market, then they see how the chocolate performs, and in the case of positive feedback they think about exporting abroad. In other cases, regular chocolate makers who are passionate about the fine cacao grown in their own country turn it into fine flavored chocolate hoping for worldwide appreciation. Either it be tree-to-bar or bean-to-bar, the distance between the cacao tree and the finished product seems to be getting shorter in many places around the world.

The Chocolate Show in London has demonstrated that chocolate consumers are getting more educated, expecting high-flavor profiles from both dark and white chocolate, valuing the recognition from official institutions like the International Chocolate Awards. They are also ready to ask deeper questions and to hear the stories behind the chocolate.

What are YOUR favorite trends from The Chocolate Show in London?

I did NOT get paid and did NOT receive any kind of favor for writing this article. These are my honest opinions at your service.

The post The Chocolate Show In London Confirms New Trends For The Industry appeared first on The Chocolate Journalist.

The Chocolate Show In London Confirms New Trends For The Industry was first posted on October 22, 2017 at 9:52 am.
©2012 "Welcome to My Blog". Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact me at partners@DanAndJenniferMedia.com
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You must have heard it by now.

On September 5th at a private event in Shanghai, giant chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut presented what got gloriously appointed as “the 4th type of chocolate“.

Chocolate experts from all over the world flew to China to assist to the revolution. It actually sounded like a big deal: after 80 years from the invention of white chocolate, the R&D department of the company managed to develop another kind of chocolate.

Next to dark, milk and white, there is now a pink chocolate called Ruby.

The news traveled the Internet fast. Dozens of article started popping out with the images of a eye-catching pink chocolate never seen before. Some of them were probably sponsored and paid for, some others just followed the trend. Nonetheless, in less than 24 hours every chocoholic online knew about Ruby chocolate.

As time went on, the media seemed more confused than ever. Since Barry Callebaut didn’t reveal any info on the actual process behind the pink chocolate, all there was to rely on were mostly enthusiastic marketing claims, and a lot of guessing. From a “new type of cocoa bean” to an “extracted pink powder”, nobody could really wrap his mind around how this Ruby chocolate was actually made.

But when passionate chocoholics online started digging deeper into the situation, the curtain of mystery fell to reveal some unpleasant truths.

The Ruby chocolate launched by Barry Callebaut.

Let’s start with color, texture and flavor.

Ruby chocolate was given this name because of its distinctive pink color. The Switzerland-based company cares to clarify that no flavorings or colors were added to the chocolate to make it look this way. This is an all-natural hue.

Regarding the texture, Ruby chocolate is smooth and creamy. Something in between milk and white, even though no ratio between cacao solids and cacao butter was disclosed by the company.

As for its flavor, Callebaut itself describes it as “not bitter, milky or sweet, but a tension between berry fruitiness and luscious smoothness”. In other words, Ruby should have the taste of chocolate with freshness and fruitiness to it. However, those who have personally tried it at the event in Shanghai, like Clay Gordon from The Chocolate Life, says that “it has little to none of the characteristic cocoa flavor associated with chocolate”.

More than the fourth flavor of chocolate, Ruby sounds like a pink cocoa butter with hint of fruitiness. But where do these peculiar color, texture and flavor come from?

They come from the Ruby cocoa beans, apparently.

These were at first erroneously described by the media as a new type of cocoa bean, almost like a new variety that nobody had ever encountered before, and Callebaut discovered. But now we know that “Ruby cocoa bean” does not refer to a new kind of cacao. It simply refers to cocoa beans who are USED to create Ruby chocolate.

These are cocoa beans that supposedly present the physical characteristics suitable to make Ruby chocolate (like I would call “Sharon oranges” the oranges I use to make my homemade jam, but they are really just simple oranges or a specific kind of oranges I use because they are perfect to make my jam, but I didn’t “discover” or “invent” them, and I am definitely not the only one using them). We can just assume that some cocoa beans are adequate to make Ruby chocolate, and others are not. Or even further, Ruby cocoa beans are just the processed cocoa beans dedicated to the manufacturing of Ruby chocolate. The company hasn’t been clear on the reasons why also the cocoa beans are called Ruby.

What we know is that these beans are sourced in Ivory Coast, Ecuador and Brazil. Sourcing from both West Africa and Latin America, Ruby cacao beans are not single origin and probably not associated in any way to terroir. The company also says that they come from the “same species of cacao plant used to make the chocolate we already know” , and swears that nothing was genetically modified. Therefore, not even genetics explains the peculiarity of these beans.

If Ruby cacao beans are just regular beans, how does the chocolate turn pink instead of its usual brown color? If it’s not in the genetics and in the terroir, the peculiarity must be in the post-harvesting processes.

Here is where passionate chocoholics online started their own research.

Ruby chocolate is presented by Barry Callebaut in Shanghai, China.

Hiding behind the Trade Secret, Barry Callebaut hasn’t revealed any detail on specific processes or ingredients used, leaving space for unlikely speculations regarding secret powders and intriguing compounds. Since the use of added ingredients has been denied, the most plausible explanation must lie in the way the cacao beans are treated after harvesting.

The experienced John Nanci from Chocolate Alchemy believes that “the color comes from processing” and “the processing might preserve a color that otherwise would darken”. At this point, it didn’t take long for curious chocolate makers and consumers to figure out the solution to the dilemma. This new pink chocolate must have something to do with the process to make red cacao patented by the same Barry Callebaut in 2009 (with some new modifications to reach the color pink).

A quick research on Google will lead to the specific patent (HERE). There we find the (most likely) solution served on a golden plate: unfermented cacao beans, acidified.

The explanation of unfermented cacao beans makes sense, on many levels.

First, unfermented cacao beans (raw) have the same pinkish color that we can associate to Ruby chocolate. Once fermented, cacao beans lose this cute color for a more brownish/chocolatey one. Therefore, skipping the fermentation process avoids the pink color to darken.

Secondly, a missed fermentation explains the lack of any chocolatey flavor in Ruby chocolate. Fermentation is the essential step for cacao beans to develop the precursors of the typical flavor of chocolate. By skipping that process, the cocoa beans don’t have time to develop the characteristic cocoa flavor. This would explain why Ruby chocolate doesn’t really taste like chocolate.

For the chemicals/non-chemicals used to acidify the unfermented cacao beans, it’s better to leave a deeper analysis to competent experts. However, we can assume that the unfermented cacao beans are treated to preserve their pink color after harvesting and during the bean-to-bar process. More info inside the patent on Google.

At this point, the Ruby cocoa beans are simply beans that are suited to look pink and taste fruity after the processes intended by Callebaut.

No wonder that this discovery further outraged chocolate professionals online, especially the ones dedicated to craft bean-to-bar practices and devoted to fine flavor. Here are the accusations.

Why do fine chocolate professionals hate Ruby chocolate?

Chocolate professionals in the fine chocolate industry accuse Ruby chocolate of these 3 main things:

    • being a marketing gimmick.

Barry Calleabaut has openly talked about the fact that Ruby chocolate is meant to target Millennials. In the Instagram age where online users go crazy about colorful food, the company is optimistic that Ruby chocolate will create a big buzz among foodies who like to share pictures of their meals. The color of Ruby chocolate perfectly meets the need of Millennials for fancy food to share online. This might be a clever marketing strategy, but definitely leaves the door open for critiques. The company can be accused of caring more about the visual side of the chocolate than its actual flavor, making it perfect for pictures and not so much for palates.

    • being a cost-cutting strategy.

It’s known that unfermented cocoa beans are way cheaper than fermented cocoa beans. The fermenting process takes up anywhere from 5 to 7 days to complete. This means more labour, more infrastructures and more time than just collecting wet cacao on the field and deliver it (or directly drying it). By using unfermented cacao, Barry Callebaut dramatically reduces the cost of its raw material. Moreover, since the flavor of Ruby chocolate is so subtle (and at this point not particularly relevant), the company can afford to be careless about the quality of the cacao beans used, reflecting in lower prices paid at origin.

    • doing nothing to promote fine chocolate.

Without putting any emphasis on flavor or quality, Ruby chocolate is considered a questionable product born to catch the eye, create buzz and nothing more. It doesn’t contribute to the elevation of chocolate as a fine food, nor stimulates consumers to look over its aesthetics. Rumors have it that the cacao used is the controversial CCN-51, known to be the worst enemy of fine flavor chocolate. Also, the fact that the company doesn’t reveal any detail about how Ruby chocolate is processed leaves many speculations about possible GMO and questionable practices.

Barry Callebaut doesn’t sell to end consumers, but only to other businesses. Ruby chocolate will therefore be available only in the shape of coverture for chocolatiers, pastry chefs and other professionals. Because it’s a brand new product, the company says it will be 6 to 18 months before it becomes available on the market. The Ruby cacao beans will not be available for purchasing. The date of release of Ruby chocolate will depend on the country and the vendor, and China will be the most targeted market.

(A special THANK YOU to all the people online who directly or indirectly contributed to this article, with links to the Callebaut patent, articles on Ruby chocolate and other useful information!)

What do YOU think of Ruby chocolate?

I did NOT get paid and did NOT receive any kind of favor for writing this article. These are my honest opinions at your service. 

The post All About That Ruby Chocolate Just Invented By Callebaut appeared first on The Chocolate Journalist.

All About That Ruby Chocolate Just Invented By Callebaut was first posted on September 9, 2017 at 6:15 am.
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Those who love chocolate consider it a perfect food.

Rich in nutrients and poor in side effects, chocolate has been recently liberated from years of bad reputation. It doesn’t cause acne anymore, or contribute to weight gain. Actually, we hear so often about its health benefits that we feel encouraged to eat more of it, without any sense of guilt.

The only negative sides of chocolate mentioned by the media regards socio-economic matters, like child labour and the poverty level of cacao farmers. But there is another discussion going on under the radar that is concerning a growing number of chocolate lovers. A metal intruder is threatening the restored popularity of chocolate.

The buzz killer is called Cadmium.

Why is cadmium found in chocolate?

Cadmium is a heavy metal considered toxic for the human body. When ingested or inhaled, it is not well absorbed by the body, so it accumulates over time and can have detrimental effects on kidneys, lungs and bones. This is why it is classified as a human carcinogen and can potentially increase the risks of cancer.

Although much concern surrounds its consumption, chocolate is not among the foods with the highest contamination of cadmium. As the European Commission highlights:

“The food groups that contribute most of the dietary cadmium exposure are cereals and cereal products, vegetables, nuts and pulses, starchy roots or potatoes, and meat and meat products. Also tobacco smoking can contribute to a similar internal exposure as that from the diet.”

But since the global chocolate market is worth $100 billion, it is worth looking at how cadmium ends up in chocolate and what can be done to limit its presence.

The first big misconception to debunk about cadmium in chocolate is its origin.

Unfortunately, cadmium can’t be “taken out” of chocolate or completely avoided. It is not even the result of industrial processes or questionable manufacturing decisions. No fingers can be pointed at someone in the cacao supply chain for the presence of cadmium in chocolate. Because before any farming practice or chocolate making process, cadmium is already there. Not in the beans, not inside the tree, but in the soil.

Cadmium is found in the soil where cacao trees grow.

Cadmium is naturally found in soil as a result of volcanic activity, forest fires and weathering of rocks. It is then taken up by many plants, like the cacao tree. The amount of heavy metal that ends up in the cacao beans depends on multiple factors. Among all the variables, geographic location and soil acidity are the ones playing the most relevant roles in the exposure of the soil to cadmium. Other factors like cacao variety seem to have less relevancy in this matter.

Despite being considered the world’s prime supplier of fine cacao, cocoa beans from Latin America are particularly affected by cadmium contamination. Due to higher volcanic activities, traces of cadmium are more prominent in cacao from Latin America than from West Africa.

In October 2016, the team at ETH Zurich released the results of an extensive research conducted in Honduras and Bolivia to determine the causes of cadmium contamination at origin. The researchers found significant amounts of cadmium in the soils and beans of some remote hilly regions well away from polluting industry and intensive farming. Most plantations were only managed as agroforestry estates with minimum use of artificial fertilizers or pesticides, both of which can be sources of cadmium pollution.

“We have no concrete proof that the problem is man-made. The cadmium seems to stem almost exclusively from the parent bedrock.” – confirms Dr Gramlich.

It is also still unclear whether the cacao variety has anything to do with the cadmium level in the chocolate. Do specific cacao varieties take up cadmium in their beans more easily than others? Some researchers believe that the more productive clones might be higher accumulators of cadmium, but that’s really not sure yet.

The only certainty seems to be the correlation between cadmium and soil acidity. A higher acidity level in the soil usually corresponds to a higher level of cadmium accumulation. This is why one of the solutions proposed to resolve the problem is to add lime or zinc to the soil. These additions elevate pH and lower acidity.

Another precaution, suggested by the ETC Zurich team, is to check the cadmium content of the soil before planting any cocoa tree. If the levels are too high, another cash crop such as coffee could be grown instead.

Unfortunately, organic farming is not listed among the solutions, as it doesn’t seem to help with the cadmium issue.

If some actions can be taken by cacao farmers, there is really nothing a chocolate maker can do to lower the cadmium in the cocoa beans he/she receives.

Craft chocolate makers are powerless when it comes to cadmium in their chocolate.
PHOTO CREDIT: The Food Pornographer.

The high temperatures reached during roasting won’t get rid of the cadmium in the chocolate. The only precaution a chocolate maker can take is to enhance the traceability of its sources and make sure that its cacao suppliers are taking action to deal with the problem at origin.

Better luck seems to find industrial chocolate manufacturers. They are able to keep down the cadmium content in their products thanks to purchasing in high volume and from different regions. Nonetheless, they are facing legal problems for the heavy metal content in their chocolate. Mars, Hershey and other chocolate manufacturers have received legal notices in 2015 from the non-profit organization As You Sow that accused them of exceeding safety standards for the state of California. The accusations seem to lack the fundamental understanding that cadmium is a naturally-occurring problem.

The latest news in the legal department is the introduction by the European Union of new limits on the amount of cadmium in cocoa products. They will be enforced starting 1 January 2019.

It’s clear that little can be done to prevent cadmium in chocolate or completely eradicate the problem in the short term. For consumers, it is not fun to know that one of their favorite foods might contain heavy metals. However, cadmium in chocolate should not represent a great concern.

As mentioned above, there are other foods consumed daily and in larger quantities that are more affected by cadmium contamination than chocolate. Chocolate consumption that is limited to moderate quantities does not represent a danger for the human body. The side effects of cadmium can also be contrasted by maintaining sufficient levels of iron, calcium and zinc.

Are YOU concerned about cadmium in chocolate?

I did NOT get paid and did NOT receive any kind of favor for writing this article. These are my honest opinions at your service.

The post Cadmium In Chocolate: Everything You Need To Know appeared first on The Chocolate Journalist.

Cadmium In Chocolate: Everything You Need To Know was first posted on August 11, 2017 at 6:56 am.
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It happens all the time.

A renowned chocolate maker starts using cacao beans from a new producer. The chocolate tastes amazing and the word spreads fast. One month later, everybody is using those same beans. Dozens of bars from the same origin start appearing on the market and consumers are delighted by such exciting releases.

But the soul of a craft chocolate maker never settles.

Craft chocolate makers are constantly on the lookout for new exciting cacao origins.

The fact that a lot of companies use the same cacao beans has never been a big deal in the craft chocolate industry. So much goes into the making of good chocolate that the raw material is only the first step. The skills of the maker, the kind of machines, the right timing, the quality of other ingredients. The joy of craft chocolate consumers is actually to taste how different makers interpret the same cacao beans.

However, finding differentiation in such a competitive market is key to success.

This is why chocolate makers venture into trips in the jungle and take financial risks for expensive shipments. They need to find what will set them apart from their competitors. New origins, new experiments, new products.

In 2016, fine cacao from Maya Mountain Cacao in Belize was in every maker’s dreams. In 2017, Kokoa Kamili in Tanzania ran the show. Who will be the most popular producer of fine cacao in 2018?

Here are some new producers that chocolate makers have put their eyes on.

Ucayali River Cacao (PERU)

PHOTO CREDIT: LetterPress Chocolate.

Makers like Lettepress Chocolate and Manoa Chocolate created Single Origin bars with this cacao back in 2015. But it has only been recently that Ucayali River Cacao got the recognition it deserved. Thanks to several chocolate awards achieved in 2017, this Peruvian cacao is now rocking the scene.

Robin, founder of the company, and his partner Marcos are working closely with 400 cacao farmers in Ucayali, inland region of Peru in the Amazon rainforest. They pick up the wet cacao at collecting stations every 15 days and bring it to their processing facility. Here, they take care of fermentation and drying, and get the cacao beans ready for shipment.

They also work closely with USAID and Alianza Cacao of Peru, organizations that are encouraging farmers in the area to abandon coca production for cacao.

Here the main strength of their business: “While most of the farmers in our area have lots of CCN-51, we work only with ICS, TCH, IMC, CMP and local varieties that are known as “comun”.  This mixture of varieties combined with frequent collaboration with Daniel O’Doherty of Cacao Services enables us to produce a unique cacao for our customers.”

Buena Nota Imports (COSTA RICA)

Eric (right) checking on cocoa beans drying for Buena Nota Imports.

New York based Dark Forest Chocolate just won two International Chocolate Awards using the fine cacao of Buena Nota Imports. Under the charisma of his founder Eric, this company is just getting started, but has all the premises to get noticed in the craft chocolate industry. In fact, its Trinitario beans are already in the hands of San Francisco based Dandelion Chocolate, company renowned for being a trend setter in terms of fine cacao origins.

This cocoa is grown at Hacienda Azul in Turrialba, small city in Cartago Province of Costa Rica laying next to an active volcano. It all comes from a small, family-owned farm. The owners work in harmony with local flora and fauna, integrating native trees into the growing process to promote reforestation and create optimal levels of shade. At harvest time the beans are fermented in wooden boxes and then sun-dried to lock in their flavor.

The company is looking to expand its product line soon.

Agro Floresta Mesoamericana (MEXICO)

Agrofloresta analyzes the diversity of Mexican cacao.

A group of passionate agronomists is looking to restore the old prestige of Mexican cacao.  Their mission is to position agroforestry systems as the most attractive option for farmers in mesoamerica.

Thanks to its scientific approach, Agrofloresta currently manages four separate agroforestry projects on the borders of conservation areas and sources cacao from different communities of southern Tabasco and northern Chiapas. While cacao in this area has been traditionally washed and dried to be used in local products, Hugo and his team are working to improve fermentation techniques that bring value to cacao farmers. The cacao they work with is trinitario, but they like to call it “mexicano”.

Agrofloresta has recently acquired a new important customer: Original Beans. It won’t take long before other bean-to-bar makers get interested in this new producer.

CacaoTales (PERU)

Luis (left) from Cacao Tales sources directly from Peruvian farmers.

With exotic notes of passion fruit, the cacao from Chililique sourced by Cacao Tales in Peru is enchanting many chocolate makers and chocolatiers worldwide. From The Chocolate Tree in Scotland, to Chapon in France and Es Koyama in Japan, Cacao Tales is making a name for itself in the industry.

Its founder Luis works in close collaboration with Norandino, agrarian cooperative that unites 30 associations of small coffee, cacao and sugarcane producers. Together, they produce and sell ultra-premium cacao (white native) from the Piura region. Luis, cacao farmer himself, dedicates its life to the Cacao Tales mission, living closely to the farmers and travelling the world to find clients for their cacao.

In his own words:

“Our mission is to give back to the farmers that live in the small communities where our cacao grows, helping them to rediscover their dignity and pride, by directly providing our precious beans to the world’s best chocolatiers.

We envision a future in which chocolate makers and chocolate lovers adequately acknowledge and reward the hard work of smallholder cacao farmers that produce sustainable, ethically and directly traded cacao.”

It will be interesting to see what producer (and from what country) will drive the interest of craft chocolate makers in 2018.

Have YOU heard of other new exciting fine cacao producers?

I did NOT get paid and did NOT receive any kind of favor for writing this article. These are my honest opinions at your service.

The post Craft Chocolate Makers Are Loving These New Cacao Origins appeared first on The Chocolate Journalist.

Craft Chocolate Makers Are Loving These New Cacao Origins was first posted on July 12, 2017 at 6:53 am.
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Approximately 10,800 kilometers or 6,700 miles.

This is how long Madagascan cacao has to travel to reach Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland. It’s a long journey from the African island (the 4th biggest island in the world) and the European island that only counts 330,000 inhabitants. Two places with opposite climates, lifestyles and stories, and yet brought together by a special food: chocolate.

Because this is the power of chocolate: breaking down every barrier between races, religions and nationalities. As one of the most appreciated foods all over the world, it connects people that would have never looked at each other otherwise.

So it happens that in 2013 the craft chocolate fever decided to reach Kjartan Gíslason in Iceland. The story of Omnom Chocolate began.

Omnom Chocolate in Iceland is the northernmost craft chocolate making company in the world at 64 degrees north.

It didn’t take long for Omonom Chocolate to grab the attention of craft chocolate lovers. With a catchy packaging and flavorful chocolate, Kjartan’s bean-to-bar creations surpassed national boundaries quickly. Omnom Chocolate is now sold in specialty stores all over the world and its factory has been visited by many fellow chocolate makers curious to see what was going on in such an interesting location.

Michael Ryan, chocolate maker and project manager, gives us some inspiring insights on the story, the mission and the future goals for Omnom Chocolate.

Omnom Chocolate is now one of the most appreciated craft chocolate brands on the market. How did you guys even start making chocolate?

“Omnom started making chocolate when founder Kjartan Gíslason began testing batches in his home kitchen. It wasn’t until after the first few beans that he realised how inventive chocolate making could be. From there, the company moved into the petrol station and ordered beans bag by bag.”

What were the first Single Origin bars that Omnom Chocolate sold on the market? And how did you find trustworthy suppliers when you were just beginners?

“The first single origin bars Omnom sold were Madagascar 66% and Papa New Guinea. Papua New Guinea is no longer in our line up, but Madagascar still remains as one of our favourites. It’s also one of our most awarded bars.

Omnom Chocolate founder Kjartan Gíslason surrounded by his bean-to-bar creations at Omnom store in Reykjavík, Iceland

Trustworthy suppliers came from the expansion of our test batches. Once we could start buying more than a single bag at a time, it gave us more leverage. But for the most part, it’s now much easier to find fine flavour cacao and get it even all the way up to Reykjavík.”

What do you think are the biggest strengths and the biggest weaknesses of making chocolate in the northernmost capital of the world?

“The biggest strengths of making chocolate here are: the clean renewable energy and the allure of Icelandic culture. The biggest weakness in making craft chocolate here is the sheer distance we have to get everything to travel. Often times we’ll be sitting around polishing moulds until a shipment arrives, then we go crazy making chocolate!”

You seem to always have visitors in your factory, especially craft chocolate makers that travel the world just to come visit you. What makes Omnom Chocolate one of the most innovative companies that other brands look up to?

“We do always have visitors! It’s the best part of our factory and location. New flight stopovers from North America to Europe and vice versa are making it easier and cheaper than ever for new people to discover what Iceland has to offer.

At the Omnom Chocolate factory, every employee, no matter what the position, can make their own test batch of chocolate that they want to, with their own signature touch.

I suppose we’re innovative and alluring just because of how playful we are. Our brand and design definitely translates that message, and you can tell that we’ve made a playful company when you visit the factory. At the end of the day we’re serious and get the work done. We just schedule and plan experimentation and team building into that schedule daily.”

Now we are curious to know. What are the preferences and traditional flavors of Icelandic consumers when it comes to chocolate?

“Icelandic consumers weren’t too picky about their chocolate until we came on to the scene. Of course Lakkrís (liquorice) is very popular here. That’s why we wanted to create a chocolate bar with strong black liquorice flavour. Chocolate is very important when it comes to the holidays of course. For Easter it is very traditional to have a few chocolate eggs filled with candies and a small message inside. We’re currently cooking up some ideas for next year.”

What’s next for Omnom Chocolate? Are you planning to expand production or to keep focusing on the quality of your chocolates? Should we expect new exciting origins?

“Omnom has a lot coming up. Now that we’re in a full factory space, we’ve stabilised our production. Expanding to our current space hasn’t meant any loss of quality though, if anything it has improved many of our bars. We’ve just introduced a new origin, Nicaragua, and we’re very excited about it.

Omnom new Single Origin bars with fine cacao from Nicaragua.

It’s the first chocolate Omnom has made where we visited the cacao farms in person. That was an incredible learning experience for us. Beyond new origins, we’ll have new projects coming up this summer for Reykjavík Pride, and then later in the fall for the upcoming holiday season. Many big, exciting things.”

What pieces of advice would you give to aspiring craft chocolate makers?

“The biggest advice we could have for an aspiring craft chocolate maker is taste and learn. Find as many bars from other companies as you can. Get sample beans from every cacao farmer that will give them to you. Tasting all these different things will give you a better discern of flavours for your own creations. And along the way you’ll end up contacting other makers of bars that you liked the most. We’ve always found that everyone in this industry is friendly and willing to help, because in a lot of ways we are all still figuring it out.”

A big THANK YOU to Michael for this sneak peek into the world of Omnom Chocolate!

Have YOU tried Omnom Chocolate bars from Iceland?

I did NOT get paid and did NOT receive any kind of favor for writing this article. These are my honest opinions at your service.

The post Being A Bean-To-Bar Maker In Iceland: Omnom Chocolate appeared first on The Chocolate Journalist.

Being A Bean-To-Bar Maker In Iceland: Omnom Chocolate was first posted on June 30, 2017 at 11:46 am.
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“We produce delicious Belgian chocolates.”

How many times have you heard these words?

Proud of their claim, many chocolatiers use Belgian Chocolates as their unique selling proposition. They consider it a badge of honor. It’s like they are making some kind of superior chocolates from the regular ones on the market. Like they follow a special recipe, or can guarantee a better quality and origin. Not even the renowned Swiss Chocolate has the same marketing power.

Belgian chocolates have gained the trust of chocoholics throughout history, and many consumers even believe them to be the best chocolates in the world. But what is the exact definition of Belgian Chocolates? And are they really worth the hype?

How to recognize Belgian chocolates?

It all began in 1912. Up till that year, chocolates were made by hand-dipping firm centers like caramels, jellies and thick ganaches into the coverture. The shell of the chocolates was then very thin, allowing for low creativity in the filling that couldn’t be too liquid nor too delicate. Then Jean Neuhaus Jr. from Neuhaus Chocolates invented the praline.

For the first time in history, chocolates could be molded and filled, allowing for a larger size, a thicker chocolate shell and a heavier ganache. This encouraged the creativity of chocolatiers, that could start experimenting with fillings made with all kinds of ingredients. The praline was a revolutionary invention for the chocolate industry, and it gave Belgian chocolatiers a long-lasting fame for their new creations.

That same technique is now used by chocolatiers all over the world. The tempered chocolate is poured in plastic molds and the filling is added inside. Molding has become the most popular way to create chocolates.

If the Belgian invention is now a standard technique, then the peculiarity of Belgian chocolates on the current market can’t really be based on this definition. The praline was definitely a Belgian invention, but it can’t be a distinctive characteristic anymore. Otherwise, ALL chocolates with a hard shell should be referred to as Belgian chocolates. And where would the prestige be?

The peculiarity of Belgian chocolates must be found somewhere else outside the hard chocolate shell. There must be some kind of quality standard that distinguishes Belgian chocolate from the rest ….

…. right?

There are no quality standards for Belgian chocolate.

Unfortunately, there is no legal standard for chocolate to be labelled “Belgian”. Chocolatiers can throw around the term as much as they want to without consequences. But a definition for Belgian Chocolate has been created by the CHOPRABISCO (the Belgian Royal Association for the Chocolate, Praline, Biscuits and Sugar Confectionery Industry).

After the abuse of the Belgian Chocolate denomination, the Belgian association wanted to define these words once and for all. Stipulated in 2008, the BELGIAN CHOCOLATE CODE defines:

“Belgian chocolate” as chocolate of which the complete process of mixing, refining and conching is done in Belgium.

And “Belgian products” as foods made in Belgium with Belgian chocolate as defined.

Based on this definition (the only one available anyway), Belgian chocolates are simply pralines made in Belgium. It is all a matter of geographical location. The “hard shell” characteristic is not even taken into consideration. As long as they are made inside the Belgian borders, any kind of chocolates are Belgian chocolates.

But even if made in Belgium, what would be the prestigious side of such pralines? Why would chocolate made in Belgium be more special than chocolate made anywhere else and need to be protected?

The CHOPRABISCO definition doesn’t include any objective standard for quality. It doesn’t mention any prestigious cacao variety to make Belgian chocolate. No artisanal techniques are involved either. Chocolatiers don’t need to possess any specific skills.

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In the Belgian Chocolate Code, its authors just assume that Belgian chocolatiers, because of their historic fame, use the finest ingredients on the market. And Belgian chocolate is the main fine ingredient they use. Therefore, they believe that Belgian Chocolate and Belgian Chocolates are definitions that should be protected.

Basically, the fame that Belgium acquired for its innovation in 1912 should now guarantee the quality of Belgian chocolates in modern times.

So much naiveness for 2017!

Too bad that also the vast majority of chocolate consumers thinks in the same way. They often enter a chocolate shop and inquire for Belgian chocolates or chocolate, thinking to be getting the best stuff on the market. A geographical indication is now naively mistaken for quality.

Like all wine in Italy would be worth its price tag. Like all French cheese was made using quality ingredients. Like all cacao from Ecuador was fine cacao.

Consumers are often led to believe that Belgian chocolate is better than chocolate from other origins.

As we saw, Belgian chocolates are not defined by any quality standard. Therefore, they shouldn’t hold a badge of honor by default. And consumers shouldn’t assume that these pralines are made with good chocolate or prestigious ingredients.

There are many factors that influence the quality of chocolate products. Unfortunately, the geographical location of a chocolate factory is none of them. Moreover, many companies that claim to be making Belgian chocolates are outside of Belgium. How are their treats even Belgian?

Their creations have nothing to do with the long tradition and the skills of Belgian chocolatiers (if that was even a thing). Many of them simply use chocolate coverture made in Belgium, and their regular supplier is often Callebaut.

Making its chocolate from bean-to-bar, Callebaut is one of the largest companies that supply covertures to all categories of professionals, from chocolatiers to pastry chefs. It is known for sourcing bulk cacao in West Africa and for selling low quality products in the business-to-business segment all over the world. When professionals have a tight budget for their chocolate products, it’s Callebaut they call upon.

Callebaut chocolate coverture is 100% Belgian. Mixed, refined and conched in Belgium. Regardless, it is one of the lowest quality chocolate that professionals can use. The problem is that any chocolatier that uses Callebaut chocolate in his/her creations can triumph on its packaging to be making “delicious Belgian chocolates or chocolate”. While the main ingredient is actually of very poor quality.

It is clear how Belgian Chocolate and Belgian Chocolates are worthless definitions.

In the end, “Belgian chocolates” and “Belgian chocolate” simply mean MADE IN BELGIUM. These chocolate products are not inherently better than any product manufactured somewhere else. Used by companies to profit from a long-gone Belgian splendor, these words shouldn’t influence chocolate consumers in their decision-making process. The naiveness surrounding Belgian chocolate, Swiss chocolate, French chocolate or chocolate from any other country should be stopped.

No country produces the best chocolate in the world. It’s all a matter of quality ingredients, regardless the geographical location on a map.

What is YOUR opinion on Belgian Chocolates?

I did NOT get paid and did NOT receive any kind of favor for writing this article. These are my honest opinions at your service.

The post Time For You To Stop Believing The Lies Behind “Belgian Chocolates” appeared first on The Chocolate Journalist.

Time For You To Stop Believing The Lies Behind “Belgian Chocolates” was first posted on June 18, 2017 at 3:15 am.
©2012 "Welcome to My Blog". Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact me at partners@DanAndJenniferMedia.com
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Who wouldn’t want to make chocolate for a living?

Instead of a sad corporate job, you’d spend your days playing Willy Wonka. A chocolate factory would be your office, and with the magical power to turn cacao beans into chocolate, you’d be the hero of your neighborhood.

Except that you would need to have the skills of six different professionals, while getting only one paycheck.

Machines are an important part of the life of a chocolate maker.

This is what aspiring chocolate makers often don’t know. In order to make and sell chocolate successfully, they need to have the skills of a chef, a chemist, a biologist, a sales person, an engineer and a designer. All in one or very few people. The craft chocolate business might be a sweet one, but there is no space for laziness.

Among these abilities, knowing how to deal with chocolate machines is a MUST.

Makers spend more than 10 hours a day with these metallic friends. They need to learn how to cope with any break-down, fussy acting and uncooperative behavior. No wonders that many successful chocolate makers were once engineers.

But the talks about bean-to-bar chocolate machines don’t happen often. Or at least, they happen behind closed doors between chocolate makers who try to help each other.

This is why today Lorenzo from Packint Chocolate Machines will help us shed some light on the topic. Having been in the business for the past 40 years, Packint Chocolate Machines makes some of the most renowned bean-to-bar machines on the market for any company size. A trustworthy source (and a real life friend) perfect to answer the following questions.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions that new bean-to-bar makers have when it comes to chocolate machines?

“Given my small conflict of interest answering this question, I would say there are many misconceptions.

One of the most common is that several new makers confuse the qualities of the old technology (for example, two separate steps for refining and conching) with the need for old machines. Old machines are fancy, but they can have low efficiency and high energy consumption. New machines are designed to replicate the achievements of the old technology, while performing much better, being more affordable, and having an easier maintenance.

Lorenzo (left) showing a roasting machine to aspiring chocolate makers during an open house at Packint headquarter in Deer Park, New Jersey.

Size is also important. Starting up is always a matter of budget, but when it comes to scaling up, just keep buying small machines is not efficient in terms of productivity, costs and energy consumption. Even without compromising on quality, the bean-to-bar industry must be a profitable business to survive and grow.

Other possible mistakes can happen in the selection of the right equipment. Two machines with the same name are not necessarily the same. And the criteria to choose a machine cannot just be the price.

Our advise to any maker selecting machines is to see them, work with them (with his/her own ingredients), make the final product and take decisions only after that. This way, any risk is minimized. No investment is too big not to take the time to travel and put your hands on the machines. We have two productive show rooms in Italy and US just for that purpose.”

How can new bean-to-bar makers know how much money they should be spending on chocolate machines?

“In a time when many small makers are scaling up, the budget is a major point of discussion. Same goes for those who are starting from zero, either in industrial or craft bean-to-bar chocolate.

We found along the 45 year of experience of the company in this field that a good general rule is to allocate 1/3 of the total budget for the machines, and keep the rest for the working space, the ingredients, the packaging, the labor costs, the marketing costs and other general costs. In case of scaling up, allocating 1/2 of the budget for the machines is also a good practice.

We often have to cool down the enthusiasm of potential customers for our machines, because they need the capital to purchase the equipment, but also to run it continuously (and possibly invest more later). Sometimes it’s wiser to keep a lower productivity and remain financially solid.”

Since Packint Machines personalizes machines for its clients, what are the most common requests you get from chocolate makers? And are they all practicable?

“Being open to customize the chocolate machines is one of the characteristics appreciated by our customers. However, this is not always easy, especially with the challenges of the new bean-to-bar industry.

We have been lucky to find on our way smart people that give us many ideas, like Johnny Iuzzini, or the team of Dandelion Chocolate, and in particular their chief engineer Snooky Robins. Their wonderful two-ingredient chocolate is one of the most complicated products ever, and many improvements to our machines are now available to everyone thanks to him and to them.

Packint prerefiner run by Johnny Iuzzini, internationally acclaimed pastry chef, book author, TV personality and now also craft bean-to-bar chocolate maker.

An example is the new unclogging system implemented in our low speed ball mills, designed especially for extremely viscous chocolates. Another improvement in the ball mill developed with Dandelion is the pre-conching system, with programmable humidity/acidity extraction and hot air inlet.

Some chocolate makers understand that this whole thing is new. We are learning too, and our machines are growing and getting better in every new model. Also, the fact of using our own machines every day in our productive showrooms makes us understand the struggle of the every-day’s life of a chocolate maker and helps us improve.

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What we cannot replicate with automation is the perfection of the human touch, but we tend to it as much as we can. And this is one of the most common requests of small makers scaling up.

An example is the winnower: while the law allows 1,75% husk in the nibs, those who hand-make the winnowing process want 0%, and when they scale up they demand the same purity, which is impossible with automatic machines. Our winnower achieves 99.9% pure nibs, and sometimes this is not considered enough, although it is a really good result.”

What are some good maintenance practices you would recommend to keep the machines in good conditions?

“Our machines are robust and designed to be handled and maintained easily. During all installations, we train the personnel and we keep a constant after-sale service active in case of need. Still, our machines are not for home-making or artisan purposes.

They are industrial machines just in small scale, designed from our big industrial models. Therefore, we strongly advise our customers to have or have available technical people that alone or with our support can solve quickly any issue.

Scaling up brings more efficiency and productivity, often a better quality too, but it requires also a change in the approach. An example is programmed maintenance, implemented by the industries and disregarded by some growing makers: cleaning the heaters of the double jacketed machines from water hardness is a quick job that can prevent electric failures and stops of production.”

Are there any interesting trends/new technologies in the chocolate machine field that bean-to-bar makers should be aware of?

“I would say that it is happening the opposite. It’s the big makers looking at the bean-to-bar trend.

We have the privilege to be suppliers of any size of makers. From that point of view, we see that the big guys and the giants too are looking to the new wave, sometimes scared and sometimes trying to surf it. Talking about machines, the industrial technology helps the productivity, but has to be adapted to be used in the bean to bar industry.

Take for example our partners of Technochoc in the alliance Rockgate Group: they make molding lines up to 1200kg/h. It’s big stuff, but they designed a small and versatile molding line for up to 150 kg/h handling the two-ingredient chocolate, and able to even make bars with inclusions, filled pralines, chocolate chips, covering any need of a small-medium maker in a very small space.”

What is your best selling machine and why do you think it sells so well?

“Our best seller and also the very first machine we made 25 years ago is the low speed ball mill.

Packint’s low speed ball mill built for small productions (50Kg/h).

This kind of refiner for chocolate achieves perfect fineness and particle size distribution. The applied technology of low speed together with building materials prevents overheating and, as a great maker in Kailua HI says, achieves a “better chocolate”. The improvements and the adds-on to this machine in the last years have been impressive.

Another machine that I need to mention is the winnower. Not because it achieves 99.9% nibs, or because it is silent and never stops. But because designing it with the help of the great chocolate master Guido Castagna 10 years ago opened us the doors of the bean-to-bar world.”

Are there new machines that Packint is about to release or has just released?

“More than introducing new machines frequently like some makers do, we focus our R&D resources on improving the existing ones. All machines are upgraded so often that I would say that there is a new version of a machine every month!

The last new machine we introduced is the cocoa butter press. It is something unique that allows the production of up to 8kg/h of cocoa butter.

We believe it is better to do well few machines than just do a lot of things. For this reason we founded with Rollermac, Gami and Tecnochoc the Rockgate Group: all together, like the 4 musketeers, we can provide any machine for chocolate at any size, each company focusing on what it knows best, keeping a dynamic structure and at once providing a better and turnkey service to all our customers.”

A big THANK YOU to Lorenzo from Packint Chocolate Machines for these precious insights on bean-to-bar chocolate machines! If you are attending the Fine Chocolate Industry Association conference in New York this Summer, you can visit Packint Chocolate Machines headquarter in Deer Park, New Jersey during an official open house on June 23rd.

What advice do YOU have on bean-to-bar chocolate machines?

I did NOT get paid and did NOT receive any kind of favor for writing this article. These are my honest opinions at your service.

The post An Important Conversation On Bean-To-Bar Chocolate Machines appeared first on The Chocolate Journalist.

An Important Conversation On Bean-To-Bar Chocolate Machines was first posted on June 13, 2017 at 3:57 am.
©2012 "Welcome to My Blog". Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact me at partners@DanAndJenniferMedia.com
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