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Issue 39: The World of Craft Chocolate
Happy Monday to you all.
I thought I’d help you start off your week right by taking you on a very quick, 5 minute tour around the world to meet some of the superstars of Craft Chocolate. We start and end in Seattle where I met all of these fantastic makers. You can read more about the US based makers in last week’s post.
Passport (and wallet with large saving account dedicated to chocolate spending) ready? Ok! Here we go…
VENEZUELA!! 20/20 Chocolates
Some amazing cacao is grown in Venezuela, usually bought up by makers in other countries to make their chocolate. 20/20 is Venezuelan, making Venezuelan chocolate from Venezuelan beans from both their own farms and local producers. Not only do they grow some varieties of cacao that make for beautiful chocolate, but they are also doing it in an agroforestry system. Founded by the Esteves family in Carabobo in 2017, the name makes references to the area of the world where cocoa can be grown (the cacao belt) which is 20 degrees north and south of the equator. Their Green mango and salt dark chocolate and their 70% Yaracuy are both on my shopping list.
Vincent, an advertising exec from San Francisco and Samuel, a recovering banker living in Saigon, met in Vietnam and visited a cacao plantation on a whim. Today they have been one of the drivers of craft chocolate, in particular this idea of terroir, that crops taste different based on where they are grown, the soil, the environment etc. They make chocolate from cacao grown in different regions of Vietnam which showcase the diversity of flavours in the country. You can travel to the Bén Tre Province, the jungle hills of Dong Mai Province just by eating a piece of chocolate. https://marouchocolate.com/
Thailand!! Thailand Craft Chocolate Festival
Visiting Thailand is never a bad idea really. But if you are going to visit, visit in February so that you can visit the Thailand Craft Chocolate Festival and Tony! Thailand has a long history with cacao and doesn’t only grow it, but has a growing number of chocolate makers locally turning it into very nice bars. I really enjoyed the box that showcases cacaos from 10 different farms around the country.
TAIWAN!! Fu Wan Chocolates
Fu Wan Chocolates has been making fine chocolates, using cacao sources from around Taiwan, since 2014. But Fu Wan is so much more than that. One of the many very interesting things that Warren does with his chocolate is to play around with different approaches to the fermentation of the cocoa beans by adding in different fruits, yeasts and flavours. I bought a lot of chocolate here, a few bars where beer yeasts were added to the ferment. Fu Wan Chocolates also has accomodation, farm tours and chocolate making classes available.
JAPAN!! Green Bean to Bar
I love Green Bean to Bar (I’ve reviewed their hot chocolate on my site here). They have a beautiful cafe in Nakameguro. We even chose a hotel just a few blocks away so that we could linger here most of the day. You can watch the chocolate making process, buy products and sip their hojicha hot chocolate. They make chocolates, and bonbons, using cacao sourced from around the world.
NORWAY!! Fjak Chocolate
If you ask my kids to name a craft chocolate company, chances are they will tell you about Fjak. I got lots of parent brownie points for introducing them to the Milk chocolate and brown cheese bar and the white chocolate and cheese hot chocolate. Trust us, this combination is perfect!! The cheese, along with all the rest of the ingredients they add to their chocolate, are local, celebrating the flavours of Norway. Think reindeer moss, lingonberry, oak smoked salt, gingerbread and blackcurrants.
UNITED KINGDOM!! Willie’s Cacao
Willie Harcourt-Cooze is both a chocolate maker and farmer, who doesn’t only make chocolate, but takes it to a whole new level in the UK. This chocolate is made both from the cacao he grows on his farm, Hacienda El Tesoro in Venezuela as well as from other local makers. The company sells many different products (including a very nice hot chocolate) and lots of special seasonable mixes.
MEXICO!! Cuna de Piedra
Cuna de Piedra doesn’t only make chocolate from cacao grown in Mexico (where it is growing primarily in Tabasco and Chiapas regions). Their products also look beautiful. They sell a Starter Kit with a selection of most of their bars in a small black box. I reached for that first, but ended up splurging and buying their modern take on a metate; a wooden tool used to froth up hot chocolate, as well one of each of the hot chocolates. I also ran back to spend my last pennies on their chocolate with Mezcal (both woven and reposado).
Last but not least, I wanted to share this video from Uncommon Cacao, a company that sources high quality cacao from around the world and sells it to craft chocolate makers who turn it into chocolate. They publish a annual Transparency Report outlining who they are working with and the prices they pay for cacao. The market prices for cacao are very low, as are the Fair Trade prices, lower than you would ever imagine (which is why most cacao farmers are very poor). All the makers above, and Uncommon Cacao, pay much more for beans than Fair Trade prices, which is worth thinking about if you are looking to support farmers through your purchases.
Before you get back to work after this whirlwind trip around the world, I just wanted to show you these eggs from The Chocolate Detective. I don’t get into chocolate holidays that much, but love the idea behind this range of Easter eggs that look like the real eggs from different birds in the UK, and even sold in little egg cartons.
Have a great week!
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