My chocolate enthusiasts! I hope you enjoy yourselves while reading this, appreciating a piece of great chocolate. I've thought of writing to you about what's happening in the world of better chocolate. Like we offer a curated selection of the best bean-to-bar chocolates of the world (HERE), we would like to provide you with what is happening beyond the chocolate bars themselves.
There is a lot of information; as chocolate experts, we receive numerous newsletters and always look at how this movement is growing. You would likely want to know, so you will find many more reasons to explore these experiences.
Let's start with The Chocolate Journalist, Sharon Terenzi
In one of her most recent articles, "New trends in single-origin chocolates," HERE, She thinks that small-batch chocolate makers always want to try new origins (countries) to highlight their skills with different cacao flavor profiles. They always look for cacao beans with good genetics AND high-quality fermentation and drying techniques after harvest.
After classic cacao bean origins like Tanzania, Madagascar, Colombia, and Ecuador… She thinks Thailand, Togo, and El Salvador might be the upcoming trends in single-origin dark chocolate bars. Based on her writing, some regions in these countries have local people and teams that care about REAL fine flavor cacao and chocolate. I have tried chocolate bars made with cacao beans from these regions like Padai (Thailand). Still, I've yet to from El Salvador and Togo. I'll be looking for them soon and let you know.
I wonder if new chocolate makers are using these origins and/or if established makers will use unexplored origins and stop using "old" classics. What happened to the long-term business relationships created with now classic single-origin chocolate bars?
Then we have the famous site The Chocolate Life by Clay Gordon.
In one of his current articles, Clay describes a "road trip" he's doing while moving out from New York City. Initially, I thought he wasn't writing about chocolate, but then he mentioned GoodNow Farms Chocolate.
It seems that during his trip, he will be doing some "chocolate stops." This time he met with Monica and Tom Rogan, the creators of amazing chocolates.
They created the chocolate-making space within their farm; the images are unique. What an inspiring landscape! That explains why they make such delicious chocolate bars.
We have made similar trips, the last one being to Utah, where we visited Ritual, Chocolate Conspiracy, and Caputo's… (upcoming article with that story). Every time I plan a vacation, I think about what chocolate or cacao-related visit I can do to learn more about, meet more people, continue building relationships, and grow this world of better chocolate.
Clay's article caught my attention with the newest chocolate flavors and origins, like a recent single origin from Nicaragua (El Carmen), and unexpected mixes like chocolate with caramelized onion. I would agree with him that the maple sugar bars are too sweet.
Looking forward to his other visits…
Now is the turn of the International Institute of Cacao and Chocolate Tasting or IICCT
In the past few months, IICCT, in addition to its cacao and chocolate tasting courses, has been trying to encourage and bring together its alumni community. This means volunteer opportunities to help, local groups forming, and new alumni-driven activities to help grow the world of tasting better chocolate.
I've been part of the sessions to collaborate and give structure to this new community, creating the FB alumni group.
There is already a hybrid meeting scheduled at the end of May, in-person and virtual, with opportunities to grow our chocolate skills. (I won't be able to attend in person; I will try the remote.)
I don't like that another group of chocolate experts is trying to get us together instead of collaborating and growing along with others. It seems we are growing in separate ways (I'm referring to other like-minded chocolate experts and enthusiasts who have also tried to develop this movement.)
I do like that through local volunteers like myself and many more active alumni, we could potentially link all these other enthusiasts and be the connectors within the better chocolate world.
Then we have the Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA)
FCIA is a non-profit membership organization that groups chocolate professionals and supports the fine chocolate industry. Club ChoKolate has been a member since 2016. They submit a monthly newsletter providing relevant information about this movement.
They mentioned a few exciting things in their latest edition (March 2023). First, they talked about HCP #17 cacao bean from Guatemala. This is a project, the Heirloom Cacao Preservation, that helps identify and maintain unique and excellent cacao beans. Farmers or owners can apply, and there is a comprehensive evaluation of the bean and its processing. After extensive evaluation and consideration, you might be certified. Genetics are preserved, and you can offer your beans for a premium price. We can enjoy chocolates made with unique fine-flavor beans.
They also have and promote fine chocolate events, the next one being their summer conference in NYC. Many chocolate experts are in one place with activities like chocolate tasting, the glossary project, networking, and how to grow your business.
The most fascinating topic they brought up is a recent FDA ruling about cacao powder and how and if you can label and promote the health benefits of cacao powder and its flavonol content. This FDA ruling states that there is no sufficient evidence for this claim. You can use the statement only if your product has X amount of flavonols. This will favor big industry players since they can do this testing in every batch (request made by one of the big players). It is unlikely that Small / Craft makers will have the capacity or financial resources to prove they meet the requirements. Sourcing practices and fine genetics/flavor is not even considered.
Lastly, they mentioned The Chocolate Glossary, a tool in progress where multiple volunteers, guided by experts, are trying to produce a document defining fine chocolate (and fine cacao) terms. Hence, we all speak the same language, and consumers start learning what we mean when we reference certain words. Hopefully, it'll help differentiate us from the candy chocolate industry, which always tries to trick consumers into buying things that are not what they appear on the outside.
Last but not least, we have Cocoa Runners
They are an online chocolate store and education platform like ours, but they are in the UK. Their weekly newsletter has a lot of exciting information mixing the curious and rare with the world of chocolate.
I wanted to include something extraordinary from their latest one on 4/23/23. They got in-depth into texture. How Scientists have studied texture perception and how we can recognize or not certain flavors depending on texture, as well as how texture can make us feel a good or not experience with things we eat. There are cultural differences in texture. One such difference is the language used to describe textures; for example, we have 80 words in English, and there are more than 400 such expressions in Japanese or Chinese.
Also, we have mechanoreceptors in our mouth, like in our skin, and they detect as small as 30 micros detection. Chocolate makers trying to get down to 10 micros (grinding and conching) so our perception changes from grainy to silky.
In addition, tastes can change our perception of texture, like a salty ingredient could make us feel a bar of smooth chocolate sharper or less creamy.
Our saliva amount and composition change taste and texture perception too, which is an explanation for letting a piece of chocolate melt so we can perceive all textures and flavors. It was fascinating that there are different "taste or texture personalities." There are various ways for people to enjoy food - chewers, crunchers, smoochers, suckers… Now I know why some of our clients ask me if they can chew or bite on the chocolate... they might be from the "crunchers' team."
Also, like we always explain during tasting events, flavors are memories, and memories are significant in determining our texture and flavor experience. For instance, creamy textures are associated with warm memories, which might be why ice creams feel warmer than sorbets, even if they are at the same temperature. Also, vanilla in chocolate can make it appear sweeter and smoother because we associate it with sweet treats.
A term I never heard before, Acoustic tribology studies how specific frequencies determine textures in food:
- High frequency crunchy
- Low frequency smooth
Chocolate is no exception, and our flavor perception changes depending on how different the texture is. Big food companies have spent the financial resources to explode the texture as a medium for us to like their products more and more.
Craft chocolate makers are trying to provide us with a fantastic chocolate experience by using high cacao butter content beans, adding cocoa butter or non-flavor emulsifiers, and grinding techniques (roll mills and others) to deliver a unique experience that we want to repeat.
Lastly, they mentioned the term "sensory-specific satiety," which explained why we might not want to consume the same ice cream repeatedly but might indulge in many scoops if there are different flavors.
This is it for now. I plan to offer this information monthly, so we are up-to-date with the better chocolate world. If you liked this reading, please share the link or the sign-up form HERE.