Thank you to everyone who has read my craft chocolate reviews, and interview blog posts! My blog name has now changed a bit, and is in a new location:
On the my new site you can locate reviews and interviews so much easier!
Thank you for continuing to follow me on this craft chocolate journey!
Friday, May 12, 2017
Friday, April 7, 2017
I've been wanting to try Chocolate Tree's Whisky Nibs 69% dark chocolate bar since last year, and I'm happy to report I've not been disappointed.
Chocolate Tree is a bean to bar maker located in Scotland. To quote from their website "Our mission is to create fine flavour chocolate whilst protecting biodiversity and rewarding farmers with a true premium for their crops of heritage cacao varieties. We purchase cacao from farms in Peru, Colombia, Venezuela and Madagascar".
For this bar they take cacao nibs from South America, and then soak them in premium single malt whisky from Islay. What I love about this bar is that the true whisky flavor is present. Bars I've had using liquor by other makers often use the liquor in a sweet filling of sorts, but this comes through as if you had a glass of whisky in your hands. Well done!
Pic of Chocolate Tree's Whisky Nibs chocolate bar taken here in Port Townsend, WA
This bar arrived as part of a chocolate perk package "Three good things" I ordered from Chocolate Tree's Indiegogo campaign. This perk also included some of the best chocolate bonbons I've had in a long time (only 4 pieces left, I will miss them!), and a single-origin hot chocolate made with cacao from Peru. Very tasty. (I also order the "liquid chocolate" perk, so soon I will have even more of their drinking chocolates to try).
Chocolate Tree's Whisky Nibs (International Chocolate Awards British silver winner 2016):
Color: Medium brown.
Nose: Peat, oak, smoke.
Texture: Smooth chocolate with a nice crunch from the nibs.
The Whisky Nib bar is actually 2 individually wrapped bars in 1 package.
Taste: Peat, charred oak, smoke, cigar, toasted bread. Very complex.
Finish: Long finish.
As of today (4-7-17) Chocolate Tree has 10 days left on their Indiegogo campaign to build a new chocolate factory at: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/chocolate-tree-s-new-chocolate-factory-food#/ This campaign is a great way to try their chocolate that really isn't available in the US yet.
Hope to see Chocolate Tree at the next NW Chocolate Festival in Seattle, WA!
Check out all my chocolate reviews, and cooking videos at:
Friday, March 31, 2017
Map Chocolate's Meteor Shower bar is one of my new favorite inclusion bars! This dark/milk bar is made from 65% Honduras chocolate with toasted black sesame, Maldon salt, and black lava salt.
Map Chocolate Meteor Shower Picture Taken at Fort Worden, Port Townsend, WA
Color: Medium/dark brown.
Nose: Sesame, nutty, salt, chocolate pudding.
Map Chocolate Meteor Shower Chocolate Bar
Texture: Smooth chocolate meets some crunch of the sesame seeds, and salt.
Taste: Sesame, salt, smoke. I love that the chocolate itself still shines through even though sesame can be powerful. I feel like a sweetness comes from, or is enhanced up by, the salt, and not just the sugar in the bar.
Finish: Very long, complex.
In fact, everyone I've shared this bar with lists "complex" as a description. For the guys out there, my husband describes this bar as "incredibly enjoyable", as well.
Let us just say this bar is now on my list of nominees for the category "best inclusion bar" for my next Dark Matters chocolate awards at the end of this year.
What are your favorite chocolate bar inclusions?
Check out Map Chocolate Co:
Watch my chocolate reviews, and cooking videos:
Friday, March 24, 2017
I'm excited to be sharing another interview with all of you chocoholics out there. This time I interview Lauren Heineck who makes bean to bar chocolates called WKND Chocolate out of Denver, Colorado. She also produces a podcast celebrating women in chocolate titled Well Tempered which may be found on both her website, and now on iTunes. Lauren also promotes strong community ties with those in all aspects of the chocolate industry from farmers, chocolate makers, suppliers, and chocolate reviewers (like yours truly), and more. Needless to say, she is one busy, and creative lady!
Lauren Heineck of WKND Chocolate. Photo Credit: http://www.jennisummerstudios.com/
Victoria Cooksey: What was your first experience in trying craft chocolate? How did it change your views on chocolate?
Lauren Heineck: It's perhaps difficult to lump them into the craft chocolate scene as I know it now, but Michel Cluizel was the first single origin chocolate tasting experience I'd ever had. It was 2010 and I was living in Spain at the time; MC was the most high-end chocolate sold at local retailers, followed by Cacao Sampaka and Blanxart, two national brands. I was enthralled by the idea that chocolate could taste like green bananas...the 'Maralumi (1er Cru de Plantation) 64%' was my gateway bar. Shortly thereafter I followed closely the progress of Dandelion Chocolate and procured an internship of sorts in the spring of 2012 that was unfortunately shorter lived due to my husband's visa situation. The cacao bug was well embedded by that time however, and what followed were chocolate reviews (http://www.sobremesainspain.com/2013/05/Marou-chocolate-vietnam.html), trips to factories, and now -- starting a boutique chocolate company alongside community/industry endeavors.
My views on chocolate didn't change that drastically at the time (I still purchased chocolate croissants without consideration or asking 'where is the chocolate from/made?'), because it was difficult - and I believe still is for everyday consumers - to comprehend the true nature of the ingredient, the people that make up the supply and production chain, without checking out library books, or instinctively knowing who to trust. It's unfortunate that few consumers learn about the dark side of chocolate until very late, if at all, therefore, I admire my colleagues making this a mission to not only train and surprise the palates of their clientele, but create do-better ambassadors and shoppers.
V.C.: How did you become interested in making craft chocolate?
L.H: I've always used my hands; I played national & collegiate level water polo, which is a blend of European handball, basketball, and wrestling in a 25M pool. I didn't recognize the terminology of maker being applied to myself until recently as I had reserved that term for cobblers, calligraphers, etc.
I foresee a life in the cacao/chocolate industry, whether that is eventually at origin, managing my own business to its full capacity, writing, or empowering communities for more sustainable futures. I felt learning to make from the bean was indispensable for understanding other factors of chocolate and its myriad biological elements and human components, essentially learning to walk before you can run.
V.C.: What inspires the flavor combinations you use in your chocolate?
L.H: The pithy answer would be everything - it could be as profound as the color of the Rivera Maya Caribbean Sea, or as trivial as a diner blackberry cobbler I see on Netflix, however the bulk of my experimentation of flavors harks back to my adoration for the natural world, and obsession with travel and local wet markets. I'm still finding my voice as a chocolate maker, but I do identify as a insatiable chef. Mangosteens from a Bangkok street vendor, baklava in Istanbul, chimichurri from Buenos Aires; I want my creations to be as peripatetic as I am.
WKND Chocolate Packaging. Photo Credit: Lauren Heineck
V.C.: What challenges have you found with making your own chocolate?
L.H.: What a question! If you haven't encountered challenges whilst making chocolate you're doing something wrong. I want to use these very early stages to improve, pioneer, improve again, while growing a loyal community of people that believe in WKND. The big questions weighing on me right now are mainly: 1) do I want to scale? -- even if that means going from hyperlocal sales to neighboring state wholesale accounts and 2) if I do grow, how will I manage - on a very tight budget - the transition to include necessary machinery, especially when the industry is undergoing such high turnover of machines improving upon themselves year after year.
V.C.: How did your podcast, Well Tempered, come about? What would you like to achieve through making your podcast?
L.H.: The response to this is manyfold. Having worked in startups there is a common force behind many companies basing their business models (or MVP) around fixing a contemporary problem, innovating upon the status quo, or simply creating something that hasn't existed before. I noticed quickly upon entering the chocolate industry that the brands receiving the most attention and media coverage were equipped with males at their helm; few females were seen or heard. I wanted to highlight and celebrate women in the industry, from the soil to point-of-sale, who pour their entire being into loving, honoring, and propagating chocolate enjoyment (and sustainability through this cacao). My desire for the podcast is to aid the industry to push forward and become less unattainable to the public or future makers, to inspire other women, for instance, to get back into their family's business at origin because they witness the growth of specialty chocolate, or find more confidence in starting or updating their own craft company (any food or retail product), as well as introduce consumers to makers, job opportunities, and overall life advice...since cacao/chocolate is so deeply connected to us, and we to it.
V.C.: What do you think are the most important things consumers should know/understand about the bean to bar craft chocolate movement?
L.H.: I feel it's extremely difficult to express to consumers how lengthy the processes of cacao harvesting, fermentation, and chocolate making are -- but they will never care about that if first and foremost they don't learn to really appreciate it and require higher standards of the products containing or made entirely of chocolate. We are battling a long standing tradition of accessibility and non-transparency. Even before Uber and Postmates there were on-demand chocolate cake, ice cream, candy -- any place, any time of the day, in the frozen foods aisle, or at 24-hour gas stations, we had/have chocolate when and where we wanted it. Moving it from a shelf-commodity and craving, to a place of esteem and reverence is imperative for the growth and recognition of the industry, as well as creating a dialogue for change. Like many macro problems facing the world, it also requires collaboration from the big industrial players to eradicate practices that created this dichotomy of price and ethos in the first place.
V.C.: When selecting a chocolate bar to try what influences your purchase?
L.H.: I like giving newbies a shot -- because I am in their shoes. I also like to reward companies choosing accountability over marketing jargon -- ditch the artisan, handcrafted approach, I'd pick "Estate X" and traceable "Cooperative Y" any day. Distinctiveness goes a long way, and even something oddball I may find endearing. I also pay attention to how easily the packaging can be recycled or reused.
WKND Chocolate Tumeric of a Goat Thing Bar. Photo Credit: Victoria Cooksey
V.C.: Through your journey of making chocolate, eating craft chocolate, and interviewing those involved with chocolate on your podcast, what have you discovered about yourself?
L.H.: I feel very grateful that there is so much to learn, and that the impacts of becoming well versed in cacao/chocolate can have a positive effect on others. There is a saying, 'we have two ears and one mouth, we should be listening twice as much as we speak.' I'm discovering how vital this is to creating a meaningful life, and the community you surround yourself with.
V.C.: Through the interviews you have conducted what direction do you see the bean to bar movement heading. What future would you like to see for craft chocolate?
L.H.: Having had the fortune to speak on this subject with many fascinating people, I'd say that the industry is facing a current opportunity and predicament. It could burst forward or plateau - it's up to us, cultural timing, and impactful marketing/education/consciousness to reach more people. This isn't to say that it won't progress financially, that new makers won't evolve and veterans confirm their products and position in more territories, but that we'll miss the boat for consumers to latch on to chocolate's importance and potential past being just a chocolate bar, and rather a driver for change and possibility. I would like to see craft chocolate further creating & ensuring livelihoods and ecosystems; I believe chocolate makers and chocolatiers are not going anywhere, but we have no guarantee as far as the environment, the farmers (average age is climbing, not lowering), or the strains of cacao. There are great programs in place working to create and preserve this infrastructure, but the future demands more.
V.C.: Which chocolate bars/makers are in your current chocolate stash?
L.H.: What stash? They don't last long. Finding Pump Street in Colorado is always a pleasant treat (although I'm curious to know how environmentally friendly or not those envelopes are), I have huge respect for the sourcing proximity and story from Marou's Treasure Island bar, and also adore Fruition's Hudson Valley Dark Milk...dangerously easy to devour. Soon, I will try Friis-Holm chocolate, thanks to a Well Tempered group member bringing it back from Chocoa - and I just have to say that without even tasting his chocolate, it thrills me to discover makers who really go outside the box. From my gal pals, Map Chocolate & Batch Craft inspire me, and usher me through some of the hard parts of being a maker.
Thank you so much Lauren for this interview!
Find out more about Lauren Heineck:
Check out your friend in all things chocolate, Victoria Cooksey:
Watch my chocolate reviews, and cooking videos here:
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Dormouse chocolates is a bean to bar chocolate maker located in Manchester in the U.K. I recently ordered this bar from their online store. It's listed as made from a mix of criollo, and trinitario beans, batch 076, and with a conch time of 48 hours. (The higher the quality the beans, the less conching time is needed, and it let's the real flavors shine through too).
Pic of Dormouse Chocolates taken in Port Townsend, WA
Color: Light/medium brown with a touch or red.
Nose: Condensed milk.
Texture: Good snap, smooth.
Taste: Brown butter, light caramel, dried black currants, and sea salt.
Finish: Medium finish, rich, not to sweet.
I actually just placed an order for their 6 month subscription, so I can't wait to see which bar shows up first. Congrats to Dormouse Chocolates for being my first chocolate subscription!
Watch my chocolate reviews, and cooking videos:
Saturday, March 11, 2017
Fruition Chocolate is a craft chocolate maker located in the Catskill Mountains of New York. This dark milk bar has won several awards, and is made from Nacional beans from Maranon Canyon in Peru. The particular bar in this review is from batch #2.
Pic of Fruition's Maranon Canyon bar was taken in Port Townsend, WA
Color; Medium brown with a touch of red.
Nose: Cinnamon, fudge, cream, floral.
Taste: Buttery, cinnamon, malt.
Finish: Medium finish with malt, and cinnamon notes lingering.
Watch my chocolate reviews, and cooking videos on YouTube:
Thursday, March 2, 2017
Estelle Tracy of 37 Chocolates
I'm very excited to bring you this interview with Estelle Tracy of 37 Chocolates. Estelle is a food writer, a chocolate educator, and so much more. She is a wonderful supporter of small craft chocolate makers, a valuable resource of chocolate information delivered in an approachable way, and always has encouraging words for people in all aspects of the craft chocolate world.
In 2015 Estelle decided to try 37 US-made craft chocolate bars by her 37th birthday, and the rest is chocolate history.
Victoria Cooksey: What is your very first memory of eating chocolate?
Estelle Tracy: Like most French kids in the 1980's, I grew up eating Kinder eggs and collecting the toys inside. I also liked Milka milk chocolate, which my family would eat watching TV on Saturday nights. My dad would finish the bar and we'd find the empty wrapper on the coffee table the next morning.
V.C.: After completing your 37 US chocolates by your 37th birthday challenge what were the top 3 unexpected things you learned as part of that adventure?
E.T.: I knew I did not know much about chocolate but I did not expect there would be so much to learn. For instance, I did not realize most mass-produced chocolate relied on West African cacao and that child slavery is a common practice on those plantations. I also realized the words "chocolatier" and "chocolate-maker" cannot be used interchangeably: while a chocolatier uses chocolate as an ingredient, a chocolate-maker makes chocolate from cacao beans. But most importantly, I discovered Map Chocolate, a chocolate-maker who made it easy to spend $10 on a chocolate bar.
V.C.: How has the chocolate industry changed since you began tasting craft chocolate?
E.T.: The most exciting part of the past 2 years has been to witness the growth of several small batch makers. Since I discovered them in 2015, LetterPress Chocolate has moved to a bigger production facility. Philadelphia-based Chocolate Alchemist has found its first stockists all around the area. Map Chocolate is running a crowfunding campaign to purchase new equipment to meet demand for her bars. It's a great time for craft chocolate in the US.
V.C.: As you’ve discovered more about the chocolate makers themselves what similarities, or differences have you noticed between them?
E.T.: A big difference to me is in the texture. Some chocolates are smooth and melt quickly in the mouth, while others like Taza are super gritty. Other bars are smooth but take forever to melt. Some have a nice rounded flavor throughout the tasting while others deliver a burst of intense flavor with a mellow finish. There's little indication about texture on wrappers which means you have to eat many bars to discover what you like.
V.C.: How does European chocolates differ from US made ones?
E.T.: I can't speak for all European chocolate but the chocolate I eat in France has a very smooth, silky texture. You'll find most people don't like chocolate with a gritty texture because it tends to remind them of the cheap chocolate you'd find at the bottom of the shelves at the grocery store.
V.C.: What makers, or styles of chocolate bars would you recommend consumers start with who are wanting to take the first step into trying craft chocolate?
E.T.: It really depends on what the person currently enjoys. To someone who likes a milk chocolate, I suggest Patric's dark milk bar or Map Chocolate's Nightswimming. If you swear by a bold dark chocolate, give Acalli Chocolate's bars a try. If you like the idea of dark chocolate better than its taste, try a bar made of Madagascar beans like the one made by Omnom or Twenty-Four Blackbirds and let me know what you think!
V.C.: Any tips on what to look for on the labeling of a bar? Any information on labels you would like to see more, or less of?
E.T.: I like that more and more makers disclose the origin of the cacao they use in their bars. I have grown suspicious of a maker simply listing "cacao" as the main ingredient on a bar because it's important for me to know where it came from.
I hope makers will stop listing all the steps required to make chocolate (roast-crack-winnow-grind-conche-temper-mold) from the bean because it provides the consumer no information about the resulting taste or the texture of chocolate. When a car maker wants to sell you a car, it does not tell you how it's made, it tells you how it feels to drive. The same should apply to chocolate. I want makers to tell me on wrappers what eating this chocolate will feel like. And please don't list tasting notes that are too hard to detect! In my experience, it makes tasters feel like failures when they don't taste those notes. To them, it's like a validation they are not worthy of craft chocolate, so they will be less likely to buy it again.
V.C.: What sparked the transition from trying bars to leading chocolate tasting?
E.T.: Last summer, my town's library asked me if I'd be interested in hosting a workshop and I said yes. I've hosted two workshops to date and I love seeing people's reaction when they touch a cacao pod and see an actual cacao bean. This fall, I was also offered to train Philter Coffee's staff about their craft chocolate offering. We sat around the table, tasted a lot of chocolate, then talked about it, and I realized then how much I had missed the social aspect of chocolate.
V.C.: After leading a tasting what changes do you see in the attendees opinions on chocolate?
E.T.: People usually tell me they have a new appreciation of chocolate because they learned so much about it. Most attendees already like dark chocolate and will use my resource sheets to try new bars. I like that I encourage people to make more adventurous chocolate choices.
V.C.: How does chocolate fit into your plans for 2017?
E.T.: I want to continue tasting, learning, and educating about chocolate. I am a freelance writer and it's a treat when I get to write whole articles about my favorite food. After subscribing to ChocoRush's craft chocolate subscription box (www.chocorush.co) for over a year, I started contributing to their blog in January.
Locally, I'd love to start organizing chocolate tasting with friends, like Megan Giller (www.chocolatenoise.com) does as part of her chocolate underground salons.
V.C.: What chocolate bars do you currently have in your chocolate stash?
E.T.: Several Marou bars, a Michel Cluizel sampler pack, three Guatemalan bars by Dulcinea Craft Chocolate, and a Palette de Bine bar... Among many others!I
Thank you Estelle!
To learn more about Estelle Tracy check out:
Watch Estelle's 37 Chocolates review videos here:
Watch my chocolate reviews, and cooking videos here:
It you are reading this before March 9, 2017 be sure to check out Map Chocolate's Indiegogo campaign: