Tag Archives: amano

Chocolopolis turns two

I don’t have kids, but my friends seem to be reproducing at an alarming rate. Most of the offspring are pretty young, but the first of the pack are nearing the exciting age of two. I think this means that their parents need to bolt down anything remotely breakable, protect all walls and fabrics with some eco-friendly replacement for Scotchguard, and generally prepare themselves for the Terrible Twos.

Can you tell how excited I am for this?

Well, Chocolopolis is turning two next week, and I’m pretty darn excited about that. Aside from being run by the lovely Lauren Adler (self-described Chief Chocophile), it’s a great place for chocolate bars, bonbons and education. It’s an accessible place to start learning about what makes good chocolate, where it comes from and why you should care where it comes from. And with the serious list of events that they’re hosting next week, you have ample opportunity to check out this store—for the first time or the nth time—and learn about great chocolate.

Chocolopolis
1527 Queen Anne Avenue North
Seattle, WA
(206) 282-0776

Chocolopolis anniversary week events

Events at the store are free and open to everyone.

Ongoing throughout the week:

Annual Golden Bar Giveaway

Somewhere on our shelves are three bars with golden tickets hidden inside.  Anyone who purchases a bar containing one of the golden tickets will receive a free bar of chocolate every week for a year. Who will be the lucky Charlie this time?

Chocolate Passport

Each day of our anniversary week will feature a different cacao-producing region (Madagascar, Venezuela, etc).  Purchase a bar from the region featured each day and earn a stamp in your “chocolate passport” (only one stamp per customer per day).  “World travelers” who earn 5 stamps by making purchases on five days will receive a free Chocolopolis tasting bar and a truffle.  Collect all 7 passport stamps and receive the bar and a truffle plus free entry to a future Chocolopolis chocolate class or event.  Luxury travel minus the jetlag!

Sunday, July 11

11am – 5pm:  Chocolopolis at the Chocolate Salon

Be sure to look for the Chocolopolis booth at Seattle’s third annual Luxury Chocolate Salon.  Save room for samples of our hand-made truffles and our mendiant bar, a delicious bar topped with dried fruit, nuts & vanilla-infused sea salt.  We’ll also be unveiling our talented confectioner’s latest creation. NOTE:  Tickets for the Chocolate Salon are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. The Seattle Chocolate Salon is held at the Bell Harbor Conference Center in downtown Seattle. Visit http://www.tastetv.com/sf-seasalon_tix.html to purchase tickets.

Monday, July 12

1pm – 3pm:  Hands-on Event for Kids

Everything is better when dipped in chocolate–even your kids!  At this fun event our younger customers will get to play chocolatier, dipping a variety of treats into melted chocolate, then enjoying the fruits of their labor.  Stop by any time between 1 and 3.

4:30pm – 6:30pm:  Meet the Chocolate Maker: Amano Chocolate Tasting

Award-winning bean-to-bar chocolate maker, Amano Chocolate, will be sampling their lineup of single-origin chocolate bars sourced from regions as diverse as Indonesia, Madagascar, and South America. Taste their passion for chocolate yourself.

7pm – 9pm:  The Inside Story on the Cacao Trade in Ghana

At this special presentation, Dr. Kristy Leissle will share the inside story of what it’s like to live on a cacao farm in Ghana. Sample chocolate while enjoying videos and photos taken by Dr. Leissle during her visits to Ghana. No reservations are required, but space is limited for this free event, so make sure to be there on time if you’d like to participate.

Tuesday, July 13

1pm – 2pm:  Tasting for Moms

Calling all moms!  Chocolopolis would like to thank you for all you do.  If you have 15 free minutes, stop by today for a complimentary guided tasting of 3 chocolates, offered at 1:00, 1:15, 1:30, and 1:45.

6pm-8pm:  Meet the Chocolate Maker: Claudio Corallo Chocolate Tasting

From his base on the island of Sao Tome off the west coast of Africa, Claudio Corallo grows heirloom cacao and crafts it into a range of outstanding products. Enjoy samples of Corallo’s unconched chocolate as Claudio’s representative, Marie-Françoise, shares the story of this fascinating artisan.

Wednesday, July 14 – Bastille Day

1pm – 2pm:  Book Reading for Kids

Our mouth-watering story hour will feature a dramatic reading of Curious George Goes to a Chocolate Factory. Curious George introduces kids ages 4-8 to the joys of monkeying around with chocolate.  Kid-friendly chocolate samples will be provided during the reading.

2pm – 5pm:  French Chocolate Tasting
Celebrate Bastille Day in an appropriately delicious way.  Throughout the day we’ll be screening a video on lauded French chocolate maker Michel Cluizel (in both French and English). While watching, enjoy samples of rich, creamy chocolate from a variety of French makers.  Feel free to BYOB (bring your own baguette) and improvise a celebratory pain au chocolat.

6pm-8pm:  Meet the Chocolate Maker: Pralus Chocolate Tasting

Later in the evening we’ll narrow our focus to master chocolate maker François Pralus.  A company representative will share the story of the venerable François Pralus and his ongoing quest for perfection.  Put the story into context with samples from Pralus’ vast range of smooth, intense chocolate bars.

Thursday, July 15

6pm-9pm:  Customer Appreciation Party

Enjoy cheese, crackers and chocolate, and enter a drawing to win a visit to our “Chocolate Surplus Room”.  As a special treat, sample our mysterious, luxurious Egg Cream soda –a delicious chocolate drink that contains neither eggs nor cream — expertly made by a genuine soda jerk from Brooklyn.

Friday, July 16

6pm – 9pm:  Chocolate That’s Good for the Cacao Farmer

Taste chocolate by chocolate makers who purchase cacao directly from the farmer. A delicious way to learn a bit about Fair Trade certified, direct trade and profit-sharing programs that benefit the farmers and result in better-quality cacao (and tastier chocolate!).

Saturday, July 17

11am – 5pm:  Frozen Chocolate Tasting

Beat the heat (fingers crossed!) with samples of our frozen drinking chocolate.  And if you’re feeling lucky, join the search for any Golden Tickets that remain.

6pm – 9pm:  Guess-the-Ganache Challenge

Take the truffle challenge and put your taste buds to the test! Step up and see if you can distinguish the origin of the chocolates used in three of our single-origin truffles in a blind tasting. Enter your answers on a ballot to be eligible to win a box of truffles.

Sunday, July 18

3pm – 6pm:  Meet the Chocolate Maker: Theo Chocolate Tasting

Learn more about Seattle’s very own bean-to-bar artisan chocolate maker as a representative from Theo Chocolate shares the lowdown on their production process.  Sample Theo chocolate and ask any questions about Theo’s products and progressive trade policies.

Chocolate 201: Recap

Chocolate 201 in VancouverI realized that I didn’t post a final summary of the Chocolate 201 fun. I have a particular penchant for  lists of numbers, so let’s try that.

Chocolate 201 featured:

  • 8 hours of instruction
  • 10 fabulous participants
  • 4 artisan chocolate producers
  • 36 samples of chocolate
  • 4 samples of Scotch
  • great conversation and great people!

Many thanks to Hodie at Xoxolat for partnering with me on this, to Chef Marcus of Von Albrecht and Associates for the Scotch lesson, and to the chocolate producers who donated product for the class: Patric Chocolate, Amano Artisan Chocolate, Pralus Chocolate and Claudio Corallo Chocolate. And, of course, thanks to the participants for bringing your curiosity, questions, comments and palates to the class. I couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful group of guinea pigs.

In case you missed them, here are the tasting notes from each of the classes:

Chocolate 201 is on hiatus for the summer, and I’ll see about doing another one in the fall. If you’d like to get the inside scoop, fill out the form below and I’ll add you to my friendly email list. I promise not to spam you or share your email address with anyone.

Chocolate 201: Amano Chocolate recap (plus scotch)

The third chapter of Chocolate 201 focused on Amano Chocolate and featured a fabulous bonus of a scotch tasting from the always lovely Marcus von Albrecht. I’ll get to the scotch soon enough. This is, after all, The Well-Tempered Chocolatier and not The Well-Sozzled Scotch Drinker.

Though, truth be told, I have been known to get well-sozzled with scotch.

Amano Artisan Chocolate is based out of Orem, Utah. Of the small producers highlighted in Chocolate 201, Amano is probably the one with the widest distribution, especially considering a recent expansion into select Starbucks locations in the US. It’s an interesting move, and one that most are watching closely. Will it dilute the brand, or will it provide a gateway for more people to access real chocolate? Time will tell.

Regardless, Amano is the darling of North American chocolate, and has received numerous chocolate awards.

Amano Ocumare 70%, Montanya 70% and Cuyaga 70%

We started with a tasting of these three bars, each made with beans from a different region of Venezuela. People always ask me if there are characteristic flavours of chocolate from a particular region. Madagascan chocolate is known for its red fruit and brightness, but that doesn’t mean that all chocolate from Madagascar tastes like that. Nor does it mean that a chocolate from somewhere else can’t have those flavours.

So these three chocolates are all from different regions in Venezuela, and they all taste quite different.

The Ocumare is usually one of my favourites, with notes of plum and smokiness, but I’ll admit that the bar we tasted in class was more subtle than I’m used to. The plum came through as raisin, rather than plum. On the whole, the brightness that I associate with this bar just wasn’t there. It’s still nice, but not as evocative of warm summer afternoons as previous bars have been.

Next, we tried the limited edition Montanya. This bar comes from a mountainous region of Venezuela and was far more assertive than the Ocumare. Some in the class thought it had to do with the cacao trees having to deal with mountainous conditions. Interesting thought, but I don’t know enough to say for sure. This bar was bright and bold with notes of flowers, nuts and hops. I think it was the crowd-pleaser of the night, as I noticed more than a few people walking out with this bar in their hands.

Note: as the Montanya is a limited edition, you should probably get your fix now. As with anything that’s limited edition, when it’s gone—it’s gone.

We rounded out the Venezuela bars with the Cuyaga, also a limited edition bar. And, sadly, this one is sold out. It’s more subtle than the Montanya, and has floral notes with hints of grass and smoke.

Amano Guayas 70%

This bar is from Ecuador. In last week’s class, we talked a bit about Ecuadorian chocolate. I still haven’t decided whether I’m not a fan of Ecuadorian beans, or if no one out there makes an Ecuadorian bar that I like. I trust that Art Pollard, the man behind Amano Chocolate, knows what he’s doing, so it appears that I just don’t like Ecuadorian beans. This one had vague notes of tropical fruit, and was described by one of the participants as “between bark and spice.” Now, that sounds weird until you think about something like cinnamon, which is decidedly spicy but also a bit woody.

Amano Jembrana 70% and Jembrana milk

Amano is one of the few companies who makes milk chocolate. Milk chocolate gets a bad rap. I’ve seen people turn up their noses at it and sniff derisively, but there’s some really lovely milk chocolate out there. For example, the Theo Chocolate Jane Goodall milk bar is one of my favourites. Given the complexity that comes with adding an extra ingredient—milk powder—I actually think that milk chocolate might be harder to make than dark chocolate. Good milk chocolate, that is. Not that cloying, chalky stuff.

The Jembrana bar is apparently the only bar to exclusively feature beans from Bali—as opposed to other Indonesian chocolate which consists of beans from Bali mixed with beans from Java.

We did a tasting of the Jembrana dark and milk bars. The dark has floral notes along with some smoke and spice; and while I picked up a decided anise flavour to it, others didn’t. The milk tasted surprisingly different, given that it’s the same bar but with milk powder. The floral notes were muted, replaced with more butterscotch and spice.

Amano Madagascar 70%

We tried two batches of this bar. The older batch was everything you’d expect from a Madagascan bar: bright, with red fruit, nice acidity and a hint of citrus. In contrast, the newer batch seemed a bit muted and less bright. I’m not sure if this is an issue with batch variation or if they’re playing with recipes, but there you go.

Amano Dos Rios 70%

This is one of the most distinctive bars on the market, and I’d go as far as to say that I’ve never tasted anything else like it. I first tried this at the Seattle Luxury Chocolate Salon last year, and while Art was very proud of it, he was also super secretive. A few months later, when someone mentioned they had tried a chocolate that tasted like bergamot, I knew it had to be this one.

It smells of bergamot (that’s the scent of Earl Grey, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of being in California or Italy in January) and tastes like bergamot, orange and cloves. It’s shocking, actually, how distinctive it tastes. I love giving this to people and watching their faces as they taste it. Some are quick to pinpoint the bergamot, while others need a bit of pushing. Mentioning Earl Grey tea usually does it.

Scotch…and scotch-induced observations

We finished the session with a scotch tasting led by Marcus von Albrecht, who surprised me by not doing a tasting of only scotches from Islay. I’d provide more details, but, well, it was a scotch tasting and I seem to have lost my notes.

After the class, one of the participants bought a Pralus Tanzania bar, which surprised me. We did a Pralus tasting last week, when I described the Tanzania bar as being dangerously close to burnt, as opposed to toasty. And, the whole time that I’ve been teaching this class I’ve been mentioning that each chocolatemaker makes chocolate to suit his (or her, but mostly his) palate. I’m not sure why, but it took me a while to realize that I’ve also been teaching the class according to my palate. I gravitate toward bright, fruity, floral chocolates. It’ll be interesting when we focus on Claudio Corallo next week, whose chocolate is decidedly earthy, nutty and brooding—and, incidentally, one of my absolute favourites. A woman of contradictions, I am.

Chocolate 201: Pralus recap (plus extra goodies)

The focus of the second class in Chocolate 201: Pralus.

Last week highlighted Patric Chocolate, which was a great way to open the series. It was such a study in small-batch chocolate, a limited product line, and attention paid to every single detail. I think it’s safe to say that everyone in the room really liked each of the chocolates that we tasted.

Tonight was a mixed bag, with some people liking one chocolate while others disliking the same one. I will say that I have less of an emotional attachment to Pralus, having not met the chocolate maker, but that I respect the company for what it did for artisan chocolate. Pralus is probably best known for its 100% Madagascar bar (typically the best-seller in any shop that sells bean-to-bar chocolate) and for its tasting pyramid. The tasting pyramid features 10 of the single-origin chocolates from the Pralus line, complete with tasting notes. It was really the first marketing campaign that really pushed the idea of how different chocolate can be, based on where it’s from. I’d argue that there’s more to flavour and texture than just origin, but that’s fodder for a much longer post.

Anyway, tonight was a chocolate extravaganza. We tasted six selections from Pralus, and then an assortment of Ecuadorian chocolates that I brought from my personal collection. Finished off with some wackiness from Zotter and a shot of drinking chocolate, it’s safe to say that people left the class chock full of chocolate.

Pralus Venezuela 75%

This bar had some pretty characteristic Pralus quirks: exceptional smoothness and meltiness, due to the addition of extra cocoa butter. This bar had notes of butter and caramel, with just a hint of licorice in it. Last week, we tasted the Rio Caraibe bar from Patric Chocolate, which is also from Venezuela, and the two bars couldn’t be more different. It’s an interesting exercise in showing that bean origin is only one factor; the personality and preferences of the chocolatemaker also have a lot to do with it.

Pralus Madagascar 100%

We jumped right into things and tasted the 100% bar. We compared it to another 100% bar, which was astringent, tannic and bitter. In comparison, the Pralus bar is surprisingly sweet, with definite red fruit and red wine characteristics. It’s certainly not bitter, though it does take some getting used to. And, of course, the characteristic Pralus smoothness of the bar helps its palatability.

Pralus Madagascar 75%

This bar is a single-origin bar from Madagascar, and while it has the red fruit you’d expect for a bar from Madagascar, it isn’t as prominent as with other Madagascan chocolate. You have to look for it a little bit, but it’s there–accompanied with pleasant acidity and brightness, and just a hint of citrus. Again, as a comparison with the Patric Madagascar bar from last week, the Pralus is much more muted and less effusive.

Pralus Tanzania 75%

This one was an interesting study in the flavour of toast. Toast is a tricky one to master, as it can be pleasant to some people or just taste burnt to others. I think the roast on this bar is dangerously close to burnt, though it just manages to come across as toasted almond with a bit of smoke. I think some people in the class found it closer to burnt.

Pralus Ecuador 75%

Ecuador lays claim to its own genetic strain of chocolate, the Arriba Nacional strain. Others think that it’s just a genetic variation of Forastero beans. Either way, these beans are known for brash tropical fruitiness, with banana and citrus being common flavours. This bar elicited a lot of suggestions from the group, including figs, raisins and coconut. There were also suggestions of the bitterness of matcha tea (bitter, but in a savoury kind of way), and tobacco. One person astutely noted that the flavours in this chocolate are quite light–like the flute section in an orchestra–lacking middle or underlying flavours.

Pralus Fortissima 80%

The Fortissima is a blend of various beans, with a decided raisin aroma. It’s marked by acidity, a slight bitterness, and the sensation of spice. People in the class tasted butterscotch, coffee and toffee. If the Ecuador bar is the flute section of the orchestra, the Fortissima is the double bass, or perhaps the French horn: deeper tones, more brooding.

Republica del Cacao La Communidad Vinces 75% and Esmereldas 75%

The bar from La Communidad Vinces is the first certified organic bar from Republica del Cacao, who are a lovely little company in Ecuador. This one has some vague tropical fruit, though I taste a bit of a hay undertone to it. The Esmereldas bar is a bit hesitant, too, and the class had difficulty finding the purported lemon zest notes that are in it. I do love the company and think they’re doing great things, but have found some of the batches to vary widely. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that they come up with a consistently good product, because I’d like to see them do well.

Askinosie San Jose del Tambo, Ecuador 70% and White Chocolate Nibble Bar

I really wish that Xoxolat carried Askinosie, because then I would have made Chocolate 201 into a five-part series and highlighted this great company from Springfield, MO. Whether it’s the picture of the farmer on the package, the lot number that lets you trace its origin, the innovative sustainable packaging, or the great story about the chocolatemaker, this is a fun product to talk about. The Ecuador 70% tastes distinctly like banana, with a pleasant toastiness to it. The white chocolate nibble bar–what I like to think of as a deconstructed cacao bean, with the cocoa nibs embedded in white chocolate–is slightly too sweet and a bit granular, but the shock of goat’s milk is really quite fun.

We capped off the evening with a selection of Zotter bars (beer, champagne, blood orange) and Xoxolat’s famous West Coast Breakfast Bar, featuring maple, double-smoked bacon and espresso. Breakfast for dinner never tasted so good.

I think everyone is looking forward to next week’s chocolate and whiskey extravaganza. I can’t think of a nicer pairing: the shocking flavours of Amano Artisan Chocolate, plus a crash course in smoky Islay scotches with Marcus von Albrecht.

Chocolate 201: Artisan chocolate tasting series at Xoxolat

Chocolate 201I’ve tasted a lot of chocolate. While I try to be objective, I definitely have my favourites. Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of the chocolate makers behind my favourite bars.

Every time I meet one of these chocolate makers, I’m simultaneously thrilled and awed. Thrilled, because it’s an honour to meet the person who creates such a great product, and awed because I think chocolate makers are a little bit crazy. You’d have to be crazy to go into a profession where you need to be comfortable with agriculture, chemistry, biology, physics, mechanics and engineering. And that isn’t even accounting for the challenges of getting an agricultural product across international borders. And at the end of all that, to come up with chocolate that doesn’t taste like dirt? And somehow manage to pay your bills? That’s nothing short of a miracle.

I have been itching to tell these stories. Each chocolate maker has a unique personality and philosophy—and while the chocolate itself is lovely, I think the underlying story is what makes it magical.

So, I’m thrilled to announce my latest collaboration with Xoxolat. Together, we’re presenting Chocolate 201, a four-part artisan chocolate tasting series.

Chocolate 201: Artisan Chocolate Tasting Series

When. Monday evenings:: April 12th, April 19th, April 26th, May 3rd
Time. 6:30–8:00 p.m.
Where. XOXOLAT, 2391 Burrard St (@ 8th Ave)
Who. Me! With guest scotch expert, Marcus von Albrecht, Von Albrecht & Association
Price. $100 (Includes four evenings of chocolate tasting & learning, with one session including a guided scotch tasting.)
Registration. Space is limited. Call 604.733.2462 to book now.

Join our introductory Chocolate 201 tasting series and hear stories of how the chocolate was transformed from tree to bean to bar. Learn about how chocolate is made and how to taste it. We’ll explore the artisan products of Patric Chocolate, Pralus, Amano Artisan Chocolate, and Claudio Corallo.

Each 90-minute evening session will include samples from each of the featured chocolates, plus engaging stories about the people and company behind the scenes. Each class will also include samples from favourites like Zotter & Xoxolat’s house line, and will close with a drinking chocolate shot. The Amano evening will be complemented with the VonAlbrecht & Association Islay series of scotches.

Space is limited. Call 604.733.2462 to book now.

San Francisco Fancy Food Show

NASFT San Francisco - street signFive years ago, I worked in a fancy kitchen store. The owners would take off every summer for the New York Fancy Food Show and come back exhausted, a little bit pudgier, and full of stories about all the fabulous new things we’d be getting in the store.

Well, last week, I made the visit to the San Francisco winter show…and I came back exhausted, a little bit pudgier, and full of stories. I went down with my sweet tooth, my eating pants, and comfortable shoes. Comfortable shoes, because with nearly 6000 exhibitors in halls of the Moscone Center, it was going to be an intense couple of days.

Amano Dos Rios barI wasn’t all that surprised by any of the chocolate offerings, though I did get a chance to finally try Amano Chocolate‘s Dos Rios bar. I tried a (then-secret) prototype of this bar last summer, and even as a prototype it was pretty remarkable: floral, delicate and tasting distinctly like bergamot. The finished bar is redolent with orange and bergamot, with just a hint of spice (nutmeg?) at the finish. Art Pollard, the chocolatemaker, touched briefly on the challenges of processing the beans while preserving the vibrant flavours. I can believe it; this chocolate packs a serious punch.

Poco Dolce double shot espresso toffee Poco Dolce‘s double shot espresso toffee squares were stellar. The toffee is crisp and crunchy but doesn’t get stuck in your teeth. The espresso, if you ran into it in a dark alley, would jump out from a dark corner, deliver a swift one-two punch to your forehead, and then run off into the darkness. It’s bold and brash and utterly delicious.

Happy Goat caramelsHidden away in a quiet corner were the folks at Happy Goat Caramel. If the logo and name weren’t cute enough for you, the caramels are really quite good. It’s a caramel made with goat’s milk and real vanilla. The goat’s milk provides a nice savouriness and slight tang to offset the aromatic, sweet vanilla. The finish is definitely goaty, but in a subtle, delicate way.

I also attended a Foodfete event where I met the folks who make Amella Caramel. The lovely 8chocolate reviewed these a while back, and I’ll admit that I was still pretty skeptical. Carrot cake caramel? Really?

Really.

Amella caramelsThe carrot cake caramel tastes like you took a carrot cake and stuck it in a transmogrifier on the “caramel” setting. It’s not too sweet and has a pleasant nuttiness. My least favourite is the black forest caramel, which tastes like a chocolate caramel with dried cherries, but not so much like black forest cake. However, the passionfruit caramel is sharp, tart and almost juicy. It’s definitely my favourite of the bunch. Aside from the fun flavours, the texture of the caramels is perfect – solid enough to provide a thoughtful chew, but without getting all gloopy and glommy in your back teeth.

Aside from sweets, I also ate my weight in cheese. Thanks to Amy for guiding me on my cheese expedition, and for posting her top 10 list of Fancy Food Show favourites.

Chocolate vocabulary lesson

I throw a lot of terms around, like “bean-to-bar” and “confection,” and I’ve never really sat down and defined what I mean by those terms. I’ve defined three words: chocolate makers, chocolate blenders, and chocolate confectioners, to the best of my ability. I’ve also listed some of my favourites in each category. These are not exhaustive lists, and I know that I’ve forgotten (or simply don’t know about) some great stuff out there. If I’ve offended you…well, that’s just too bad.

Anyway. Here we go.

Chocolate makers

Also called bean-to-bar producers, chocolate makers actually make chocolate. They start with cacao beans and process them into the delectable thing that we know as chocolate. Typically, the chocolate comes in the form of chocolate bars, or chocolate pistoles (giant, flat chips). This chocolate is sometimes sold to consumers, while some is sold exclusively to industry folks.

Chocolate makers buy dried, fermented cocao beans from farmers, though their level of involvement in the growing, fermenting and drying process can vary. Some chocolate makers work very closely with farmers, while others deal exclusively with bean brokers and never meet the growers.

Chocolate makers are one part agricultural expert, one part production engineer, and one part artisan. They need to understand cacao (an agricultural product), be able to transform it through a series of steps (that’s the engineering part) and create something delicious, nuanced and distinctive at the end (definitely an artistic pursuit).

Some of my favourite small-batch producers: Amano Artisan Chocolate, Soma Chocolatemaker, Claudio Corallo, Theo Chocolate, and Askinosie Chocolate. I’ll also admit that I’m partial to working with Valrhona chocolate, thought they’re far from small-batch.

Chocolate blenders

Chocolate blenders don’t make chocolate, but they buy chocolate and blend it. This is less lame than it sounds. It’s not quite bean-to-bar, but there’s still a fine art to blending a chocolate mixture that is delicious and distinct. Think about an artist’s palette; while the colours come in a tube, the right mixture of colours can express something that stock colours can’t.

I don’t taste as much blended chocolate as I do bean-to-bar chocolate, but I was impressed with Chocolove’s 73% organic dark chocolate bar. You can read about it here.

Chocolate confectioners

Chocolate confectioners are what most people think of when you say chocolatier: someone who takes chocolate and creates bonbons, pralines and truffles. Way back when, the term chocolatier meant someone who took chocolate from bean to confection, but not anymore.

Chocolatiers don’t typically make their own chocolate. It’s partly economic, and partly because the two tasks are so very different. The equipment required is completely different, and it really doesn’t make sense to have the equipment to process chocolate and turn it into bonbons. (Two exceptions: Soma Chocolatemaker and Theo Chocolates are both bean-to-bar producers and chocolatiers.)

Quality confectioners work with quality ingredients: chocolate, but also with cream, sugar, spices, fruits, nuts, and liquor. Beware of fondant, corn syrup, or – to quote Michael Pollan – “anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize.” The lack of preservatives in quality confections means that these treats have a limited shelf life: 3 weeks, at most.

There are a lot of folks out there masquerading as top-end chocolatiers. Some of them are pretty good – say, an 8 out of 10. And then, there are some whose attention to detail, flavour profiles and execution are all there. If you want to impress me, bring me something from Thomas Haas, Christopher Elbow, Norman Love, Kee’s Chocolates, Vosges, or La Maison du Chocolat.

P.S. Thomas Haas is opening a new location in Vancouver, next to Lumiere. Boss-man says that it’ll be open in mid-October. Wheee!