Tag Archives: claudio-corallo

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.

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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: Claudio Corallo recap

I waxed poetic about Claudio Corallo last week. I know you’re busy, being all run-around-y in the sun and all, but it’s worth reading. I promise.

I’ll wait.

*twiddling thumbs*

*whistling*

….

Chocolate 201 Claudio Corallo

L-R: Hodie Rondeau (Xoxolat), Marie-Francoise Barnhart (Claudio Corallo Chocolate) and, erm, me.

So now that you know who I’m talking about, I can talk about his chocolate and you’ll begin to understand how exceptional it is. We were fortunate enough to be joined by Marie-Francoise Barnhart, who visited us from Seattle with all kinds of goodies in her bag. Among them: a binder of pictures from Claudio’s plantation, with amazing photographs of each step of the chocolate-making process. It was a nice way to bookend the series, as I talked about all the steps in the first class—but the pictures really brought it to life.

Claudio Corallo “raw” cacao beans

As we talked about each step of the chocolate making process, we tried the accompanying product. This included Claudio’s “raw” cacao beans, which are fermented but not roasted. These are commonly referred to as “raw” beans, the “raw” part being a reference to the raw food diet that is so popular right now. (Don’t get me started on what I think about that. Ahem.) The central tenet of raw foodism is that nothing can be heated above 46 degrees Celsius (that’s 115 Farenheit for all y’all Americans). I’d argue that during fermentation, cacao gets much hotter than 46 degrees Celsius, thus negating any of the “raw” food properties that “raw” chocolate is said to embody. Aside from which, most of the “raw” chocolate I’ve tried tastes remarkably like a burnt car tire.

But back to the beans. Claudio’s “raw” cacao beans, all labelling semantics aside, don’t taste like burnt car tire. They taste like a delicately cured olive, with just a hint of tannic pucker and acidity. They don’t taste much like chocolate, aside from a faint nuttiness. They do not taste bad, and they certainly don’t taste bitter. Which is to say that the raw materials that Claudio is starting with are of the utmost quality, and only from top quality beans can you make top quality chocolate.

Claudio Corallo whole cacao beans and 100% bar

From there, we tried whole roasted cacao beans and their crushed variety, cocoa nibs. Most noticeable was the appearance: reddish-brown, and not nearly as dark as most cacao beans or nibs are. Also notable: the complete lack of bitterness. Instead, the cacao beans taste nutty, maybe a bit hoppy, and ever-so-slightly boozy. Claudio’s beans are roasted very lightly, to preserve the delicate flavours. From there, the beans are ground, tempered into thin slabs and hand-cut into bars. And that is the entirety of Claudio’s 100% bar. There’s no sugar added, no fussing around, no further manipulation. And the 100% chocolate? It tastes exactly like the whole roasted cacao beans, but in bar form.

99% of chocolate on the market is conched, which reduces particle size and provides the chocolatemaker a way to fine-tune the flavours. Claudio Corallo refuses to conch his chocolate, as that would drive off the delicate flavours he has worked so hard to retain. Though you’d expect the chocolate to be grainy, it isn’t. I can tell that it’s less refined than other bars, but it certainly isn’t chalky or grainy.

Claudio Corallo “sablé” 80%

“Sablé” means “sandy” en francais and that describes this bar quite well. I hinted in last week’s post that Claudio is a very particular man, and the fact that there are inclusions (that is, bars with stuff in them) is unusual. Where he’s chosen to include something in the bar, it’s been very deliberate and thoughtful.

In this case, he’s taken his 100% chocolate bar and added 20% brown, granular sugar to it. It’s a bit like turbinado sugar, but with finer granules. And on so many levels, it’s brilliant. Most chocolate makers take the ground chocolate bean and add fine granulated sugar to it, then process until the two are indistinguishable. In this case, Claudio has added sugar to his chocolate, but left it in its whole form.

What happens is this: you bite into the bar and taste the 100% chocolate first—nutty, savoury, pungent, wild. And at the split second that your brain starts to expect bitterness, the sugar hits your tongue and bathes it in sticky sweetness. And then your instincts kick in and you start to chew, the sugar crunches against your teeth while the chocolate melts, and then they mix together and it’s bliss.

Claudio Corallo 75%

From there, we tasted the 75% bar. This is 75% of the pure chocolate, with sugar mixed in the traditional way. The result is a bar that, while it contains more sugar than the 80% bar, actually tastes less sweet. The blended-in sugar amplifies certain flavours. This bar tastes distinctly wild. It makes me feel like I’m sitting cross-legged in a damp forest, eating the world’s best chocolate.

Claudio Corallo “soft” 73 1/2%

This one is a bit cheeky in its naming, as it’s a 70% chocolate bar (sugar blended in) with 3 1/2 % cacao nibs scattered on top. It’s called “soft” because the chocolate is softer than the nibs on top. Just as the sugar pulls out a wildness in the 75% bar, the nibs highlight the brightness and nuttiness of the chocolate in this bar. And, the chocolate tastes very sweet when pitted against the nibs, in direct contrast to the 80% bar where the chocolate tasted almost bitter against the grains of sugar. It’s details like that that make me really appreciate how deliberate all these bars are.

This bar is probably one of my favourites for nibbling, and there were definitely a few pairs of eyes rolling backwards into heads when we tasted this.

Claudio Corallo “laranja” (orange)

“Laranja” means orange in Portuguese, and this bar has candied orange peel in it. I’m not usually a fan of candied orange peel: it’s either too sickly sweet or too bitter. In this case, it strikes a nice balance of sweetness without any bitterness, and the chocolate lends itself so well to this elegant flavour combination.

Claudio Corallo “gengibre” (ginger)

This is one of two products in the line that include candied ginger. The ginger is from Thailand, and Claudio candies it himself. Just as with the orange peel, candied ginger is a tricky thing. It needs to strike a balance between candied moistness without being wet, and the ginger must be young and not woody. The addition of candied ginger to Claudio’s chocolate brings out the dark earthiness of the chocolate. The ginger provides a hot, slow burn tempered with sweetness. It’s all very refined; it makes me want to sit up straighter and drink a cup of tea with my pinky sticking out.

Claudio Corallo “ubric” (number 6)

We were so fortunate that Marie-Francoise brought us a sample of this. “Ubric” is a combination of “uva” (raisin) and “briaco” (drunk). Drunken raisins. That’s exactly what’s in this chocolate bar: raisins that have been macerated in pure liquor for who knows how long. The result is that the chocolate melts in your mouth at the precise moment that you register the heat of 100-proof liquor and raisins that, if they were people, would be dancing on tables wearing lampshades. Oh, to be a drunken raisin. Each batch of ubric is slightly different, and number 6 featured a pear liqueur.

Claudio used to make his ubric from the liquor that results from cacao bean fermentation, but the liquor needs to be distilled seven times. Needless to say, it’s very labour-intensive…and I suspect that the spoils of that project are for Claudio’s enjoyment.

Claudio Corallo ginger spheres

I have always called these ginger balls, and of course that makes me giggle. I’m giggling right now, and I suspect that you are too.

Ginger balls. Ginger balls! Ginger balls.

Anyway. I have always called these ginger balls, because that’s how they were introduced to me, but Marie-Francoise is proper and French and she calls them ginger spheres. Ginger spheres are chunks of the aformentioned Thai ginger, candied, and covered in 100% chocolate. The thing is that you have to warm the, erm, spheres up in your hand before eating them, and then you need to chew. Chew furiously and enjoy the moist and meaty chunk of ginger as it melds with 100% chocolate. Though it’s the same ingredients as in the “gengibre” bar, it’s brash and almost obnoxious. Claudio likes to bookend the experience with a small piece of 100% chocolate.

Claudio Corallo coffee beans

Before growing cacao on Sao Tome and Principe, Claudio was a coffee grower in the Congo (then Zaire). He’s taken to growing small crops of arabica on Sao Tome, and he took three batches of coffee beans and covered them in 60% chocolate. They’re all the same strain of coffee, but grown in different places on the island. And each of them tastes astonishingly different. #1, as it is cleverly called, is espresso-like. It’s robust and brash and overpowers the chocolate. #2 is more subtle. The coffee is mellow and builds gradually in strength, then has a long finish that lingers in your mouth for several minutes. Finally, #3 has a nice balance of coffee and chocolate, highlighting both equally.

Use your nose

I’m the first to admit that Claudio’s packaging is intimidating. It’s all space-age looking and you have no idea what you’re getting inside. However, the benefit of the spacey packaging is that the chocolate is completely sealed from the outside. This means that when you open it, you’re in for a completely singular experience. Find a quiet place. Get the package and a pair of sharp scissors. Make a clean cut at the top of the bag, and stick your nose in it. Breathe deeply. I can only tell you how divine it smells, like the chocolate is excited to meet you and can’t wait for you to taste it.

This is an experience that can and should be shared, but it does require a quiet moment, a bit of reverence, and someone who will appreciate food that makes you make faces that are usually made in the privacy of one’s bedroom.

Claudio Corallo Chocolate

(My sincerest apologies to the Chocolate 201 folks who are waiting for Claudio Corallo tasting notes. Consider this a meandering introduction to man and his chocolate. The Claudio Corallo tasting notes are in the next post.)

Claudio Corallo store in SeattleI confess that Claudio Corallo Chocolate was one of my primary reasons for doing Chocolate 201. Period. I think it’s one of the best—if not the best—expressions of what artisan bean-to-bar chocolate is and should be. Don’t get me wrong: the others that I highlighted in the series are immensely talented chocolatemakers who do a wonderful job. But from a philosophical standpoint, it’s hard to beat Claudio Corallo.

I’ve mentioned before the numerous steps that go into the transformation from cacao bean to chocolate bar. For most, this process includes harvesting, fermentation, drying, roasting, winnowing, grinding, conching and tempering. Not only is that a lot of steps to get right, but with each step you get further away from the original product. And, as happens with mass-market chocolate, the number of steps means that you can end up with something totally divorced from the starting product.

There are a number of reasons why Claudio Corallo is different from all other chocolatemakers, but I think there’s one important distinction: He grows the cacao himself, on the tiny islands of Sao Tome and Principe where he lives. Other chocolate makers work directly with farmers or buy plantations, but Claudio actually grows cacao. He takes immense pride in this.

Claudio CoralloWhen I had the out-of-this-world experience of meeting him earlier this year, he made a point of saying that he isn’t a chocolatemaker; he’s an agriculturalist. His mission is to grow the best beans that he possibly can, and then to do as little to them as he delicately transforms them into chocolate. He’s a soft-spoken, reserved man. As he doesn’t speak English, we communicated in French. (Very. Slow. French.) He speaks with such passion about what he does, and though he’s reserved, he got quite excited about certain topics, nearly buzzing in his chair. He is adamant about expressing the true chocolate, and paying attention to the little details.

Little details like picking out the germ from each cacao bean. Each cacao bean starts from a germ, which is a fibrous woody thing about 1 centimetre long. It doesn’t taste very good, and it doesn’t have a very nice texture. Most chocolatemakers leave the germ in because it’s so arduous to remove it. Claudio insists that the germ is removed, and his staff go through each bean and remove the germ by hand before it is ground.

From there, most chocolate is conched, but not Claudio’s. His chocolate goes straight to the tempering table where it is spread into thin slabs, then hand-cut and packed into spacey-looking silver packets. Chocolate is typically conched to decrease the particle size, drive off undesirable flavours (acetic acid—vinegar—being one of them) and enhance desirable flavours. Claudio doesn’t conch his chocolate because he wants it to be an expression of the bean, not some polished-up version of it. It speaks to the pride that he takes in the starting material; it’s so good, why mess with it?

The end effect is a chocolate that tastes like cacao beans: specifically, Claudio’s cacao beans. He makes a 100% bar, and it isn’t the least bit bitter. It’s aromatic, nutty, earthy and full of all kinds of flavours that I’ve never tasted in chocolate before. It tastes wild, like a wet forest floor. And I mean that in the most wonderful way. Despite no added sugar, the chocolate doesn’t taste bitter.

Claudio Corallo product lineWith such fanatical control over each step of the process, you’d think that there would only be pure chocolate bars. Well, you’d be wrong. There are inclusions—that is, stuff in the chocolate—like sandy sugar, candied ginger, candied orange and cocoa nibs. And each one is done in a very particular, analytical way.

I’m not the only one who’s completely enamoured with Claudio Corallo’s chocolate. The BBC did a short film about Claudio Corallo, and he was mentioned in an excellent article about chocolate and terroir in Gastronomica’s Winter 2010 issue.

There are also pictures and information about Claudio’s operations on his website. See how chocolate gets transformed from bean to bar.

Claudio Corallo’s flagship store is located in Seattle, WA. The next time you’re in town, stop by for a visit.

Claudio Corallo Chocolate
2122 Westlake Avenue
Seattle WA 98121
206.859.3534

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: 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.

Claudio Corallo tasting at Chocolopolis

In another freakish “why haven’t I written about this chocolate?” moment, Chocolopolis is doing a (free!) Claudio Corallo tasting this Thursday. If you live in Seattle and have tastebuds, you must go to this tasting.

Claudio Corallo makes exquisite chocolate, and I don’t use that term lightly. It’s nutty, incredibly complex, and has flavours that I’ve never tasted in any other chocolate. Tastebuds aside, Claudio Corallo is doing great work on Sao Tome and Principe, improving the lives of cacao farmers and bringing economic improvements to the islands.

Drop in, say hi to Lauren (of Chocolopolis) and Marie-Francoise (of Claudio Corallo) and tell them that I sent you. I’d be surprised if they didn’t give you an extra piece of chocolate for it.

DATE: Thursday, January 28th
TIME: 7:00-9:00 p.m.
LOCATION: Chocolopolis (1527 Queen Anne Avenue North, Seattle, WA)
COST: free!

Find out more on the Chocolopolis event page.