21 Chocolate Bars We Ate in Equador by Jeremy and Angie

21 chocosEcuadorian chocolate has been enjoying an increase in worldwide popularity over the past few years. If you talk about chocolate with any Ecuadorian worth their salt, they will quickly point out that Pacari, an Ecuadorian chocolate company, has won dozens of international awards over the past two years, beating out traditional European chocolate makers time and time again.

After decades of merely exporting their cacao internationally, entrepreneurs in Ecuador are realizing how good their cacao is and how much pride (and money) can come from producing chocolate bars from their own cacao right here in their own country.

We had to see for ourselves what distinguishes Ecuadorian chocolate from bars processed by the premier chocolatiers around the world.  After a month of traveling around Ecuador, and 21 bars later, we found out.

What Makes Ecuadorian Chocolate So Special?

DSC01593 (450x600)What’s so special about Ecuadorian cacao, you might ask? Well, only about 5% of the cacao beans grown in the world are gourmet beans, or ‘fine aroma’ cacao. Impressively, about 60% of these fine cacao beans are grown in Ecuador. Perhaps the best of the best is the Nacional bean type. Nacional beans tend to produce floral and/or fruity notes in the finished chocolate products. Also, the flavor of the beans varies depending on the environment in which the beans are grown. There is truly something unique about this bean and the terroir in Ecuador: attempts at growing Nacional cacao in other countries, even when the plant has thrived, have failed to produce the variety of floral notes achieved in Ecuador.

I’ve told you all of this so that you don’t think I’m a gluttonous fat kid for having eaten 21 different chocolate bars during our time in Ecuador. When you’re in a specific location that makes something so unique from everything else in the world, you’ve got to try it, right? Right.

One Month, 21 Chocolate Bars

The following is a summary of the 21 bars we had during our stay in Ecuador.  Does your favorite make the list?

Hoja Verde 72% Cacao: Surprisingly good considering we’d never read anything about this brand in our research of Ecuadorian chocolate. The texture wasn’t as creamy as some of the other bars but it was decent. The flavor was sweet for a 72% bar.

La Universal: Easily the worst chocolate bar we tried in Ecuador. It was sickeningly sweet, hardly tasted like chocolate, and the texture was very chalky and not smooth or milky at all. Gross.

Valdivian Gold 72% Cacao: This bar had a very crisp snap and was relatively one-dimensional in terms of flavor. If you like really dark chocolate, you’ll probably like this bar, but we felt it was missing the complexity of flavors of other bars with similar cacao content.

Republica del Cacao: The overall theme of this brand is it is expensive. We’re talking $6.73 for a 70g bar (in the grocery store!), whereas most other Ecuadorian bars are $3 for 70g. We first tried the 75% bar which had a nice creamy texture but wasn’t very memorable. The second bar we tried was the 75% with coffee nibs. I did like the added crunch of the nibs, and intense coffee flavors, but even with the delicious flavor I still don’t think I can justify spending this much money on a chocolate bar (in Ecuador, at least).

Pacari: In general, we didn’t really care for most of the flavored Pacari bars. The texture was typically chalky, crumbly, and not creamy. We kept trying bar after bar of flavored Pacari bars because we thought they were supposed to be so internationally acclaimed, but through this process I realized that I just really don’t like ‘stuff’ in my chocolate, and their plain bars are where it’s at.

  • Chili: I thought this bar was too sweet and had way too much salt, creating a really unpleasant sweet/salty effect. Jeremy really liked this bar, however.
  • Lemongrass: The lemongrass flavor is very subtle and the chocolate was too sweet for my taste. The flavor grew on Jeremy, though, although the intensity of the lemongrass flavor varied from bite to bite.
  • Hand-Pulled Caramel: Not really sure what the point of this bar is. The “caramel” is really more like bits of taffy, which are so small that you really can’t taste them at all.
  • Andean Blueberry: One of the better flavored bars, but I still don’t like stuff in my chocolate.
  • Cherry: The cherries are nice and sour which contrasts well with the sweeter chocolate. One of the few flavored bars that we bought more of to mail home.
  • Raw 70% Cacao with Salt and Nibs: The only flavored bar that I fell absolutely in love with. The chocolate is sufficiently dark such that the salt enhances the flavor of the bar rather than creating a weird sweet/salty combo. The crunchy nibs give a nice contrast in texture to the intensely creamy chocolate.
  • Raw, 70% Cacao: The bar that we should have bought over and over again instead of all the other flavored Pacari bars. The flavors were so complex and interesting that my tongue did a double take the first time I tried it. I’m not very good at identifying specific flavors when I taste chocolate, but I definitely got the fruity notes in this bar, especially berries at the front and citrus notes at the back. The creamy texture of this bar was the complete opposite of the texture of the flavored bars.

Kallari: Our overall favorite Ecuadorian chocolate brand. The quality and texture of the flavored bars was much better, in our opinion, than that of the Pacari flavored bars. But the real star was their solid chocolate bars. We also like the fact that this company is a cooperative of native Quichua people and is socially and environmentally responsible- they’re Certified Organic and Rainforst Alliance Certified.

  • 75% Cacao with Vanilla: Very slight vanilla flavor, very crispy snap to the bar, dark and bitter tasting with little milkiness.
  • 73% Cacao with Banana Chips: Another one of those, “what were they thinking?” bars. The banana chips are really small flakes and they’re not very sweet or crunchy like I was expecting, but rather mushy and salty.  Skip it.
  • 70% with Ginger and Salt: I do love salt in my dark chocolate bars. The ginger adds a nice spiciness, too.
  • 72% Cacao with Chili and Cinnamon: Heaven. My mouth felt warm when eating this from a combination of the mild chili flavor and the smoky, spicy cinnamon flavor.
  • 60% Cacao with Roasted Coffee Beans:  A sweeter chocolate contrasts well with the tannic coffee bean chunks. The coffee bean pieces were smaller in this bar than in the Republica del Cacao bar and gave a more uniform coffee flavor.
  • 70% Cacao: I kept going back and forth between this bar and the Pacari Raw 70% bar, trying to figure out which one I liked better. The Pacari bar definitely has more complex flavors and is more bitter, while the Kallari bar has a milkier texture. They’re both fantastic so it’s really hard to choose one over the other; I guess it just depends what mood you’re in!
  • 75% Cacao: This bar has a snappier texture and more complexity in flavor than the 70% bar. For when you’re feeling sophisticated and classy.

Mindo: This small chocolate maker in Mindo is focused on high quality, innovative products. If you visit Mindo you can tour their small experimental laboratory and their small-scale garden in which they grow all the things they need to produce their chocolate bars. We tried their 67% cacao bar and the 77% cacao bar with ginger. Both of these bars tasted more bitter to us than other bars with similar cacao content, but the texture of both was nice and creamy. If you’re in Michigan, look for their bars- they have a production facility there and their bars can be found in retail stores throughout the state.

It’s hard work eating 21 chocolate bars in less than 30 days, but someone’s gotta do it.  

A Little Souvenir For Later

Of course, after going through this experiment we had to buy a few bars to ship home for later:

souvenirIf they survive, we may even give a few away on our sister site, Eat Your Passport!

Have you ever tried Ecuadorian chocolate? What did you think?  Comment below to let us know your favorite!

Thank you Guest Bloggers Jeremy and Angie! Please note that Pacari Chocolate is available on Pod72.com. We are running a summer chocolate sale. Enter promo code “summer” and get 40% off your order. $5 flat rate shipping. US only.

Don’t forget to support our Kickstarter campaign. You can get chocolate in return! Pledges stat at only $1. Tell your friends!!!

Annmarie Kostyk, Founder Pod72

cropped-Pod72-05-01color-info3.jpg

 

Share
Print Friendly

Pod72.com is Growing with Kickstarter

Big Pod72Have you been on Pod72.com yet? It’s a great chocolate shop. Right now we’re specializing in some of the best chocolate bars in the world. We carry dark, milk, and white chocolate bars, including raw chocolate, rare chocolate, organic, flavored, bean to bar, kosher, vegan, and more!

We’re growing so fast, we decided we also need a brick and mortar shop here in Chicagoland! We’ll be Pod72 Chocolate!

We’re aiming to add a minimum of $9,999 through our Kickstarter campaign to our already secured $10K .

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1891687462/pod72com-…

12002_Swing-Kickstarter-logo

Love chocolate? The great thing about making a pledge to Pod72 Chocolate is not only helping a small business to grow, but receiving chocolate is return! Pledges start at only $1! Pledge more, get more!

Pod72 Chocolate will include the largest selection of chocolate bars in the WORLD! That’s right – the world. We’ll be bigger than Selfridge’s (The store, not the show.)in London. The shop will also include a bonbon bar where clients can create their own chocolate box. Special areas around the shop will feature displays of books and cookbooks on chocolate, baking chocolate supplies, drinking chocolate, molded chocolate, dipped fruits, covered nuts, chocolate syrups, spreads and sauces, fabulous Valentine gifts, and exquisite, old world Easter and Christmas chocolate. If it’s good, high quality chocolate, Pod72 Chocolate will sell it.

Pod72 Chocolate will also offer corporate gift selections and work with brides on chocolate tables and special chocolate favors. What client or employee wouldn’t want to receive a fabulous box of chocolates for the holidays? What wedding is complete without chocolate favors?

Chocolate Wedding Favors
Chocolate Wedding Favors

So, hop to it! Check out Pod72.com and buy some of your favorite chocolate bars. To help us grow… click on the link below which will take you to our campaign on Kickstarter. If we don’t reach the full amount, you don’t pay – even if we’re $1 short! So please get to it. Everyone can afford $1 and we will be delighted for every single dollar we get. WE NEED HELP!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1891687462/pod72com-is-growing

Go out and get yourself some chocolate!

Annmarie Kostyk, Pod72.com and Pod72 Chocolate

Pod72-05-01color-info2.jpg

 

Share
Print Friendly

Easter Means Chocolate!

Sebastian Papion
Sebastian Papion

Although fine chocolate isn’t yet associated with Easter, it used to be when fine artisan chocolate was all there was out there. Now we’re going back to our roots in all of our food, including chocolate.

Rococo Chocolate
Rococo Chocolate

Here’s some fun Easter chocolate facts:

Chocolate eggs, the most popular of Easter candies, were first made in Europe in the early 19th century and remain among the most popular treats associated with Easter.

After Halloween, Easter is the second top-selling confectionery holiday followed by Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

BlgRAPMIMAAieunThe largest Easter Egg ever made was just over 25ft high, weighing up to 8,968lbs and was made of chocolate and marshmallow, entering the Guinness Book of World Records.

According to 76% of people, the ears on chocolate bunnies should be eaten first. (That’s what I do… How about you?)

The tallest chocolate Easter egg measured 10.39m (34ft 1.05in) in height and was made by Tosca (Italy). It was measured at Le Acciaierie Shopping Centre, in Cortenuova, Italy on 16 April 2011. The chocolate Easter egg weighed 7,200kg and had a circumference of 19.6m (64 ft 3.65in) at its widest point.

Fine artisan chocolate is coming into play again. If you look, you can find fantastic Easter basket gifts next year. Take time and shop in advance. Give healthier treats and support small businesses.

The Egg Shell - Patrick Roger
The Egg Shell – Patrick Roger

Happy Easter,

Annmarie Kostyk, Founder Pod72

Shop www.Pod72.com for all your chocolate desires!

 

Share
Print Friendly

Check Out What Pod72 is All About

Big Pod72After many months of struggling to get the right concept for Pod72 – The World’s Chocolate Marketplace, it’s now open and we’re pretty excited about it.

The aim is to carry the most extensive collection of chocolate bars in the world. We currently carry Black Mountain Chocolate, Patric Chocolate, Marou Chocolate, Vintage Plantations Chocolate, Antidote Chocolate, and Chubby Chipmunk Maranon Chocolate (Fortunato No. 4 – a very rare variety of chocolate).

Potomac Chocolate -- Handcrafted bean-to-bar chocolate!
Potomac Chocolate — Handcrafted bean-to-bar chocolate!

You can shop by chocolate maker/chocolatier or buy dark, milk, white and raw. If you need something special such as Kosher, Gluten Free, Vegan, Sugar Free, Bean to Bar, Organic, or any other special desire, you can search by that. Pod72 will also be carrying some one of a kind hand-created chocolate journals for you to record your special journey with a favorite chocolate bar. There’s even a place to stash your chocolate wrapper! Need a fun chocolate themed gifts that’s not actually chocolate? We have that too – books, totes, mugs, and more! Don’t know what to get for the chocolate lover in your life? A Pod72 gift card is the perfect answer and it never expires.

Patric Chocolate Bars
Patric Chocolate Bars

Next week, Pod72 will be receiving chocolate bars from Fruition Chocolate, Pacari Chocolate, Potomac Chocolate, French Broad Chocolate, Dick Taylor Chocolate, The Chocolate Conspiracy, Raaka Chocolate, Woodblock Chocolate, Dead Dog Chocolate, and Alma Chocolate. How exciting is that? Also showing up in the near future are Pod72 products. Why? Because the logo is just so darned cute, that’s why.

We have temporarily decided to NOT ship international as it’s just too expensive. If you’re interested and you want to order enough where shipping is worth it for you, just email me and we will work it out!

If you live in the continental United States, shipping is a $5 flat rate whether you buy one chocolate bar or 50! What a deal!

So please check out Pod72 when you get a chance. Happy nibbling!

Annmarie Kostyk, Founder Pod72

Pod72-05-01color-info2.jpg

Share
Print Friendly

The International Chocolate Awards: European Semi-final 2014 – Grand Jury finalists, March 20, 2014 10:33 pm by Tania Bazel

2014-awards-logo-120The International Chocolate Awards is pleased to announce the Grand Jury finalists of the 2014 European Semi-final, which was judged at the Palazzo Gaddi in Florence, Italy, 27 February – 3 March 2014.

The Grand Jury finalists are the entries that made it through to the final Grand Jury round after a two-day Selection process and two days of Main round judging by over 70 judges from Italy and around the world – including Germany, Belgium, France, Japan, the USA and UK.

The Gold, Silver and Bronze winning products voted for by the Grand Jury in each category will be announced at the Awards Ceremony and Gala Dinner in Florence on 17 May 2014. Grand Jury Merit awards will also be announced at the May ceremony.

The Grand Jury finalists of the 2014 European Semi-finals are:

(In alphabetical order)

Bars

Akesson's Organic Chocolate
Akesson’s Organic Chocolate

Bars – Dark plain/origin bars

Akesson’s Organic (United Kingdom)
Bonnat Chocolatier (France)
Chocolaterie A. Morin (France)
Friis-Holm (Denmark)
Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé (Hungary)
Red Star Chocolate (United Kingdom)

Bars – High Percentage Dark plain/origin bars

Akesson’s Organic (United Kingdom)
Bonnat Chocolatier (France)
Francois Pralus (France)

Bars – Rough Ground Dark plain/origin bars

Donna Elvira (Italy)
Omnom Chocolate (Iceland)
Szántó Tibor Fine Chocolates (Hungary)

Bars – Dark plain/origin bars made with alternative natural sugars

Chocolate Naive (Lithuania)

Francois Pralus
Francois Pralus

Bars – Milk plain/origin bars

Francois Pralus (France)
Friis-Holm (Denmark)
IDILIO ORIGINS Premium Swiss Chocolates (Switzerland)
Michel Cluizel (France)
Red Star Chocolate (United Kingdom)
Slitti (Italy)

Bars – White plain/origin bars

Michel Cluizel (France)

Bars – Dark chocolate bars flavoured with an infusion or flavouring

Co Couture (United Kingdom)
Gardini (Italy)
MENAKAO (Madagascar)

Bars – Dark chocolate bars flavoured with inclusions or pieces

Akesson’s Organic, Ltd. (United Kingdom)
Michel Cluizel (France)
Pasticceria l’Antica di Ernst Knam (Italy)
Slitti (Italy)

Bars – Flavoured dark chocolate bars with a filling

Co Couture (United Kingdom)
Francois Pralus (France)
Guido Castagna (Italy)

Bars – Milk chocolate bars flavoured with an infusion or flavouring

Chocolate Naive (Lithuania)
Gardini (Italy)

Bars – Milk chocolate bars flavoured with inclusions or pieces

Chika Watanabe (United Kingdom)
chocoMe (Hungary)
Gardini (Italy)
Michel Cluizel (France)

Bars – Flavoured milk chocolate bars with a filling

Francois Pralus (France)
Piccola Pasticceria (Italy)

Bars – Flavoured white chocolate

Bonnat Chocolatier (France)
chocoMe (Hungary)


Filled chocolates – dark (flavoured or unflavoured)

Andrea Bianchini Chocolates
Andrea Bianchini Chocolates

Unflavoured dark – Ganaches and truffles

Andrea Bianchini (Italy)
Le Cacaotier (France)

Unflavoured dark – Nut pralines

A Giordano (Italy)
Bonnat Chocolatier (France)
Giuseppe Manilia (Italy)

Unflavoured dark – Gianduiotto

A Giordano (Italy)
Bodrato cioccolato (Italy)
Guido Castagna (Italy)
Piccola Pasticceria (Italy)

Unflavoured dark – Cremino

Guido Castagna (Italy)
Piccola Pasticceria (Italy)

Flavoured dark – Ganaches and truffles

Atelier du Confiseur (France)
Chococo (United Kingdom)
Damian Allsop Chocolates (United Kingdom)
Dolci Libertà (Italy)
Ika chocolate (Israel)

Dark – Nut based pralines and gianduja, enrobed whole nuts

Atelier du Confiseur (France)
Guido Castagna (Italy)

Dark chocolate marzipan

Torta Pistocchi Firenze (Italy)

Dark – Caramels

Paul A Young Fine Chocolates, Photo credit: Paul Winch-Furness
Paul A Young Fine Chocolates, Photo credit: Paul Winch-Furness

Paul A Young Fine Chocolates (United Kingdom)

Dark – Dark fruit pastes, jellies/gelée, enrobed whole fruits, liquid centres with alcohol, fondants

Atelier du Confiseur (France)
Bruco Dolciaria (Italy)


Filled chocolates – milk (flavoured or unflavoured)

Milk – Ganaches and truffles

Andrea Bianchini (Italy)
Ben Le Prevost Chocolatier (United Kingdom)
Paul A Young Fine Chocolates (United Kingdom)
Dolci Peano (Italy)

Milk – Unflavoured Cremino

A Giordano (Italy)

Milk – Flavoured Cremino

Gardini (Italy)

Milk – Gianduiotto

Piccola Pasticceria (Italy)

Milk – Enrobed whole nuts

chocoMe (Hungary)
Dolci Libertà (Italy)

Slitti (Italy)
Torta Pistocchi Firenze (Italy)

Milk – Fruit pastes, jellies/gelée, enrobed whole fruits, liquid centres with alcohol, fondants

Bruco Dolciaria (Italy)
Paul A Young Fine Chocolates (United Kingdom)
Piccola Pasticceria (Italy)


Filled chocolates – mixed (flavoured or unflavoured)

Ganaches and truffles with mixed dark/milk/white chocolate for coating and fillings

Bruno Chocolate (Israel)
Chococo (United Kingdom)
Nicky Grant (United Kingdom)
Paul A Young Fine Chocolates (United Kingdom)
Piccola Pasticceria (Italy)
Zangio Családi Csokoládéműhely (Hungary)


Spreads

Dark – Spreads

Guido Castagna (Italy)
Slitti (Italy)

Milk – Spreads

Fonderia del Cacao by Alfonso D’Orsi (Italy)
Gusti di Napoli (Italy)
Pasticceria Vacchieri Marco (Italy)
Piluc (Italy)
Slitti (Italy)

Share
Print Friendly
Dark Chocolate

Taking Heart from Dark Chocolate by Guest Writer Claire Irons

Dark Chocolate
Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is not only delicious, but also full of surprising health benefits, so there is no need to feel guilty about embracing the taste. This is especially true if you choose high-quality bean to bar and organic varieties, which contain higher levels of cocoa. As well as giving a rich flavor, the mix of ingredients in dark chocolate have also been found to lower cholesterol, help heart health and lower blood pressure – and that’s just for starters.

Chocolate’s health benefits have been known – or rumored – for hundreds of years. It was once hailed as the food of the gods and, back as far as the 17th century, it was believed to help people to live longer. The sweet stuff was regarded as a tonic in Europe for many years, after being introduced there by the Spanish. It has also been used as a medicine in the past for a wide range of conditions, ranging from rheumatism to heart troubles and sleep disturbances.

Lowering Cholesterol – and Blood Pressure 

Many people in the 21st century are all too aware of the risks of high cholesterol levels and taking action to cut their level. Eating a small amount of chocolate is the most enjoyable way most of us can imagine of doing this, and one piece of health advice we’re all happy to take. Dark chocolate is the most beneficial type of chocolate to combat cholesterol, because of its higher levels of health-giving chemicals and because it doesn’t contain dairy ingredients, which could possibly have the effect of raising cholesterol.

blood-pressureNumerous research projects have found that a small daily dose of dark chocolate can help to lower “bad” cholesterol in the blood, as long the chocolate you consume has at least 70% cocoa content. This is believed to be because chocolate contains flavonoids, which are the same natural chemicals found in many fruits and vegetables… as well as another treat, red wine. Another benefit of flavonoids is that they contain anti-oxidants, which are well-known for their power to protect against damage to cells.

A recent study showed that eating around 100 grams of dark chocolate daily could cut the danger of both heart attacks and strokes in people with a high risk of these conditions. Lowering cholesterol isn’t the only way in which dark chocolate can help your heart, though, because researchers have also found that a few squares daily have an impact on blood pressure, too. In another compilation of 20 different studies conducted over a 10-year period, people who ate a daily portion of chocolate saw their blood pressure drop by two or three points.The best idea, of course, is to combine eating chocolate with changes to diet and taking up exercise, for a healthier lifestyle all round.

Working Out the Benefits

Female with weights, working out.Many athletes and those on a get-fit drive might think twice about yielding to chocolate temptation, but there’s evidence that it is healthy for them too. Research by scientists from the University of California, San Diego, found that small amounts of epicatechin, an active ingredient in cacao-rich dark chocolate, boosted the muscle power of middle-aged mice, suggesting that the same could be true for humans. Dark chocolate also contains  theobromine, a natural stimulant which gives energy. This means if you eat a few squares along with a hydrating post-workout drink, you are likely to find the combination can really help to lift feelings of tiredness, whether they are the result of workout or a hard day in the office. As well as helping you to overcome aching muscles and strain, a few mouthfuls could also boost your mood, not just because of its  taste, but also because of its mix of stimulants and vitamins.Dark Chocolate BarsOther Health Advantages 
Dark chocolate also has a number of other possible health benefits. One recent suggestion is that, unlike other sweet foods, it might actually help to prevent teeth decay, because of its tannin content. Another suggestion is that it might help to control diabetes, and it could even provide beauty benefits by combating wrinkles and stress on skin, again down to its flavonoid content. There are also many chocolate skin care products to choose from, ranging from face masks to body lotions, so you can get the benefit of of this amazing super-food both inside and out.
Thank you for the guest post Claire!
Don’t forget to enjoy your daily dark chocolate! It’s good for you!
Annmarie Kostyk
Pod72-05-01color-info.jpg
Share
Print Friendly
hotel2

Boutique Boucan Hotel by Hotel Chocolat and Pod72 is Launching!

hotel2
The Pool at The Boucan Hotel (Photo Courtesy of Hotel Chocolat)

So, my two loves are anything to do with the Caribbean and chocolate. Did you know that you can combine those loves in a Caribbean vacation. Yep. It’s possible. It’s brought to you by Hotel Chocolat who is based out of the United Kingdom. They own 75 stores in the United Kingdom and 5 in the United States and Middle East. The really cool thing is they grow their own cacao.

Hotel Chocolat’s hotel is called Boutique Boucan Hotel and it is a luxury hotel located on the cacao grounds on the Rabot Estate in St. Lucia. I dream of going there. Maybe they’ll give me a good rate because of this article? My fingers are crossed.

The Boucan Restaurant
The Boucan Restaurant (Photo Courtesy of Hotel Chocolat)

This place is completely five star luxury. There are tours and trails amongst the paths in the cacao plantations. The restaurant serves elegant cuisine with cacao worked into the menu in both the main courses and desserts. Mind you, the menu is not limited to a few items. How about all of the items? yes! It’s true. How about starting with Cacao Gazpacho, followed by Aberdeen Angus Prime Beef with Dark Chocolate Port Wine Sauce, and Cacao Creme Brulee for dessert? Well, that’s what I’d order…

Cocoa Juvenate Products at The Boucan Hotel Spa (Photo Courtesy of Hotel Chocolat)
Cocoa Juvenate Products at The Boucan Hotel Spa (Photo Courtesy of Hotel Chocolat)

Believe it or not, the have a chocolate spa too. You name it, it involves cacao and they sell their products too. I’m thinking I’ll go for the Cacao Massage, Cacao Facial, and Cacao Reflexology. I’m too claustrophobic for the Cacao Detox Body Wrap.

The rates? Well, you get what you pay for. The Boutique Hotel Boucan is luxury and well worth every penny from what I can see. Of course, I have to go check it out for myself. The rates start at $400 US per night and go up to $1075 during peak season. Discount packages are available.

If you’ve been to Hotel Chocolat’s Boutique Boucan Hotel, let me know what you thought of it, what you ate, and your experiences.

And here’s a little bit about Pod72… It’s launching on Thursday, September 5, 2013 for any of you that are interested in buying or selling chocolate. Remember, we’re just starting, so be patient with us and keep checking back.

Pod72 is a chocolate online buying and selling destination from the world’s most exceptional chocolate makers. It is “The World’s Chocolate Marketplace”.

At Pod72, we showcase the world’s best chocolates including bean to bar chocolate bars, dark, milk, and white chocolate bars, chocolate cover fruits and nuts, bonbons, caramels, truffles, boxed chocolates, chocolate bark, toffees, chocolate sauces, chocolate spreads, drinking chocolate, baking chocolate, books on chocolate, chocolate journals, chocolate for the bath and body, chocolate apparel and gifts, and Pod72 gift cards.

Selling on Pod72: Anyone is welcome to sell their products on Pod72 as long as they have a business or resellers license and provide accurate ingredient information for the buyer.

Buying on Pod72: Buying chocolate from businesses throughout the world in one stop shopping in the privacy of your home has been made possible with Popd72. We provide a powerful medium for buyers and sellers to connect in “The World’s Chocolate Marketplace.

On Pod72 you buy direct from the chocolate maker with payment going directly to them. The seller will then ship the products straight out to you.

Peace and chocolate, Annmarie

Pod72-05-01color-info.jpg

Share
Print Friendly
Image Courtesy of A30­_Tsitika | Flickr.com

From Bean to Bar Chocolate by Marcela De Vivo

I would like you all to welcome guest blogger Marcela De Vivo in her first post on something that’s been creating a big buzz in the chocolate world and that’s bean to bar chocolate.

Image Courtesy of A30­_Tsitika | Flickr.com
Image Courtesy of A30­_Tsitika | Flickr.com

The production of chocolate from the cacao bean to the chocolate bar is an art form. Multiple steps are involved to ensure the flavor of the chocolate is at its finest. The specific recipe used to make the chocolate is up to the manufacturer, but the process of production is essentially the same, and has been the same for hundreds of years (with only innovations in technology that has made the process more efficient).

Chocolate making starts in the field with cacao trees. These trees flourish in tropical environments, where temperatures are high and there is consistent rainfall.

There are three main types of cocoa plants: the Criollo, Forastero, and Trinitario.

Criollo

Due to the plant’s susceptibility to disease, the Criollo cocoa plant is difficult to grow, but its bean is highly sought after for its distinct and complex flavor. The few plantations that grow this bean are located in Mexico, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, Venezuela, Columbia, and the Caribbean islands. Since its taste is rare and it is hard to grow, the Criollo bean is also the most expensive cocoa bean.

Forastero

The Forastero been is widely cultivated and thus the majority of the world’s chocolate comes from this type of cocoa bean. The Forastero are easy to care for, the beans grow fast and in multitude, and unlike the Criollo bean, the Forastero cocoa plant is more resistant to disease. Most Forastero plants are located in Brazil, Columbia, Peru, Ecuador, West Africa, Guyana, and south Venezuela.

Amenolado

Amenolado is a variety of the Forastero cocoa. It has a mild, delicate flavor and is produced mostly in Ecuador.

Trinitario

The Trinitario plant is a fusion of the Criollo and Forastero plants. First planted on the island of Trinidad, the Trinitario combines the flavor of the Criollo plant with the sturdiness of the Criollo to produce a flavorful bean that is typically used in dark chocolate.

Harvesting

Harvesting the cacao pods is done by hand to ensure the buds are mature and ready. They are cut from the tree without damaging the flower buds or the surrounding stems and immature pods.

The cacao beans are found within these pods within a protective, fibrous white pulp. The pods itself are carefully broken to reveal the cacao beans, which are gathered onto a mat made of banana leaves or in covered  bins.

Fermentation

Yeast in the air and heat generated from the pile of beans converts the pulp surrounding cacao bean into alcohol in the process of fermentation. The beans are gently mixed as oxygen is further introduced, turning the alcohol into lactic acid or acetic acid, which leaks out of the pile to leave in its place the beans.

During this process, the beans plump and change their flavor into what are the beginnings of chocolate. The fermentation process can take as long as eight days, and at the end of it the beans are referred to as cocoa beans.

Drying

Due to their high moisture content, the beans are dried either directly in the sun or in sheds. When they reach a moisture content of about 6 or 7 percent, they are sorted and packaged based on their size and quality and then delivered to chocolate manufacturers.

 

Image Courtesy of Moyan­_Brenn | Flickr.com
Image Courtesy of Moyan­_Brenn | Flickr.com

Manufacturing

Once they reach the manufacturers, the beans are carefully inspected for defects, insects, size, aroma, and flavor. They are then thoroughly cleaned and sent to roast for 10 to 35 minutes to separate the shell from the bean kernel in a process known as cracking.

The cracked beans, or cocoa nibs, are then put through a grinding machine to liquefy the cocoa’s butter to produce chocolate liquor, or chocolate liquid.

A refining machine is used to further break down and even out the liquor. This is another crucial step in producing the distinct taste of chocolate.

Based on the manufacturer’s specificity, the conching process further rolls out the chocolate liquor and its other ingredients over hours or days for its defined taste and texture. From there, the chocolate is molded into bars, and they can get sent to other manufactures to create specific chocolate retail products.

And thus, the production process is as charming as the chocolate itself!

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer from Los Angeles. Her writing covers everything from health to marketing and manufacturing. She’s always been interested in how things are made, and as an avid chocolate lover, she finds the process fascinating!

We’re also starting to see a lot of bean to bar chocolate being made from the Nacional variety of Theobroma cacao which was previously thought to be extinct.

Have a great day!

Annmarie Kostyk, Founder Pod72

Pod72-05-01color-info.jpg

Share
Print Friendly
Unroasted Madagascar 70%

The Chocolate Tree (Scotland) – Bean to Bar Chocolate

When I want chocolate, I’ll order it from anywhere in the world – hence the idea for Pod72 – which I’ll keep you posted on.

I’m so excited I just received my shipment of chocolate from The Chocolate Tree in Scotland. Six bean to bar chocolate bars. No reviews yet, I want to savor and had a lot of other reviews to do first.

Here’s what I got (all bean to bar):Unroasted Madagascar 70%

Single Origin – Peru 70% (Beans: Nacional, Conch Time: 60 hours)

Single Origin – Peru 80% (Beans: Nacional, Conch Time: 60 hours)

Unroasted – Madagascar 70% (Beans: Criollo, Conch Time: 60 hours)

Single Origin – Madagascar 72% (Beans: Criollo, Conch Time: 45 hours)

One hundred – Madagascar 100%! (Beans: Criollo, Conch Time: 60 hours)

Orange & Sea Salt – Madagascar 72% (Beans: Criollo, Conch Time: 45 hours) Won the International Chocolate Awards 2013 European Silver! How awesome!

Look at this fabulous packaging!

Single Origin Peru 70%

I’ll keep you posted on the review. If you want to buy any bean to bar chocolate or other chocolate from The Chocolate Tree, they ship to the United States. It’s fast and it’s fairly inexpensive. Look for it!

Have a day full of chocolate!

Annmarie Kostyk, Pod72

Share
Print Friendly
Gnosis Raw Chocolate

Raw Chocolate Really? by Guest Blogger Lee McCoy of Chocolate Reviews and Chocolatiers.com

Gnosis Raw Chocolate

It’s not just in the chocolate industry that aficionados fight, tooth and nail, to promote the benefits or small batch, organic, artisan or ethical, locally-produced chocolate; there are large swathes of people in the ‘slow food’ movement that believe food should be made from healthy, nutritious ingredients that have been fairly traded.

There are also ever-increasing numbers of people that are shifting their diets from high-fat, low-nutrition foods to vegan, vegetarian and even becoming raw foodists. Personally I’d never go that far, but that doesn’t mean that I’d never try raw chocolate. But why should beer-drinking, heavy smoking, Big-Mac loving people give raw chocolate a try? There are no green leaves in it, there’s no nuts and pulses, it’s made of chocolate, and it has sugar …. That’ll be enough for most, but there’s more.

The problem with all these food ‘movements’ is that they often isolate the very people that could do with considering those diets. Typically the people that don’t need a gluten-free diet, a dairy-free diet, or meat-free diets are the ones that choose to live by those restrictions. But the people that have dietary intolerances, the people with very poor diets and those whose life could be enhanced by shifting their intake towards more wholesome foods, are the ones that are made to feel excluded by ‘food fascists.’ But, it doesn’t need to be that way.

Zotter Raw Dark Chocolate

What is raw chocolate?
Before we get onto what it tastes like, it may be good to know what raw chocolate is. Essentially there are many different processes which involve heat. The first is fermentation. Here the beans get their composition changed by heat from the fermentation process that is important to so many of the beverages you consume. Another feature of the chocolate making process and one of the last: conching. Here too heat is present to reduce the size of the chocolate liquor particles as well as help define the flavour of the chocolate. The middle stage that features heat is the most intense and that is where the cocoa are roasted, either in the form of beans, nibs or liquor. This has a significant impact on the flavour and chemical composition of the chocolate you taste in bar form. Hence, the flavour and texture of raw chocolate is the biggest differentiator between that and ‘normal’ chocolate.

Lulu’s Chocolate (raw chocolate)

What does raw chocolate taste like?
In my time I’ve reviewed a great variety of raw chocolate. To me, virtually all of those have an underlying metallic flavour, which can be distracting. But with raw chocolate comes a mind-set that just isn’t present with the more ‘artisan’ chocolate makers.

In the US the leading raw chocolate maker is Gnosis which is run by the very talented Vanessa Barg who combines the raw chocolate making process with a homeopathic, herbalist expertise. Here chocolate moves from just being an emotional food to a functional one. Vanessa’s chocolate not only satisfies the need for those who have a desire to consume non-cooked food, but also those that could have a more direct, beneficial effect on our bodies.

To simply cast aside ‘raw chocolate’ because you view it as some sort of ‘hippy’ fad is really missing the point. Eating fruit and vegetables isn’t a fad, its common-sense. Consuming herbs and spices that may have a benefit our health should not be dismissed.

Can it taste like normal chocolate?
The only bar that I’ve found tastes like ‘normal’ chocolate is the Zotter raw chocolate bar. This is an utterly fantastic bar of chocolate, despite being ‘hampered’ by the lack of roasting. It’s full of flavour, robust and utterly delicious. There’s only the slightest metallic taste, but this is more than compensated by a true fine chocolate flavour.

There must be a whole world of raw chocolate that will appeal to you – whatever flavours and textures, just try it, you may actually end up loving it.

Where else can I buy raw chocolate?

Have a look at:

You can read Lee’s blog at Chocolate Reviews and buy chocolate at his website Chocolatiers.

Have you tried any raw chocolate?

Annmarie Kostyk, The Chocolate Expert

Share
Print Friendly

Chocolate. Chocolate. Chocolate.

Annmarie Kostyk is Stephen Fry proof thanks to caching by WP Super Cache