Seattle becomes the city of craft chocolate during the fall.
Residents and tourists rejoice for the arrival of chocolate makers to town. From the US, Latin America, Europe and as far as Japan, some of the most flavorful chocolate in the world is showcased.
The leading role goes to small/medium sized companies that make bean-to-bar chocolate.
Imagine chocolate makers locked up in their kitchen for weeks. Those conching machines running non-stop. Tempering and wrapping like there was no tomorrow. They paid some serious money to be in the city of coffee houses and were ready to show off. Some of them even participated to the Chocolate Makers UnConference.
On the other side, chocolate lovers were eager to meet the faces behind their favorite brands and have their palates amused by intriguing flavors.
The romantic date between supply and demand took place at the Northwest Chocolate Festival, one of the most anticipated events of the year in the chocolate industry.
On November 12-13 hundreds of people found comfort from the heavy rain at Pier 91 Smith Cove, Seattle.
It was like chocolate paradise!
Educational lectures were held throughout the day on the first floor. The goal was to let consumers see the behind the scenes of chocolate making. From sourcing cacao to chocolate machines, from justice for farmers to the struggles of women in cacao, from tasting sessions to biology and chemistry talks. Chocolate was tackled from every point of view.
On the second floor, it was SHOW TIME for chocolate companies.
The spacious location allowed every booth to be busy without interfering with the flow of visitors going around. Chocolate makers stood proud behind their creations. Generous samples made visitors incredibly happy. Deciding what chocolate to buy was the hardest past.
The quality of the chocolate offered was very high, but some chocolate bars stood out from the crowd and had everybody talking.
ECUADOR WILD & RAW by Starchild Chocolate
This Single Origin bar by California based Starchild Chocolate received amazing feedback at the festival.
Consumers showed their appreciation by buying this bar until it sold out. Also renowned professionals in the chocolate industry remained astonished by the unique flavor of this Single Origin.
This one is NOT your usual Ecuador bar. As declared by the company: “This fine flavor cacao comes to us from the pristine jungles of Western Ecuadors Bolivar province”. Co-founder Ash admitted that it took him a lot of research before finding such peculiar cacao beans.
Unrefined coconut sugar, cocoa butter and a slight touch of vanilla are added to unroasted and stone ground cacao. The result is a delicate yet remarkable flavor that leave fine chocolate lovers begging for more.
COCONUT MILK by Marou
Chocolate makers Samuel and Vincent from Marou are known for their Single Origin Dark bars with cacao sourced in exotic regions of Vietnam.
Who knew that they could make spectacular milk chocolate too?
This Coconut Milk bar made everybody fall in love at the Salon du Chocolat in Paris in October. No surprise that its popularity had spread also to the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle.
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The peculiarity of this bar is that the flavor of coconut is not too strong and the bar is not too sweet, like it happens in many coconut milk bars. The cacao percentage at 55% keeps the power of the coconut under control. The remaining 27% is cane sugar and 18% coconut milk powder. Accurately balanced ingredients make this bar a perfect match to palates that don’t enjoy overly sweet chocolate, but still love creamy texture and coconut flavor.
The Ben Tre Province is the origin to thank for both the fine cacao and the coconut used. Single Origin at its finest.
BAY NUT by Firefly Chocolate
This bar by chocolate maker Jonas from Firefly Chocolate is the quintessential of peculiar inclusions.
It contains the nuts of the California Bay Laurel Tree. Related to the avocado family, these nuts are not cultivated but wild harvested. The company is very transparent on the origin of the ingredients used: 40% cacao beans from Belize, 30% bay nuts from Mendocino (California) and 30% coconut sugar from Indonesia.
The result is a peculiar flavor that leaves tasters confused but excited. What seems coffee at first smell reveals notes of nutty burnt caramel instead. Other intriguing flavors jump in during the tasting, leaving consumers with that “what did I just taste?” look on their faces.
Somebody at the festival described the taste of this bar as “slightly burnt popcorn”.
MADAGASCAR SMOKED by Sweets Escalier
Japanese chocolate maker Sweets Escalier decided to take the brightest and fruitiest cacao from Madagascar and “smoke it”. Since all the info about the chocolate can only be found in Japanese, the process behind this bar is hard to decode.
The result is fruitiness and smokiness that remain separate in the palate. These flavors never meet, but weirdly enough they work perfectly together.
The same cannot be said by the other smoked bar showcased by the same maker: Cuba Smoked. Smoking beans with already very dark and earthy notes made the chocolate unbearable. On the other side, the process worked well with the fruity and citrusy Madagascan beans.
Remarkable is also the packaging, with a design personally drawn by the chocolate maker.
Here are other craft chocolate bars seen at the Northwest Chocolate Festival that also deserve to be mentioned:
- TANZANIA by Solstice Chocolate. A flavorful Tanzania that starts with dark earthy notes and then suddenly opens up to reveal a fruity and citrusy ending like in a Single Origin Madagascar bar.
- 62% DARK BLEND by Harper Macaw. This bar is the perfect example of how Brazilian cacao can reveal bright and fruity notes if sourced with accuracy and processed with care.
- MACORIS by Amano Artisan Chocolate. New release from the renowned chocolate maker Art Pollard, this Single Origin from the Dominican Republic has incredible notes of cream, molasses and brown sugar despite being 70% dark chocolate.
Have YOU tried any of these intriguing chocolate bars?
I did NOT get paid and did NOT receive any kind of favor for writing this article. These are my honest opinions at your service.