Friday, July 7, 2017

Do you like a dark roast, a medium roast or a light? New Montreal-based chocolate maker, Rica Chocolat, brings us choice in our cocoa 'roast'

Do you ever think about chocolate's 'roast profile' in the same way as coffee? If not, you should! When you taste a chocolate and wonder why it has an upfront roast flavour, or perhaps smokiness or a tobacco flavour, consider that it may be because the chocolate maker applied a deep roast to the cocoa beans. Other flavours may come to you as the chocolate melts on your tongue, which can be attributed to the origin of the cocoa bean, but a dark roast can certainly make for an interesting chocolate. On the other hand, if the upfront flavour is very fruity, or perhaps honey-like in taste, or maybe has a raw nuttiness, possibly the chocolate maker chose a light roast for the cocoa beans.
 
Rica Chocolat in Montreal has chosen to showcase - through their chocolate bars - different roasts on the same cocoa beans. This is such a wonderful opportunity for chocolate lovers to taste the difference between roasts, and decide for themselves which way they like their chocolate, much like coffee drinkers do. As with  Calgary-based McGuire Chocolate, which I told you about last week, the chocolate makers at Rica love to experiment with their cocoa beans. However, at Rica they are using just one origin of cocoa beans (Costa Rica), and trying many different recipes on those same beans, including different roasts and refining times. In fact, their first experiments resulted in 17 different chocolate bars! 

 
 
Rica was founded by friends, Philippe Fortier, Renaud Miniaou and Adrien Arnoux. I communicated with Adrien while writing this article, and he shared that the three met while attending business school in Montreal. Philippe was raised in Costa Rica and told the others about his wish to support the cocoa farmers near where he was raised. He had learned about the impact of witches broom on cocoa plantations, and was looking for a way to support the farmers, and have a positive impact on their lives. After considering selling cocoa beans from Costa Rica, they instead decided that making chocolate would have the best impact.

I have tasted two of the chocolate bars made by Philippe, Renaud and Adrien, and based on the quality of their chocolate, I think they will indeed have a positive impact on the farmers in Costa Rica. The texture is quite nice and the flavours are bold, in a good way. Upon opening the package, the Ébène (ebony) N17 chocolate bar, which had a medium roast and 72% cocoa solids, had the aroma of a citrus punch drink. The Sauvage (wild) N15 also had 72% cocoa solids and had a 'Douce et longue' (low roast, but long) roast. It has a smoky aroma with a hint of brown sugar and fruit (like the smell of pie).


The N17 with its 'Moyenne' (medium roast) offers bold fruit flavours that are quite potent. The roast taste is there, but it sits in the background, with a little leather and woody tastes, along with an acidic/citrus punch.

N15, with its 'douce et longue' (long and low) roast, definitely offers a smoke and tobacco flavour profile, with fruitiness as the after-thought.

Because the cocoa bean is so fruity and thereby acidic in nature, this is not a sweet-tasting 72% cocoa bar. This Costa Rica bean, used by Rica reminds me more of the Grenada beans I have been testing: bold, fruity, tropical and definitely best when made at a 70 to 75% dark chocolate. An 85% might be too acidic to bear, but 60% would be like nice fresh fruit with sugar poured over it. All that said, Rica made a good choice with its 72% cocoa solids. The amount of sugar (28%) allows the bean flavour to shine, bringing out those bold fruit flavours, while not covering it up with a sugary-sweet taste.
 
I look forward to tasting the other 15 recipes someday and see what will come from Rica Chocolat!
 
More about Rica Chocolat & Where to Buy
 
Rica's chocolates are currently being made by Adrien, Phil and Renaud in Chocolat Monarque's workshop at 5333 Casgrain in Montreal, Canada. Their chocolate bars are now available at Cœur D'artichaut in Montreal - 1451 avenue Laurier est. Check the website for more information on where you can find their chocolate near you at: https://ricachocolat.com/ or follow on Instagram @ricachocolat.

To read about other new Canadian Chocolate Makers in this Canada 150 series, click the following links:

Part 1: Kasama Chocolate in BC
Part 2: McGuire Chocolate in Alberta
Part 3: Aschenti Chocolate in Winnipeg
Part 4: Qantu Cacao et Chocolat
Part 5: Rica Chocolat in Montreal
Part 6 and Beyond: more of Quebec's newest makers and the East Coast

For a full list of Canadian chocolate makers, visit: http://ultimatechocolateblog.blogspot.ca/2014/01/canadas-growing-bean-to-bar-craft.html.

Friday, June 30, 2017

New Canadian Chocolate Maker Sweeping the Competition: Qantu Chocolate takes home two GOLD Awards

Qantu Cacao et Chocolat has just leapt on to the international chocolate scene in an incredible way. They are very new chocolate makers, having done their firsts tests on Peruvian cocoa beans just last August, and now they have just won TWO GOLD Academy of Chocolate Awards.


Qantu owners and chocolate makers, Elfi and Maxime, are passionate about Peruvian cacao (Efi is from Peru) and making great chocolate from those beans. Their goal is to develop a win-win partnership with the cocoa farmers from whom they purchase their beans in Peru. Elfi explained in an e-mail to me that 'Qantu' is "the name of the national flower of Peru and Bolivia as well as being a symbol of unity among peoples", showing their full commitment to Peru, its people, and bettering Peruvian cocoa farmers' lives.

I received three of Qantu's chocolate bars from Karine at Miss Choco while I was in Grenada (yes, the chocolate travelled from Montreal, to Grenada, and then back to Ontario before being tasted by me). The Chuncho 100% bar was a little melted, but I've had enough experience with overheated chocolate that I can see past the cocoa butter bloom and taste its true origins. And for a 100% chocolate - absolutely unsweetened - I can say this chocolate is good. It is a little floral and perhaps fruity, with low acidity and no astringency, and definitely very palatable. There is no 'kick-back' from the bitterness and no shock to the tongue, like many 100% dark chocolates can have. I was impressed immediately with the product.


Even more impressive was the Pérou Gran Blanco 70% dark chocolate bar. This was one of the two Gold winners, and before I learned about their Gold win, I knew it was going to be a chocolate bar that would become famous rather quickly. Really nothing compares to this bean - okay, well a Madagascar chocolate might compare. Qantu's Pérou Gran Blanco is so full of fruity raspberry/blackberry flavours that it almost tastes like raspberries and fruit was added to the chocolate. Plus, the colour is so milk chocolaty (even though no milk chocolate was added) that it makes the entire experience very unique (see the pic below for the light colour). I just loved comparing the shade differences between the two 70% Peru bars made by Qantu. It is such a great example of how cocoa bean origins and types can vary within the same cacao-growing country.


The Pérou Morropón 70% bar was almost equally full of fruit flavours - not quite as strong, but still strong and surprising when tasted. The texture was not quite as creamy as the Gran Blanco, but given the light shade of the Criollo-type beans in the Blanco, there is likely to be more cocoa butter in those beans over the beans used for the Morropón, making the Gran Blanco just a bit creamier.


Where can you buy Qantu Chocolate?

Elfi and Maxime are currently setting up a new workshop (on Rue Notre-Dame Est), which will be ready sometime in August. Visit www.qantuchocolate.com and follow them on Social Media (Instagram: @qantu_chocolat) to stay up-to-date on this opening. In the meantime, you can purchase their chocolate online at:
New packaging will be launched at the Salon of chocolate and cacao in Peru from July 6th to 9th. Stay tuned, I am sure we can expect great things from this chocolate maker!

To read about other new Canadian Chocolate Makers in this Canada 150 series, click the following links:

Part 1: Kasama Chocolate in BC
Part 2: McGuire Chocolate in Alberta
Part 3: Aschenti Chocolate in Winnipeg
Part 4: Qantu Cacao et Chocolat
Part 5 and Beyond: more of Quebec's newest makers and the East Coast
For a full list of Canadian chocolate makers, visit: http://ultimatechocolateblog.blogspot.ca/2014/01/canadas-growing-bean-to-bar-craft.html.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Aschenti Cocoa: Where Cameroon and Winnipeg cross paths

Aschenti Cocoa is one of two bean-to-bar chocolate makers located in Winnipeg, Manitoba. And their focus is clear: make chocolate from cacao (cocoa beans) grown in the central African national of Cameroon, by using the crops from their own farm and support other local cocoa farmers in Cameroon.

According to Aschenti's website, the Netherlands brought cacao trees back to Cameroon from the Maya and Aztec people in 1871, and so the Ashanti people were the first cacao growers in Africa. The chocolate makers at Aschenti want to keep "the Ashanti people’s tradition and values by using natural products. It’s about going back to the roots and preserving that legendary way of life, and the result is a unique chocolate, without additives, a rich and virtuous chocolate."



According to Reuters, Cameroon is the world's sixth biggest cocoa grower, producing nearly 210K tonnes in the 2013/2014 season.  But only about 15% of that cocoa production was processed locally, so the government of Cameroon announced in 2015 plans to double the processing capacity within the country, by adding 10 industrial processing units in cacao growing regions. So what does this mean? More of the money from growing cacao stays within the country. Since Aschenti uses cocoa beans they grow (at their own farm in Cameroon) and buy from local farms that process on site, the beans are a part of the 15% that is already being processed within Cameroon. The cacao is being fermented in wooden boxes and then the beans are dried on site, before being shipped to Winnipeg to be roasted, winnowed, and ground into chocolate.

I purchased a few bars of Aschenti's chocolate, predominantly the plain flavoured bars (a 72% dark, a 64% and a 41% milk chocolate), in order to taste the Cameroon origin flavours in the beans.  This chocolate certainly has a different flavour profile than I am used to. There is a strong taste of molasses, black coffee and caramelized brown sugars in the taste of the 72% dark chocolate. It is certainly has a dryer flavour, and is on the bitter side. I was not keen on this bar (but keep in mind, chocolate is a personal thing, and what I might not like, might be the exact flavour that you like).

On the other hand, the 64% has milk in the ingredients list and was enjoyable, with a creamier texture and still that different and interesting coffee bean (and maybe green coffee bean?) and molasses taste. It was like a coffee with just a little bit of milk in it. The 42% milk chocolate was my favourite. It was creamy and not very sweet, just the way I prefer my milk chocolate.


Aschenti applies a low-temperature roast in order to showcase the bean flavour, which may explain part of the unique flavour profile of these beans (it does have a bit of a 'raw chocolate' taste). Also, the origin of the cocoa beans is likely the biggest contributor to the flavour profile.

Aschenti also offers several flavoured bars, including a variety of milk chocolate bars like 42% Vanilla Beans and Olive Oil (sounds interesting, I'll need to try this one!), and a 'Cacao Coconut Butter'. They also make a mint leaf bar, spiced chocolate and sea salt chocolate. And they sell roasted cocoa nibs and pure cocoa beans.

Follow on Instagram: @aschenti or visit their website at: www.aschenti.com to learn more or buy online. Some retailers in Manitoba and BC carry Aschenti's chocolate; view the retailer list at the bottom of this page: http://aschenti.com/from-bean-to-bar.php#our-retailers to find a retailer near you.

To read about more new Canadian chocolate makers, see the other articles in this series that celebrates new Canadian craft chocolate:

Part 1: Kasama Chocolate in BC
Part 2: McGuire Chocolate in Alberta
Part 3: Aschenti Chocolate in Winnipeg
Part 4: Tomorrow's surprise chocolate maker...come back to find out who it is?
Part 5 and Beyond: Quebec and the East Coast
For a full list of Canadian chocolate makers, visit: http://ultimatechocolateblog.blogspot.ca/2014/01/canadas-growing-bean-to-bar-craft.html.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Exploring New Canadian Chocolate Makers, Part 2: McGuire Chocolate in Calgary

I recently began exploring Canada's newest craft chocolate makers in celebration of the country's 150th birthday (for you non-Canadian readers, it is this coming Saturday!). I started by writing about Kasama in Vancouver last week, and today we'll look at Alberta's chocolate-making newbies. For a long time, Calgary had just one craft chocolate maker (Choklat), but now a few more have been added. Of those, McGuire Chocolate is making single origin chocolate from bean-to-bar.




McGuire Chocolate founders, Mark and Victoria, are definitely bean-obsessed. They love cocoa beans so much, they offer a trillion different chocolate bars made from different beans and different roast profiles. Okay, so a 'trillion' is an exaggeration, but it seems to be the right word for the seemingly endless number of chocolate bars offered by these energetic chocolate makers. I understand their need to try new beans all the time because I feel the same way. Once I started working with cocoa beans, I couldn't get enough. I wanted to taste all different kinds, then discover how those beans taste with different roasts, different percentages of sugar, and varying refining time. And this also seems to be the case with Mark and Victoria.

I also really enjoy the idea behind McGuire Chocolate's gorgeous packaging. The envelope fits three chocolate bars perfectly. This is just the right number for doing a comparison tasting of different cocoa bean origins.



I received a package of three bars, a Nicaragua origin chocolate (O'Payo 70% dark), a Tanzania origin chocolate (Kokoa Kamili 70% dark) and an Ecuador origin (La Buceta). A tasting card was included with each, and the length of refining time, as well as the roast profile was also shared alongside the tasting notes.

The Tanzania chocolate bar was DELICIOUS. It was bold and bright, with citrus fruit plus berry, perhaps cherry and blackberry. I was also a bit tart and just a lovely chocolate overall.


The O'Payo chocolate bar had a lovely acidic citrus and slight fruit taste, with a roast flavour that made the whole combination bold and bright. It had a slightly stiffer texture than, say, a Lindt chocolate, but that usually has something to do with two-ingredient chocolate (which this is, just cacao and cane sugar with no added cocoa butter). I have used this same Nicaraguan cocoa bean and it is quite bold and bitter, has a lovely chocolaty flavour, and also very versatile. McGuire's O'Payo chocolate bar is a great chocolate to compare to other - very fruity or nutty - chocolate bars to showcase the differences between origin chocolates.

As for the La Buceta from Ecuador - it was a bit too spicy and dry for me (and 'soapy' as my tasting friend described it). The tasting notes, which you can see in the picture below (and please do ignore my mixing up of the cards between La Buceta and O'Payo), describe it as have notes of IPA, curry, cinnamon and cashews. It is definitely a dry curry flavour. I didn't know what IPA stood for, but an internet abbreviation search gave me 116 potential abbreviations, with the only taste-related ones being Indian Pale Ale (okay, beer and perhaps Indian spices like curry, this seems reasonable) and 'IsoPropyl Alcohol'. I'm pretty sure 'International Phonetic Alphabet' is not the flavour note they were referring to. But whichever IPA it was, it certainly had a very interesting flavour, although it was not my favourite.



Overall, the experience of McGuire was fun. I like that you can order single bars from the website, or packages of three, like I experienced, and hold a chocolate tasting among friends to truly understand the origins of the bars, or perhaps the differences between roasts.

Learn more about McGuire Chocolate at http://mcguirechocolate.com/ or follow them on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/mcguirechocolate/) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/mcguirechocolate/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel).

***
To read about other new Canadian Chocolate Makers in this Canada 150th birthday series, click the following links:

Part 1: Kasama Chocolate in BC
Part 2: McGuire Chocolate in Alberta
Part 3: Aschenti Chocolate in Winnipeg
Part 4: Qantu Cacao et Chocolat
Part 5 and Beyond: more of Quebec's newest makers and the East Coast
For a full list of Canadian chocolate makers, visit: http://ultimatechocolateblog.blogspot.ca/2014/01/canadas-growing-bean-to-bar-craft.html.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Celebrate Canada's 150th Birthday by Exploring the Country's Newest Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Makers: Starting with Kasama Chocolate

Canada's 150th birthday is fast approaching! So let's celebrate by featuring some new Canadian chocolate makers. I've been stocking up lately on chocolate from all across this great country and I want to tell you about each and every new chocolate maker.

If you read this blog regularly, you'll know that I try to stay updated on all the newest bean-to-bar chocolate makers around the globe and here at home in North America. I keep lists on the blog (US, UK, CAD), so you can keep up-to-date as well.  And I've been watching the list of Canadian chocolate makers rapidly grow over the last five years. Most recently, many more opened their doors (or kitchens, as the case may be, as not many craft chocolate makers have actual store-fronts). So we'll start from the West and work our way East. Stay tuned each day, I intend to bring you a Canadian chocolate maker feature (along with a few other blog posts thrown into the mix about chocolate makers, equipment, and cocoa beans from around the world).

We'll start today with those super-cool West-coasters at Kasama Chocolate...

Kasama Chocolate (East Vancouver):




A partnership between four people: Dom, Oliver, Vincent and Stefan, which began when Vincent inherited a small piece of land in the Philippines. Vincent found cacao growing on the property, and when he came back to Canada, he told his friends about it. They joked that on the next visit, he should bring some back and they would make chocolate from it. A month later, he did just that. And they have been making chocolate ever since.

Kasama Chocolate and I did a little switch-a-roo this Spring, when we exchanged our bean-to-bar chocolate across the country. They sent me a few of their bars to taste, and at the same time, I sent them a few of mine (check out Kasama's post on Instagram and mine). The fun part was tasting each other's Honduras bar, since we both use the same cocoa beans for that one. And I have to say, I quite like the taste of Kasama's. For obvious reasons since we use the same beans, but also because of that caramelized almond taste and aroma, as well as a fruitiness that is hard to find words to explain. It is truly one of my favourite beans - not only to taste in chocolate form, but also to work with. The bean tastes amazing on its own, and the shells release easily.

The star of Kasama's show was the Costa Rica bar. It was fruity, bold, acidic and bright in flavour. Sort of citrus, sort of orange/tangerine, sort of berry - like a bold smoothie of flavours with some cocoa nibs thrown in for that cacao flavour. I loved this chocolate bar.


Kasama also makes a 55% goat's milk. I shared it with a friend, and was a little sad to let it go without trying it first. So you'll have to taste it for yourself if you are curious.  Kasama Chocolate is sold at farmer's markets throughout the Vancouver area, including Mt. Pleasant Farmer's Market, as well as Riley Park Farmer's Market all summer long.

Kasama is a home-based business for the time being (there is talk of finding an appropriate space for their business). They make bean-to-bar chocolate bars and bean-to-truffle confections. Visit www.kasamachocolate.com for more information.

Next up will be: McGuire Chocolate (Calgary).

After that, watch for Aschenti Cocoa (Winnipeg).

And then a whole slew of chocolate makers from Quebec, as well as a newbie on the East Coast.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Creamy Chocolate Pie Recipe with a Sour Cream Twist



Do you ever crave a rich chocolate truffle that you can slice? If you do, you are in the right place today! That's what this pie is: a truffle on a plate.

It is dark, delicious, and has a sweet and savoury sensation with a sour cream taste and sweet cookie crust. The whipped cream on top adds a beautiful texture combination that can't be beat.

 

I have been experimenting with condensed milk lately, and by just switching up a few ingredients in my White Chocolate Key Lime Pie recipe, I came up with this delicious twist on dessert! This is not a paid endorsement, but I do want to mention that I prefer to use President's Choice Sweetened Condensed Milk because it is thicker than the other brands that I have tried, and sets a little better when baked.


I also used Camino brand of 71% dark chocolate, which can be purchased all across Canada, but again, you can try any good quality 70% dark chocolate (just try to use one with  no artificial vanilla flavouring or 'vanillin' because it may add a super-sweet weird flavour). If you are using bean-to-bar craft chocolate, I'd recommend a non-fruity Peruvian origin, Venezuela or Ecuador origin chocolate. Stick with more cream and nutty origin flavours rather than fruit, in order to bring out the sour cream taste and reduce tartness. But go ahead and experiment as much as you like and let me know the results in the comments below.

Below is the recipe. I hope you enjoy this perfect summer chocolate dessert!

Dark Chocolate Cream Pie Recipe:

Ingredients:
1 can (300 ml), condensed sweetened milk
1/3 (80 ml) cup sour cream
1 100g (3.5 oz) 70% dark chocolate bar (I used Camino brand of Organic/FT bar)
1/4 cup (60ml) milk




Crust:
1 cup (250ml) Chocolate wafer cookies crumbled
3 tbsp butter (45ml), melted
1 tbsp (15 ml) granulated sugar

Whipped cream topping:
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp agave syrup
Optional: chocolate cookie crumbles, chocolate shavings, or melted semi-sweet chocolate ganache.

You also need a small 5" to 7" cake or pie pan for this recipe. For a larger pie (i.e. 8" crust), double the ingredients and bake the final pie for 15 minutes (rather than 12 minutes).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Crust Instructions:

1. Place the crumbled cookies, granulated sugar & melted butter into a bowl and mix. Press into a small-to-medium cake or pie pan (about 6" or 7" in diameter). Be sure to press it all the way up the sides.

2. Bake in a preheated 350•F oven for 7 minutes. Remove and let cool while preparing the filling.
Tip: line it with a round of parchment paper to get the whole pie out once made, if you wish to put it on a serving plate rather than serving out of a pie pan.

Filling Instructions:

1. Chop the chocolate bar and place in a microwave safe bowl. Pour the 1/4 cup milk over the chocolate. Microwave for 40 seconds. Stir until smooth. Microwave for five second intervals only if lumps remain, stirring again until smooth. Set aside to cool.


 2. In a medium bowl, pour in the condensed sweetened milk and the sour cream. Mix with a whisk or spatula until smooth. Add the smooth chocolate mixture and stir until smooth. Pour into your pie crust.



Tip: If there is too much filling for your pie, pour into one or two ramekins to eat as pudding. Top with cookie crumble, then whipped cream and cocoa nibs or shavings to add some texture to the pudding because it is very thick. This is your bonus dessert for working so hard!


3. Place the pie in the oven and bake 12 minutes at 350•F . Remove from oven, let cool completely. Refrigerate 1 hour before topping with whipped cream.

Topping Instructions:

1. For whipped cream: beat the cream on high in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer until soft peaks form.

2. Add the vanilla and agave and beat just a few more seconds until slightly stiffer (do not overbeat).

3. Optional additions to topping: I added a little leftover semisweet ganache to my whipped cream topping because I had it on hand, but you can also chop or shave some chocolate chips or semi-sweet chocolate to toss into you whipped cream for added flavour and colour if you like. Or just spread the whipped cream on top of the pie and top with chocolate shavings.


Chill a little before slicing. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Belmont Estate Grenada: A historic 17th-century plantation now making chocolate from tree-to-bar

As a chocolate maker, I dream about making chocolate without ever needing to purchase and wait for a shipment of the beans. Jay Kang is living that dream at Belmont Estate in Grenada. He moved from London about a year ago to be the Head Chocolate Maker at Belmont, a historic 17th century plantation that grows cacao, spices and fruit, and also has a goat farm to make top quality goat cheese.

Jay Kang, Head Chocolate Maker/Chocolatier at Belmont Estate

Mr. Kang, a trained chef and chocolate maker, was tasked with the creation of Belmont Estate Fine Chocolate Inc. and constructing a small chocolate factory on the plantation, with the intention of using the cocoa beans grown at the estate, along with other spices and ingredients that are harvested on site.

I recently visited Belmont Estate for a tour of the grounds and a soft launch of their new line of chocolate bars, the flavours developed by Mr. Kang and the plans for a chocolate factory planned and supported by Shadel Nyack Compton, the Managing Director of Belmont Estates. This was a part of the Grenada Chocolate Festival, who shuttled us out to Belmont, and together with the Estate created a lovely all-day experience touring the grounds, learning about cacao and where it comes from, and tasting Belmont's newest chocolate creations.

The Belmont Estate grounds and view of the cocoa drying racks (top),
Dr. Darin Sukha of the Cocoa Research Centre (left),
Shadel Nyak Compton, Managing Director of Belmont (left-middle),
cocoa pods piled on the estate grounds, and the Belmont 'band' (far right).

In the morning, we toured the Estate's grounds and some of the paths through the cacao & fruit trees. Some people picked mangoes and citrus fruit and ate them - albeit with much mess - directly from the ground or the trees. Traditional Grenadian music with lively drumming was played by a band as we headed up the path from the main buildings into the trees. It was a fun and relaxing atmosphere as we started our Belmont journey.

Dr. Darin Sukha from the Cocoa Research Centre at the West Indies University (in Trinidad) was our guide along with the beautiful and charismatic Shadel. Dr. Sukha is a cacao expert and it was a very amazing experience to have him guide us through the plantation, teaching us all about Theobroma trees (i.e. cacao).



Who doesn't take a moment out of a cacao plantation tour
to kiss the pods?
Start with a seedling...
We started in the greenhouse, where Dr. Sukha discussed cacao seedlings, and growing the trees from seeds, versus grafting to get just the right mix of fine flavour cacao and a strong tree. We learned that the germination period is about 68 days from the seed. When the seedling is about 6 months old, it is large enough to plant outdoors. A cutting, on the other hand, can create a clone of the original plant - "a true vegetative replica" but with a different root system. Dr. Sukha also shared that new techniques in grafting are being explored at the Cocoa Research Centre in Trinidad, including the exploration of 'nano grafting', a method of using seedlings that are very young, just weeks old.

Beautiful little cocoa trees, just at their
beginning stages at Belmont Estate.

We learned a lot from the 'Cacao Doctor' as he was nicknamed, including  the main variety of cacao in Grenada is Trinitario, with some Forastero (hardier tree, less flavourful cocoa beans) and Criollo (delicate tree but produces fine flavour cocoa beans). Trinitario is a hybrid of the two other types, being hardier than Criollo, while producing cacao with a finer flavour than Forastero. Grenada is one of only 10 countries in the world that is officially classified as exclusively growing 'fine flavour cacao'.

Fermenting the cocoa beans...
As we explored the farm, he explained fermentation, where the beans (once removed with their pulp from the cacao pods) are kept for about 7 days in large wooden boxes to ferment. And although the microorganisms that are on everything on the farm make up 'terrior' , the fermentation is truly where the flavour develops. The first stage of fermentation creates alcohol and becomes more acidic, the next stage the acid bacteria causes the flavour change to happen, and breaks down the proteins into amino acids which contribute to flavour.

Dr. Darin Sukha, a Research Fellow
leading the Cocoa Research Center's Flavour
and Quality Section at the University of the West Indies.

We moved on to drying of the beans, with some visual and examples of how they would once 'walk the beans' to turn them over and separate them to help the sun dry each bean. Dr. Sukha cut open beans to show us the drying stages and fermentation.

'Walking the beans'

The Restaurant at Belmont...
After we celebrated with some traditional music, and an amazing lunch up at Belmont's on-site restaurant. The food was amazing, which included traditional Pepperpot with a twist of chocolate in the sauce, and pumpkin soup, with chocolate shavings on top. I could eat at this gorgeous open-air restaurant every day. It is available for weddings and events, so if you plan to get married in Grenada, I would strongly consider this wonderful location.


Pumpkin Soup seemed to be a Grenada special, and this one at
Belmont Estate restaurant was topped with dark chocolate shavings - delicious!
See the cocoa pod in the picture?

Belmont Estates' new chocolate factory...

After lunch, we enjoyed a chocolate tasting led by Dr. Sukha, and then toured the new chocolate factory, designed by Jay Kang, Head Chocolate Maker & Chocolatier at Belmont Estate. Since this was a 'soft launch' of the new factory, the Managing Director, Shadel (who, bye the way, just won a prestigious Entrepreneurship award just days before we arrived) began with a speech about the new factory and all the hard work of the Belmont family  - and by 'family', she was referring to her beloved employees who work at Belmont. She introduced the chocolate making team, as well as Jay Kang. From there, Mr. Kang took over and gave us all a tour of the new small factory, including the equipment selected to do the job.

Visitors can peek in on the workings of the chocolate factory
from the chocolate shop.
The chocolate factory kitchen has clean lines and
a lot of storage for aging chocolate.

The chocolate refiner was purring while we visited the factory.



As with most small chocolate factories, the winnower was built by hand, and the rest of the equipment brought, including the refiner and a cocoa butter press, in from all over the world. The kitchen was spotless, with clean lines and a lot of space for the chocolate makers to move around. I have to admit, I was salivating (as a chocolate maker, over the kitchen space and the equipment, as well as the chocolate).

As for the chocolate, Mr. Kang has developed four main flavours: Dark (with 74% cocoa solids), Milk (with 60% cocoa solids), a Sea Salt and a 'Pure Grenada' chocolate bar, featuring the spices of Grenada and that grow on Belmont Estate. Being a chef by trade, Jay plans to use the ingredients at hand to create new flavours moving forward, and to use them seasonally as they ripen. I think we may see amazing things from this small chocolate factory in the future.



The Chocolate...

I brought some Belmont chocolate home, which I've been working my way through the two I kept for myself. The Dark Chocolate bar with its 74% cocoa solids, is certainly an intense experience, with fruit and citrus flavours, and some floral notes.  The Milk Chocolate is no Hershey, with a whopping 60% cocoa solids, this certainly falls in the 'dark-milk' chocolate category.


The Belmont beans are a little like Crayfish Bay's and Grenada Chocolate Company's: bold and full of intense fruit and earthy flavours, holding some acidity in from the bean in the final chocolate. Jouvay's chocolate is a complete contrast with its lack of acidity and sweetness, as you will see if you taste and compare the two. Belmont's chocolate is certainly representative of the flavour of Grenada's cocoa.



The Spices and other Wonders of Belmont Estate...
While at Belmont, you can also purchase spices, which also grow on the property. I brought home several spices, including ginger, cinnamon and mace. There is also a Grenada Chocolate Company Boutique on the property, and a lovely gift shop with other handmade items from Grenada. This Estate truly is a destination to see when traveling to Grenada.



For more information on Belmont Estate, visit the website at:
http://www.belmontestate.net/index.htm.

For more information about The Grenada Chocolate Festival, visit:
http://grenadachocolatefest.com/.