Friday, August 26, 2016

Willie's Cacao: Not One, but TWO Tastings of these Venezeulan and Columbian Origin Chocolate Bars

I find it difficult to review a chocolate makers' chocolate, after tasting just a few of their chocolate bars. So when I scarfed down two of Willie's Cacao chocolate bars earlier this year, and realized I hadn't put the thought or time into really tasting it, so I waited to purchase more before writing about it here. And purchase more, I did.

Since Willie's Cacao is a British craft chocolate brand, I unfortunately have limited access to the chocolate here in Canada (well, that is if I want to order from within Canada and not pay shipping fees direct from England). So I ordered what I could, which was just two bars: Willie's Columbian Gold Los Llanos 88% and Willie's Venezuelan Gold Rio Caribe 72%.  This tasting mix was just fine with me, since craft chocolate made from Venezuela-origin beans has been fairly predictable and nearly always good. And Columbian-origin chocolate still mystifies me, so there is always a learning opportunity when comparing a Venezuelan-origin chocolate to anything new. That Venezuelan straight-up chocolate flavour, with a hint of nuts or coffee, provides a good base comparison for another origin with a spicier, fruitier or something-ier flavour to it.  And in this case, it was no different.

After tasting both chocolate bars - twice - I can say I enjoy Willie's Cacao chocolates. They are not exceptionally high in cocoa butter - perhaps a little on the 'stiff' side, but they are not entirely without the melt of cocoa butter either, so the mouthfeel still holds some creaminess.

One of the major 'plus's' of Willie's Cacao is minimal ingredients - just three in fact - which means no soy lecithin, no artificial flavours and no other 'junk' or even natural vanilla getting in the way of the origin flavours. This 'three-ingredient' chocolate is quite nice, and seems to bring out maximum flavour from the cocoa beans.

My only real note of caution is to bring a knife to your tasting of Willie's.  The solid, square shape of the chocolate bar is lovely to look at, but it does sometimes require a knife and chopping board to cut the pieces. I tried breaking off small pieces with my hands and could only succeed in breaking large pieces, nearly half the bar.

For Willie's Venezuelan Gold Rio Caribe 72% chocolate bar, there is an upfront dark roast flavour. I often taste the roast flavour in Venezuelan-origin chocolate, I think because there is generally low acidity and mild other flavours in many Venezuelan beans, so the roast tends to stand out.  But that is not the case here, I believe there was a dark roast applied to the beans used to make this chocolate. This highlights the notes of coffee (dark roast, of course) and roasted nuts in the chocolate. It is a nice chocolate that keeps me coming back for more.

As for Willie's Columbian Gold, Los Llanos 88% chocolate bar, it seems like a mystery to me. The first time I tasted it, I detected cherry and plum, as written on the package, with a little citrus and acidity is there in this very dark and very bitter chocolate. And yet, my second tasting produced a chocolate with no strong fruit flavours and it seemed to have low bitterness and low acidity. My third tasting produced the cherry flavours again, but mild and still not-so-bitter. Funny how that happens.

The Columbian chocolate is harsher to the bite than the Venezuelan, but that is expected with a chocolate with higher cocoa solids. Overall both chocolate bars are enjoyable.

Here are the package details on these two chocolate bars:

Willie's Cacao, Venezuelan Gold Rio Caribe 72, 50g
Willie's Cacao Ltd. (Uffculme, UK)
Ingredients: cocoa mass, raw cane sugar, cocoa butter. May contain traces of nuts. 72% minimum cocoa solids.

Willie's Cacao, Columbian Gold Los Llanos 88, 50g
Willie's Cacao Ltd. (Uffculme, UK)
Ingredients: cocoa mass, raw cane sugar, cocoa butter. May contain traces of nuts. 72% minimum cocoa solids.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Where to Buy Cocoa Beans, Nibs and other Cacao Ingredients? This is the Ultimate List of Cocoa Bean Suppliers!

Many of the most unique and respected chocolate makers are traveling the world for their cocoa bean supplies. By buying cocoa beans directly from farms in Dominican Republic, Honduras, Madagascar and other tropical locations, they make a unique product that is truly single origin - and not the same origin that everyone else is making chocolate from.

However, not every new chocolate maker has the time or money to travel the world looking for cacao. Yet many want beans that can be purchased at a price that is fair to the farmers, and with guarantees of quality. But it is a tough job looking for a steady bulk source of beans or nibs to make bean-to-bar chocolate, so I have put together a list of all the suppliers I have come across over the last few years.

This list includes export/import entrepreneurs, farms, cacao processors, and co-operatives who supply from the source.  This list is NOT complete - it is definitely a work-in-progress - so please feel free to add any cacao suppliers to the comments below, so I can research them and get them added to the list. Also, I often work with cacao to make chocolate and review it, and I will try to include the links to cacao reviews in this list where possible. If you want to send me your cocoa beans for review, please contact info (at) for more information.

In Canada...

The Mexican Arabica Bean Company (Toronto) - provides two delicious beans, from Honduras and Mexico. A review will be up shortly of these beans and the wonderful chocolate that I made from them. Also supplies Mexican organic cacao butter and cocoa nibs. Always on the lookout for new origins, so stay tuned, more may be added soon. Visit for more information, or follow on Twitter: @mabcoimporter and Juan Gonzalez on Instagram.

Delicacies Valley (Calgary, AB) - Supplying Venezuelan cocoa beans and cocoa butter. The beans come in 5kg bags or 60kg jute sacks for larger purchases.

Cacaitos Canada / César Aguilar (Toronto) - importing high quality Colombian cocoa beans from farms all over Colombia, including Ariari, Chigorodo, Arauquita and many others. The cocoa beans come from a variety of farms and many have a lovely, sweet light agave syrup & mild honey flavour with low acidity. For more information, contact César at: or follow on instagram: @cacaitoscanada

In the U.S.A....

Tomric Systems, Inc. (Buffalo, NY) - UPDATE: Tomric still offers amazing equipment and chocolate moulds, but no longer sells cocoa beans from Ingemann.

Cacao Bahia (Brazil, sales office in California) - Providing 'single-estate' organic cacao from the Fazenda Camboa farm in the state of Bahia in Brazil. The farm cultivates fine Forastero and fine Trinitario cacao. These beans have a nice, lightly acidic, fruity flavour. Read my review of the bean samples from this farm here: For more information, contact: or visit

Chocolate Alchemy (Eugene, OR) - The Chocolate Alchemy website is designed to help home chocolate makers, and small-to-medium-sized chocolate start-up businesses to make better chocolate. They supply a wide range of fine flavour cocoa beans buy the pound, so you can order as much or as little as needed (as much as is available), depending on your storage concerns or equipment limitations. It is a great way to experiment and choose the beans that are right for you.  Shop online:

Cocoa Supply Company (Brooklyn, NY) - Supplies whole raw organic Arriba Nacional cocoa beans from Ecuador, as well as cocoa nibs. They also supply natural, organic, and deodorized cocoa butter.

Meridian Cacao Company (Portland, OR) - Offering at least 8 origins, you can buy cocoa beans in bags as small as 5 lbs. Meridian sources directly from the farms, and provides detailed information about where your cacao comes from. Beans are of high quality.

Edgar Soria - beans from Ecuador possibly selling out of New York. If you have further information on this supplier, please post below in the Comments.

Jedwards International (Braintree, MA) - Sells bulk organic cocoa nibs, raw or roasted and in certified organic, or also in certified organic & certified Fair Trade. Cocoa butter also available in deodorized and natural, organic and fair trade.

From Origin:

Casa Franceschi - provides high quality cocoa from South America, including Trinitario and Criollo beans from Venezuela and Ecuador.  This company has been supplying Europe and Japan since 1830, and now has a warehouse in the U.S. They work to ensure the post harvesting process is sound, so customers receive the finest flavour beans are delivered consistently. They currently have Hacienda Victoria beans, which are rare Arriba Nacional beans from Ecuador. According to Casa Franceschi, it has low acidity and typcal Arriba Nacional flavour, including a taste of sweet and dry fruits, caramel, brown sugar and "well balanced between floral and bitterness." The finish offers a cocoa taste. Learn more about these beans at: And learn about Casa Franceschi at: Sales rep: Pedro Rojas

Cacao Fiji

Costa Esmeraldas Cacao Co. (Ecuador) - Cacao farm. Carefully fermenting their beans, and showing the results on Instagram @costaesmeraldas. Beans are used by Manoa Chocolate, Dandelion Chocolate, and other well-known chocolate makers.

Ingemann Cacao Fino - Producing Fine Flavour cacao varieties of Trinitario-Acriollado, "A Trinitario with Criollo genes." produced by heirloom Nicaraguan trees. They are decidedly 'fair trade', claiming: "The price we pay our producers is reportedly amongst the highest paid worldwide to cocoa farmers" (ref) and claim it is also 100% traceable, and provide a 'lot identity sheet' to chocolate makers to show where the cacao came from, cacao type, analysis, etc. Learn more at: or e-mail: Also supplying through Tomric Systems out of Buffalo.

Ucayali River Cacao (Peru) - located in the Ucayali Province in Peru. Does NOT accept any CCN-51 from any of the farms, in order to stay a true supplier of fine flavour cacao. This business collects the cacao wet from each farm and tags it, so they can trace the supply chain throughout the processing of the cacao. They have specially built fermentation boxes on site to ensure fermentation is done well to produce a consistent product. 20 - 25% of their cacao is 'of the white variety' with very little bitterness or acidity. E-mail Robin Jordan  at for more information or follow on Instagram at: @ucayali_river_cacao. Website:

Blue Cacao from Honduras - Honduras exporters, although contact has been difficult since samples were sent out initially.  If anyone has contact information, please add it to the comments below.

Maya Mountain Cacao (Belize) - Sources cacao from smallholder Belizean farmers for chocolate makers looking to make fine chocolate. Ensures farms keep up with organic certification requirements, picks up wet cacao and has a processing team to ensure fermentation and drying is consistent. CEO and Co-founder is Emily V Stone.  Contact: (+501) 630-9206 for more information or visit the website at:

Cacao Verapaz (Guatemala) - founded by Uncommon Cacao Group (Emily Stone - see above under Maya Mountain Cacao) in 2013. Connects producers of fine cacao in Guatemala with chocolate makers around the world. Learn more at:

Uncommon Cocoa Group - Founder of Maya Mountain Cacao, Emily Stone, is involved in this organization, having also founded Cacao Verapaz under the Uncommon Cacao name.  They supply various origins of cacao (including Bolivia, Haiti, Dominican Republic, etc.) with ensured quality and consistent processing methods. Learn more at:

Maranon Chocolate - Discoverer of USDA Certified Pure Nacional Cacao and exclusive provider of world renowned Fortunato No. 4 of Peru. Considered "the world's rarest cacao". Family business. @MaranonChoc

Heartblood Cacao - exporting Guatemalan Cacao

Cacao & Beyond (Philippines) - Cacao farming, fermented cacao and "producing Pure 100% Cacao Tableya Davao, Philippines" (ref: Instagram). E-mail: for more information.

Lilycious Chocolate (Indonesia)  - cacao farmers with a goal of preserving "biodiversity of cacao trees to good quality beans and strive towards implementing a sustainable chocolate farm ecosystem." ref:

The Haitian Chocolate Project - seeking to build US demand for Haitian grown chocolate to help build infrastructure in Haiti.

Cocoa Family (Dominican Republic) - Certified organic and kosher cocoa beans, nibs, paste, etc. from the Dominican Republic. Dorcas Astacio
Tel 626-544-0200

JT SocEnt Ventures, Inc. (Philippines) - Offering cocoa beans, nibs and liquor, as well as coconut sugar and virgin coconut oil from the Davao area of the Philippines. Works directly with farmer's groups, NGO's and cooperatives to ensure farmer's get a fair price for their beans. Contact Jowell L. Tan by e-mail at:

Agrofloresta (Tabasco, Mexico) - "Harnessing the genetic potential of cacao in the Selva Zoque by starting a carefully managed centralized fermentation facility." Cacao is sourced from communities in southern Tabasco and the northern Chiapas. Their goal is to bring higher cocoa bean prices to farmers while controlling the fermentation and post-harvesting methods for high quality fine cocoa beans. Visit their website for more information on how to buy cocoa beans :

Thai Cacao Distribution - "Connecting Thai cacao farmers with craft chocolate makers across the globe with transparent and ethical approach." Instagram: @thaicacaodistribution

Monday, August 15, 2016

What is Cocoa Butter? What Kind of Cocoa Butter Can Be Used in Chocolate?

Over the last few weeks, I have been taking a little time to learn about cocoa butter. Although I have been using it for a few years to either 'seed' my chocolate (a way of tempering chocolate), to make 'home-made' bean-to-bar chocolate with a variety of grinders and refiners, and to use in my EZtemper (which I am pretty sure I can no longer live without), I have not really spent a lot of time researching the differences in cocoa butter, and the best types to use in chocolate making. Until now, that is.

I am fascinated with what I have learned. And I want to share these tidbits of information with you, which will hopefully save you some time, in case you are following  a similar chocolate-making path (and chocolate-knowledge-gathering adventure) as me.

So let's get started with the basics...

What is Cocoa Butter?

Cocoa butter is the fat pressed from of the cocoa bean. According to Chloe Doutre-Roussel's book, The Chocolate Connoisseur, "50-55% of a cocoa bean's weight represents cocoa butter."* And because the cost of extraction is so high, cocoa butter is generally the most expensive ingredient in chocolate.

Why is Cocoa Butter Important and how does it Affect Chocolate Making?

Cocoa butter is used by chocolate makers, who roast cocoa beans, and then grind the beans up with sugar and added cocoa butter (in addition to the amount present in the cocoa beans), to create chocolate 'from scratch'. It is added to enhance the texture of the chocolate. According to Peter P. Greweling, in his book Chocolates and Confections, cocoa butter is "a crucial part of chocolate for the mouthfeel it provides and for its working characteristics."+   Chocolate makers also use varying amounts of it to create their desired mouthfeel. Simply taste a Bonnat dark-milk 65% chocolate bar, and you will see how the addition of cocoa butter can affect the mouthfeel of the chocolate.

Chocolatiers, who work with chocolate to create confections, truffles, and artistic chocolate pieces, might add cocoa butter to the chocolate they buy to "increase viscosity and give chocolate a smooth texture"*.  This makes it easier to create thinner or thicker shells for truffles and ganaches, depending on the desired outcome.

Cocoa butter can also have other effects on the final chocolate product.  According to Greweling, "cocoa butters are not all identical", with their main differences found in their melting points. Apparently, cocoa butter pressed from beans grown near the Equator have slightly higher melting points than cocoa butter from beans grown in more moderate climates. This means the chocolate made from beans grown closer to the Equator requires "slightly higher temperatures for tempering and handling" than chocolate made from beans grown in a cooler climate.+

Cocoa butter flavour can also differ in taste, depending on the origin. Therefore, if a chocolate recipe requires a lot of cocoa butter, a chocolate maker might want to consider the flavour of the cocoa butter.  This is discussed in detail below in the sections about deodorized and non deodorized cocoa butter.

Cocoa butter quality also plays a role, since the butter is often pressed from poor quality beans (the 'leftovers', which can also have mould and be overly acidic), so a chocolate maker must consider all of these factors and decide if and when to invest in a cocoa butter press (which are very expensive). There is a good thread on The Chocolate Life forum^ on this topic, discussing whether or not to use cocoa butter, non deodorized or deodorized cocoa butter, and whether to invest in a cocoa butter press.

What is Deodorized Cocoa Butter?

Deodorized cocoa butter means: "The cocoa butter is deodorized via steam being injected into the melted cocoa butter to "drive off" the volatile components which contribute to the odor. The product is then treated with diatomaceous earth (clays) which remove the color agents (it is basically an extremely fine filtration process) to create a nice, white butter" (ref or see below for full link^^).

You might use deodorized cocoa butter in chocolate making when you are making single origin chocolate from, say, Madagascar, Vietnam, or any other single origin/single plantation beans, and you do not have a cocoa butter press to extract cocoa butter from the same beans, nor can you acquire it. So you would use deodorized cocoa butter in small amounts to ensure the origin flavour of the beans is the featured flavour. If you use non deodorized cocoa butter instead of deodorized cocoa butter, pressed from beans of a different origin, you could potentially drown out the original natural flavours of the origin beans that you are working with.

What is Non Deodorized Cocoa Butter?

Non Deodorized cocoa butter is natural, unrefined, and holds its original yellow-ish colour. It also  holds many of the acidic flavours of the cocoa bean, as well as regional 'origin' flavours. When choosing this cocoa butter, you must test it with the beans you are using, particularly if the cocoa beans are of a different origin than the cocoa butter, because you will be blending flavours. Also, non deodorized cocoa butter can have strong flavours, so you may want to test many different kinds/brands to choose a taste that works for you and your final product.

Where Can You Buy Cocoa Butter?

Cocoa Butter does not come cheap. Keep in mind that cacao beans are pricey to begin with, and the fat pressed from them requires large machinery to get a good yield. Deodorizing it is an extra step that also costs time and money.

Cacao Barry sells Deodorized Cocoa Butter in 3kg buckets. No matter where you are located, there is likely a wholesaler near you who stocks it. For instance, in Ontario (Canada), I can buy Cacao Barry deodorized cocoa butter from Signature Fine Foods (see product catalogue here) for $84.50 for a 3kg pail,  and from for $98.79 per pail.

These days, most health food stores, as well as the health section in large grocery stores, sell organic, unrefined, non deodorized cocoa butter. In fact, Bulk Barn in Canada sells the Organic Traditions brand of Cocoa Butter, as does (yikes for $24.94, much higher than at Bulk Barn) as well as another organic and unrefined kind of cocoa butter of Vietnamese origin at a better price (click here to see) or buy it direct from the wholesaler here. You can also buy organic, raw cocoa butter in small bags or in bulk from Upaya Naturals (with free shipping on orders over $100). In Canada, you can buy Mexican-origin bulk cocoa butter from The Mexican Arabica Bean Company in Toronto (

If you Google 'cocoa butter bulk', you will find a host of web sites that sell all types of cocoa butter in your area. Good luck!


*Chloe Doutre-Roussel, The Chocolate Connoisseur, page 206. Penguin Books Ltd., London, England, 2005.

+Peter P. Greweling, Chocolates and Confections, 2nd ed., page 27, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (Hoboken, NJ), 2013.

^The Chocolate Life forum:


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Peanut Butter and Milk Chocolate Fudge Cheesecake - An Explosion in Your Mouth!

If you like Peanut Butter Fudge, or flourless chocolate cake, or any kind of peanut butter anything, you will love this cake! I made it as an experiment for one of my restaurant customers and it certainly sold fast. We never really did come up with a proper name for it, but I've started calling it the Peanut Butter-Milk Chocolate explosion cake, because it is layers of milk chocolate and peanut butter that come together in an 'explosion' in your mouth.

It looks complicated, but it really doesn't take that much time to make.  Add a comment below if you have any questions, and I will try to get back to you in a timely fashion.  Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Explosion Cake Recipe


Cake Ingredients:

For the Flourless Milk Chocolate Cake
8 ounces of good quality milk chocolate, cut into 1/2" squares
1/2 lb of butter, cut into 1/2" squares
4 eggs, separated into yolks and whites
1 cup sugar
1.5 cups PB
1 tsp salt

For the Peanut Butter Cheesecake layer
1 package cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup peanut butter
1/4 tsp salt

Toppings Ingredients:

Milk Chocolate Ganache:
5 ounces milk chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream (whipping cream or coffee cream)

Peanut Butter Buttercream:
1 cup of store-bought or homemade vanilla buttercream icing (if you need a recipe, click here)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/8 tsp salt


For the flourless chocolate cake base...
1. Beat the egg whites until fairly stiff peaks form and until they look glossy. Set aside.
2. Melt the chopped butter and chocolate together in a plastic or glass bowl in the microwave for 1 minute and 30 seconds, or in a stainless steel bowl over a double boiler (place bowl on top of a small or medium pot of barely simmering water on the stovetop). Stir with a spatula until smooth.
3. Once melted, remove from the heat and add the sugar and stir until combined.
4. Add all four egg yolks and beat in (with a fork, hand mixer or immersion blender. Add the peanut butter and salt and stir until smooth.
5. Gently fold in the egg whites.
6. Pour into a greased 9" or 10" spring-form pan.
7. Set aside while you make the peanut butter cheesecake layer.

For the cheesecake layer...
1. Beat the cream cheese in a bowl with a stand mixer or hand mixer. Stir a few times to soften the cheese.
2. Add the sugar and beat for 30 seconds or so, being sure to stir several times to remove any cheese lumps.
3. Add the egg and beat in until smooth, lump free and combined (about 30 seconds).
4. Add the peanut butter and salt and stir until smooth.
5. Pour the batter on top of the chocolate cake layer and spread around until smooth and it entirely covers the chocolate layer.

Bake in a preheated 350º F oven for 40 minutes. The top edges should look cooked about 1" from sides and middle can be a little jiggly (although not entire wet).  Remove from oven carefully and let cool for 1 hour, then refrigerate until cold (about 2 hours in the fridge).

Prepare the ganache topping...
1. Place your chopped milk chocolate in a bowl with the cream and microwave for 1 minute. Stir until smooth (add back to microwave for 10 second intervals if lumps of chocolate still remain).
2. Pour over the cake and push to the edges. You can gently drip it over the edges, or push enough over to seal the edges entirely by smoothing with an offset spatula.
3. Let set in the fridge for 20 to 30 minutes while you prepare chocolate shavings or peanut butter icing for the top.

Prepare and apply your peanut butter icing...
1. Beat the peanut butter into the buttercream icing. Place in a decorator bag or in a Ziplock bag and cut a small hole off of the corner. Making criss-cross patterns, decorate the top of the cake with the peanut butter icing.
2. Top with milk chocolate shavings.
3. Serve cold or at room temperature, using a hot knife to slice. Serves 12 to 16.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Bourbon and chocolate lovers rejoice! Maverick Chocolate has the perfect chocolate bar flavour combination for you.

I first told you about Maverick Chocolate back in May of this year, and the silky smooth products this bean-to-bar chocolate maker produces. Well, I've just tasted a new dark-milk chocolate bar by Maverick and it was so interesting - and tasty - that I needed to tell you about it.

The Prohibition Milk Chocolate bar offers a super smooth, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate experience, with a light taste of bourbon and milk, and a hint of smoke from the 'smoked sea salt' that is included in the chocolate bar. It really is an interesting chocolate bar for any foodie, and worthy of a taste from any bourbon lover. And with only six - completely natural and some organic - ingredients, any purist and health-conscious chocophile will love it too.

The bourbon is "real Kentucky Bourbon" and it costs $10 US on Maverick's website (buy online here).

Here are the package details from Maverick's Prohibition Milk Chocolate bar:

Made by: Maverick Chocolate (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Batch # / Expiry Date: Expiry August 26, 2016
Ingredients: Organic cocoa beans, organic cane sugar, milk powder, organic cocoa butter, smoked sea salt, bourbon. "Contains less than 0.1% alcohol. Gluten, soy, and nut free. Contains dairy."

Have a great weekend and happy chocolate tasting!