Monday, February 18, 2019

The Winter Chocolate Show: The Best Ever Bean to Bar Chocolate Event in Toronto

As European chocolate makers, chocolatiers and chocolate lovers are getting ready for Chocoa in Amsterdam later this week, I am still reminiscing about The Winter Chocolate Show in Toronto a few weeks ago. It was much smaller than the beast of an event Chocoa is, but it was exciting none-the-less for Canadian chocolate makers and chocolate lovers because it was the first Canadian bean-to-bar event of its kind.

Organized by Erik of Desbarres Chocolate and Paola of The Candy Bar Toronto, the festival was a one-day event that brought together 16 Canadian bean-to-bar chocolate makers from all across the country (really, all across - from Nova Scotia to Victoria!).  Chocolate lovers and connoisseurs poured through the doors all day long into the small venue at the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse in downtown Toronto. 

Look at all the beautiful bean to bar chocolate that I brought home from Toronto!
Akesson's came from The Cheese Boutique, Omnon from Pusateris and Chapon from The Candy Bar.
The rest are all the wonderful Canadian bean-to-bar chocolate that was found at The Winter Chocolate Show!

I was there, not as a chocolate lover this time in the way that I annually attend the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle, but as a chocolate maker. I've been quietly making chocolate for quite a few years now as part of my 10-year old confection and pastry business, but last year I finally made the decision to sell my bean-to-bar chocolate beyond the local market of Manitoulin Island and Sudbury. And I was finally brave enough to send a few of my bars off for some of the international awards (and won a few too!).  So now that I am venturing out into the world beyond Northern Ontario, I was excited to have a chance to participate in a bean-to-bar event so close to home (ha ha, it took me 8 hours in a snowstorm and freezing rain to get there, but it was still driving distance!). 

The day was so much fun. I was surprised to see how many people knew about bean to bar chocolate (although I shouldn't have been since Soma has been educating customers for years in Toronto), and many looking for interesting single origins, flavour combinations and 100% dark chocolate. We had a few bloggers out, including Christie from @twogirlschocolate and Cyndi from @canadianchocoholic, and Grand Jury judge for the International Chocolate Awards, Shirley Lum (@schocolatemagic). The wonderful craft chocolate expert and educator Karine from joined us from Montreal. And I got to hang out with my business partner Trish and my best friend Katherine all day long, talking chocolate with a lot of passionate people.

Can you spot Miss Choco and @Canadianchocoholic?

We also had the privilege of wonderful Juan Gonzalaz from The Mexican Arabica Bean Company wandering around the show all day, talking to people about his beautiful cocoa beans from Honduras, Mexico, Peru, Papua New Guinea and soon, Thailand. Juan is a good friend and excellent partner to bring fine flavour cocoa beans direct from the farm to Canadian chocolate makers like myself. 

That's Juan with the hat! And me on the left of course :-)
And look at that beautiful branding by Desbarres in the backgound.

As for the vendors, we had a variety of chocolate makers sampling their products, from stone ground chocolate like ChocoSol, to super smooth like Soma Chocolatemaker, both from the Toronto region. David and Cynthia from Soma are in the middle of a big project (moving to a much larger bean to bar factory in Toronto) so it was great that they joined us. Desbarres Chocolate had all their wonderful award-winning flavours, like that delicious black pepper and cardamom bar that I have been thinking about since I first tasted it in the Fall. 

Taylor Kennedy flew in all the way from Victoria, B.C. with his award winning chocolate bars and he surprised us all with the launch of new packaging. Still with a lovely shade of yellow, this new packaging wowed with a theme of wildlife native to the seas surrounding Victoria. The chocolate bar mould was even re-designed with a stylized wave. What a beautiful way to showcase the origins of Sirene Chocolate. Congratulations to Taylor on a job well done!

Other notable mentions were Coco Chocolate Company's Strawberries and Champagne bar, with freeze-dried strawberries and carbonated sugar for a fizzy effect, Sweetness Chocolate's artistic single origin bars with splashes of colourful cocoa butter, Soma's beautiful valentine's day chocolates, Palette de Bine's new large gorgeous pack of bars with a beautiful illustration of Mont Tremblant, and Tribe Chocolate's packaging with the cute saying "I'm sorry for what I said when I was hangry." Petite Patrie flew in from Nova Scotia and brought some good single origins and an interesting vegan chocolate. Kin + Pod represented Calgary by show-casing its award-winning Tumaco bar. I also featured my new Buttermilk Gianduja bar, which is a creamier version of the award winning Buttermilk 48% with hazelnut butter and sea salt added. It is quite delectable. 

I wish I had a chance to make it around to all the tables and buy more chocolate! But alas, it was a busy event with a lot of excited chocolate lovers, so I was talking chocolate with customers most of the day, which is one of my happy places to be :-)

Next year we hope to see the event back and perhaps even bigger!  What a great way to spend a cold winter day in Toronto. I hope to see you there next year!