My ‘conversion’ to dark chocolate didn’t come with the customary fete and happy hour that such life-changing decisions deserve. This is my sweet tooth we are talking about. And even less memorable was the conversion itself. Basically, I had been slowly consuming less sugar to the point where I couldn’t finish an entire chocolate bar. The caramel, honeycomb, raisins and nougat were so overwhelming that I’d be trying to chase nearest waterfall after every bite. Around the same time my dad took me to Belmont Estate, introduced me to dark chocolate and my taste buds finally found peace. But like I was saying, my ‘conversion’ was never celebrated. Until now.
Mini Salon and Tasting
I walked into a conference room of chocolate. You guys, just heaps of chocolate from Vietnam, Mexico, Madagascar and Grenada produced by award-winning chocolatiers. Alcohol truffles, Spice infused bars….and we couldn’t touch it. Which meant we couldn’t taste it either. Redefinition of torture.
Meet Ana Rita Garcia Lascurain. Chocolatier and founder of Mucho Mundo Museum, an actual museum of chocolate located in Mexico. This is how I knew Ana was a great storyteller. I totally forgot about the plates of chocolate, as she effortlessly engaged us in Mexico’s cacao history, which dates as far back as 3000 years ago. Whereas Grenada’s cocoa is grown among spice trees, Mexico’s cocoa is always cultivated with corn, just one of the many differentiating factors. And yet both are considered 100% fine and flavour cacao by the International Cocoa Organisation.
She indulged us in some Mexican samples, as she digressed into the use of cacao beans in Mayan coming of age ceremonies, their infusions of minerals, insects, rosita de cacao flowers and mammy apple seeds and their appreciation for sugar-less thirst quenching beverages. This was my first time consciously tasting Mexican chocolates and the rough texture, sweetness and the floral and chilli notes were amazing. But I couldn’t figure out why there was an absence of that very distinct taste which I use identify Grenadian chocolate.
Then she explained why flavour profile options were unquantifiable. Simple constructs like the travelling time of freshly extracted beans from farm to fermenting bins could alter to the final taste from batch to batch. In fact, Mexican markets vendors experiment with these constructs all the time and when you think about, homemade cocoa balls don’t always taste the same. Then an introduction to the metate really won me over. This ancient kitchen tool (the plate version of a mortar and pestle) is considered the originator and developer of Mexican cuisine and flavours.
It’s curved stone platform acts as the ‘mortar’ and is usually heated. Elle placed roasted cocoa beans from Belmont Estate and organic cane sugar and ground it with the ‘pestle’. Then the room was slowly saturated with the rich roasted wafts of ground cocoa. It was such a transcendent moment.
And who’s Elle? Elle Coco is an international chocolate judge, gatekeeper of long overdue chocolate samples and unbeknownst to her, officiator of my little happy hour. She started us off with a fun yet tortuous guidance on the proper techniques of chocolate tasting; chocolate that is known to have over 400 distinct notes.
First, we took a deep breath to clear the nostrils, then a light whiff of the chocolate to detect the cocoa notes and set the palate. We meditated on the texture between our fingers and how it warmed up. Yes my friends, ten minutes later and the chocolate was yet to reach my anxious cavity.
And when it did, she asked us to keep it there and then lift it to the roof, the warmest part of our mouth. This would melt the cocoa fat and activate the flavour molecules, allowing us to truly enjoy chocolate. Elle also revealed that distinct taste of Grenadian chocolate I was talking about. It’s called the Grenadian kiss and is compared to green bananas and other fruit tones. Locally we would say the banana tastes ‘rock’.
And so time went by sipping water and tasting more samples from dark to couture to milk to white. This included Damson’s Vietnam Origin Dark Chocolate 70% and 74%, Madagascar Origin Dark Milk Chocolate 65% and Grenada Spice White Chocolate 31% (winning combination of Kirani proportions) created for the fest. Mabouya’s dance between brown and white sugar was quite enticing and personally, I couldn’t choose a favourite. Grenada Chocolate Company Dark Chocolate 71 % and Cocoa Nibs 60% are old friends and they made some new ones pretty fast.
Rococo’s Spice Island was truly appreciated by this Spice Islander as the nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves tones were anything but subtle. Rococo also provided a couture chocolate filled with whiskey ganache that was a smooth, silky, sensational swallow. Finally Mexico’s Capsicum Chipotle Chocolate from the city of Tabasco came with the warning of a mule’s kick. We didn’t heed and we didn’t regret.
This was the most chocolate I ever consumed in one sitting, in the presence of some of the world’s greatest chocolatiers, experts and enthusiasts. I couldn’t ask for a better way to officially commemorate my dark chocolate affair. Even though I may be dealing with a slight addiction, that could only mean one thing. Look out of more episodes of Chocolate Sundays at the end of every month on Isle of Bites.
If you want to find out more about Grenada Chocolate Fest, hit them up on social media. Make sure you check out past events of the festival (May 12th-20th 2017) and definitely sign up for next year’s.