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I love Portland, Oregon and I wish I spent more time here. Any major city can host a festival dedicated solely to craft chocolate, and chocolate education. But in Oregon, there are so many craft chocolatiers and cacao roasters operating locally, they can fill a convention center. Dave Cook, owner of the Fire Roasted Coffee Company, and my original coffee roaster of choice when I lived in Canada, was the first to bring to my attention the many similarities between coffee and chocolate.
ChocolateFest is an annual event hosted by the World Forestry Center, and this is its seventh year. The mission of the WFC is simple: educate and inform people about the world’s forests and trees, and environmental sustainability. On their campus in Portland’s Washington Park for the first ChocolateFest, they attracted over 1,000 people. Last year, over 8,000 people.
Even before entering ChocolateFest, guests are provided with education on the cacao tree, fruit, and seed, and its transformation into the chocolate we know and love.Recognized at the Food Network Awards, Portland loves cuisine of any kind, and appreciation of chocolate is no exception. The people came out to sample from local chocolatiers, learn more about chocolate, and buy pounds of it.
Exhibitors used many ways to stand out in the crowd. An exhibitor wouldn’t get by selling chocolate bars alone. It takes a different angle, either a variety of origins, unique packaging, or in this case, something visual. One exhibitor was not providing samples, a huge mistake at this show!
A Lesson in Chocolate…
- Types of Beans: Where the beans are grown, as well as how they are formented and roasted, directly affect their quality. Each high-quality variety of cacao beans has its own individual aroma, personality, complexity, subtlety, and character.
- Blending: Some chocolatiers use beans from only one region creating a desirable, distinctive flavor. Others, however, skillfully blend beans which can result in a unique product for their company and an extraordinary taste. Most chocolate today is made from blended cacao beans.
- Cocoa Content: The amount of cocoa in a piece of chocolate candy is one determination of its “quality”. The range is 10-75% with gourmet chocolate hovering around 60% and higher. Dark chocolate has a higher cocoa content and generally tastes more bitter. The remaining percent is sugar. The higher the cocoa rate, the less sweet it is. A typical American milk chocolate candy bar is about 11% cocoa.
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