Archive for the ‘chocolate’ Category

The Hairy Bikers’ Chocolate Challenge

February 18, 2020

I did not expect Hairy Bikers’ reality chocolate show on Channel 5 to be anything other than dire. It lived up to expectations.

Dire it was, gimmicky, dreadful presenters, dreadful contestants.

I endured five minutes then turned off in disgust. I tried again the next day. I managed ten minutes before giving up in disgust.

Set in the Nestlé factory in York, one of the worst corporations in the world. York where once upon a time Joseph Rowntree started.

Industrial chocolate.

I had hoped bean-to-bar chocolate, not fat and sugar.

The programme could have been set at York Cocoa Works. And at the very least, wander through the Shambles and look in Monk Bar Chocolatiers.

York, home of chocolate, and the viewers are insulted with corporate industrial chocolate.

Corporate chocolate makers lobbied in US to water down the definition of chocolate to include  emulsifiers and other additives.

Over the last two decades we have seen shocking reports about the use of child labor, sometimes under hazardous conditions, on cacao farms in Ivory Coast and Ghana, and of widespread destruction of forests in cacao-growing regions worldwide.

Public outcry had prompted the major chocolate companies to pledge to end the worst forms of child labour in the cacao industry. But no laws were ever passed in America to require this (those same companies lobbied against the legislation and quashed it), little has changed.

We find a similar corporate story with environmental impact. In 2017, 34 chocolate companies agreed to end deforestation by their industry. But according to a 2018 report by the environmental group Mighty Earth, cacao production was still ravaging forests, and the animals living within them, at an alarming rate.

Direct trade, traceability, transparency bean-to-bar chocolate makers source the best beans, place emphasis on the growing conditions, the terroir, the working conditions, will include details on their chocolates or on their websites.

Cacao grown under the shade of trees helps to protect the natural habitat.

Across the country we have bean-to-bar chocolate makers, viewers could have been introduced to quality chocolate, instead industrial chocolate in a Nestlé factory.

According to the Fine Chocolate Industry Association, sales of premium chocolates grew in the US 19 percent in 2018, compared with 0.6 percent for mainstream chocolate like the classic Hershey bar. Over the past decade, the number of small American bean-to-bar chocolate producers — the kind with cacao percentages and places of origin printed on those hyper-chic labels — has jumped from about five to more than 250.

We could have visited a cacao grower in the Amazon, learnt of the sacred origins of cacao, learnt how cacao is replacing coca in Colombia, that quality attracts a higher price than that paid by Nestlé, direct trade not the FairTrade scam, seen the different cacao pods, fermentation, selecting the roast profile, the processing to turn the cacao nibs into a bar of chocolate.

Maybe a visit to Casa Cacao to see what experts can then do with bean-to-bar chocolate.

But no, a Nestlé factory churning out industrial chocolate for the masses.

At the very least set within Hotel Chocolat. Each person have an expert on hand to advise. Then go through the rigorous selection process. But at a guess no one would have passed, and that would have been the end of the series.

Begs the question: Is this Channel 5 series sponsored by Nestlé?

Bullion bean to bar craft chocolate

February 6, 2020

What was I expecting? Coffee shop, large glass windows, beyond busy making chocolate?

I had trekked out from Sheffield city centre to Kelham Island, a desolate area of abandoned Victorian buildings, or at least caught a bus, choice of No 7 or No 8, driver not very helpful, had passed by where I needed to alight, with the eventual help of a lady at a flea market in one of the abandoned buildings, found Cutlery Works, in the far corner, a dim and dingy corner, Bullion, no one around, a sign instructing ding a bell. I decided to take a wander around the two floors of Cutlery Works, claimed to be the largest food hall in the North.

After a not very good coffee from Foundry Coffee Roasters, I returned to find now someone around.

A little crowd-funded coffee shop, not much larger than a kiosk, a seating area, and beyond, where bullion bean-to bar chocolate made.

I had encountered Bullion at Steam Yard, I was now at their chocolate making facility.

Three bars of chocolate, No 1, No 2, No 3. wrapped to look like bars of gold.

I thought Bullion, gold bars, expensive. No, though could be, cacao beans were used by the Mayans as currency, such did they value chocolate, which they consumed, not as bars or as chocolate, a hot spicy drink for their elite. Gold bars as currency.

Christopher Columbus encountered cacao beans on his fourth voyage, where he found to be used as currency.

Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, a seventeenth century writer and historian, gave an account of what the cacao beans would buy among the Nicaroa people.

  • one rabbit – ten beans
  • eight pieces of a local fruit munoncapot – four beans
  • the company of a lady – ten beans
  • a slave – one hundred beans

When Spanish Conquistadors raided closely guarded treasure houses they found not gold, sacks of cacao beans.

Chocolate was a gift from the gods. Mesoamerican cultures transformed cacao beans into a mystical drink that was a portal to other worlds and dimensions.

Chocolate maker Max introduced himself. Offered samples of No 2 and No 3 to try and apologised no No 1.

Taste was that of fruits, not added flavourings  God forbid, the natural favours notes of chocolate, each different.

I would have had a coffee, but no barista. I regretted my coffee at Foundry Coffee Roasters, as Bullion were sourcing top quality coffee from Caravan.

On offer various chocolate themed cakes.

I was looking forward to a cookie, but had sold out.

Currently experimenting with coffee infused chocolate. If chocolate good but not good enough to stand on its own merits.

The coffee beans ground very fine in an EK43 coffee grinder, then ground again with the chocolate.

I tasted. It changed the flavour profile of the chocolate, though not noticeable coffee.

Coffee grounds have their uses, add to compost heaps, add to cakes. I suggested try adding coffee grounds. Max was not sure due to water content.

I also suggested embed coffee beans on the top of the bar of chocolate to give a crunch and interesting texture when biting into the bar.

Another possibility chocolate coated coffee beans.

Food for thought.

Bean-to-bar chocolate is following in the footsteps of coffee. Direct trade, working with growers, fairer prices for quality, not the Fair Trade scam, transparency and traceability, care with fermentation to bring out the intrinsic flavours, roast profile to safeguard the intrinsic flavours.

I came away with a beautiful presentation box, into which exactly fitted three bars of chocolate and a bookmark with information on the chocolates. No number 1, but I was given a small sampler bar as recompense. I could have popped to Steam Yard but no time. Luckily I found I had No 1 from a recent visit to Steam Yard.

On the bookmark, details of the different chocolates.

There are as many wines as people, as many coffees as people, as many cacao as people.

We are used to seeing the name of the chateau or vineyard the year on a wine label. We are seeing the same with specialty coffee, starting to see with bean-to bar chocolate, the name of the farm, the grower, the variety, how processed, altitude, region.

Coffee has more flavour notes than red wine, chocolate more than coffee.

In the early 18th century,  in his Conversations with Eckermann,  Goethe said: ‘One cannot develop taste from what is of average quality but only from the very best’.

Taste is dictated by culture, some may think Cadbury’s make chocolate, to eat at McDonald’s is haute cuisine or that tax-dodging Starbucks serves coffee.

Paulo Coelho discusses with reference to fashion in The Winner Stands Alone, we all wish to belong to a tribe, dress in the uniform of the tribe, all look alike.

In Clear Bright Future, Paul Mason contrasts the diktat of  fashinistas with the individuals of the 1960s who led not followed.

Bourdieu calls this phenomena habitus, the influence upon us of our surrounding culture.

When the beans are roasted, be coffee or cacao, the roast profile is determined by the desire to bring out the intrinsic flavours of the beans. Which in turn are determined by the grower, the terroir.

The merit of a bar of chocolate is no more determined by how bitter, how dark, the percentage of cocoa mass,  than the merit of a bottle wine the alcohol content or a cup of coffee how bitter or strong.

The role of the barista source the best beans to deliver an excellent cup of coffee, that of the bean-to-bar chocolate maker source the best beans to deliver an exquisite bar of chocolate, no additives, no emulsifiers, only cocoa mass, cocoa butter sugar and maybe a little vanilla.

If do not wish to trek out to Kelham Island, then visit Steam Yard, excellent coffee and not only Bullion on sale but also Bare Bones.

Nearby Tamper Westfield Terrace on my last visit also had on sale Bullion, though I do not recall the complete range.

Both coffee shops serve excellent coffee.

Bullion is featured in From Bean to Bar, a whimsical tour of bean-to-bar chocolate makers in Great Britain.