Nat under the cacao tree outside the lab where the class was held. The saying "lucky we live Hawaii" really applies here as Hawaii is the only U.S. state where chocolate can be successfully grown. Where else could you have a cacao tree happily growing right outside your classroom door? Much like coffee (and me!) cacao prefers a temperate tropical climate.
Cacao production in Hawaii is still small--only about 30 growers total are farming on about 50 acres total right now. Madre Chocolate uses mostly fair-trade chocolate purchased directly from organic cooperatives where they have a relationship as the Dominican cacao in three of the four bars I sampled, but when they can get enough great Hawaiian chocolate they blend it up for special bars like their Locavore Hawaiian Earl Grey Tea Dark Chocolate.
Dave, (Chocolate Maker, foodie, & Madre Co-founder and Chocolate Production Manager) takes us through tempering the chocolate. Tempering gives the chocolate its shiny appearance and that clean "snap" good chocolate has when you break it. It's an art and involves cooling the chocolate down, at about 105 degrees F., adding in some "seed" chocolate that has already been tempered, and then lowering it down to the low 80"s. before raising the heat to the optimum temperature--between 88-91 degrees F. for most dark chocolates.
Because the chocolate we made was processed in a food processor instead of a specialized chocolate grinder (where it can grind for several days before being ready), it has a slightly grainy texture--think of Mexican chocolate in texture.
I didn't take picture of making my bar, put we took turns pouring the chocolate into small molds and adding flavors if we wanted--either mixing them in or decorating the back of the bar with them. I chose the back of the bar method since I picked dried hibiscus and pink peppercorn and thought it looked pretty. ;-) The taste? Although neither Dave nor Nat needs to worry about competition in the making or wrapping departments, it was really pretty good--the rich dark chocolate, with a slightly sweet fruity tang from the hibiscus, ending with a slightly spicy kick from the peppercorn.
As our chocolates firmed up, we did the three tasting flights of chocolate. I was too busy tasting to snap pictures, but I think we had (small) pieces of about 18 different bars from different companies like Dagoba, Neuhaus, Voges, etc. Even though we had very small pieces, it was a lot of chocolate even for me, but fun to taste it with the experts.
Key Chocolate Tasting Learnings:
chocolatiers--the key difference being that rather than taking someone else's chocolate and molding it, adding flavors, etc., they take them from the bean to the bar--every step of the process from sourcing to even hand wrapping and labeling each bar.
Madre Chocolate bars are still not easy to find yet--right now they are being sold at Sweet Paradise chocolates in Kailua, Oahu and Lahaina, Maui, as well as various special events, farmers markets, etc., but they are coming soon to several other locations (you can see them here ). When I found out they brought some bars with them, I had to buy some to try. (I may or may not have knocked a few people out of the way to get one of each of the four different bars they had) ;-) I took them home and after a day or two of chocolate-detox from the tasting, I had a tasting of my own.
Buying the bars directly, they were $6.00 each, they sell for slightly higher retail in the stores. Reasonably priced and well worth it for the passion, quality and care put into each and every bar. After all you are getting high-quality fair trade chocolate, carefully crafted by hand from start to finish and minimally processed too, to keep the antioxidants high. (So I can tell people the 4 bars I bought plus the one I made are actually health food) ;-) I am now a confirmed fan--these guys make excellent chocolate and they make it fun too. I can't wait to try more and support a deserving local company.
You can follow Madre Chocolate on Twitter here and Facebook here and go to their website, here to get all of their chocolate news, upcoming chocolate classes, new products and where you can find them. Madre Chocolates plans to eventually get the bars outside of Hawaii too--so those of you out-of-state can get a taste of delicious aloha even if you don't live here.
Still in a little bit of chocolate heaven, (or maybe a chocolate coma--either way I'm happy!)