Q: What's your favorite chocolate? A: Any real educator can only answer this one way - it depends. On what? - mood, connections, flavor preferences, time of day and experience. I used to have some "mid-price" ($3-$5) chocolate bars that I would eat when I wanted a fix...now I have enough bars from higher end makers that I maybe have too many choices. Favorite origin, however, might be Hawaii although most recently I've enjoyed chocolate from Columbia.
Q: Where does chocolate come from? A: Chocolate represents the outcome of processing the seeds from the plant, Theobroma cacao, which grows between +20 N and -20 S latitudes in places called "origins". More commonly called beans, these seeds get fermented, dried (and then often shipped), sorted, roasted, de-shelled, ground, pressed into a liquid, tempered and then poured and set in a mold.
Q: Where does "bean to bar" chocolate mean? A: Not too much really. All chocolate "bars" come from a bean. But, intention of this term focuses on craft or artisan chocolate that selects the beans and processes them with careful purpose to create chocolate with a myriad of deep flavors. Some of this takes place in small batch or at larger companies that still pay attention to the process. Equal Exchange provides a nice step-by-step explanation or you can also watch a video from Soma Chocolate using large-scale equipment.
Q: How many American Bean to Bar makers exist? A: No one really knows and there seems to be at least one more every week, but a Google Doc has emerged that is trying to keep track. Here's another recent updated list from blogger: Carol Wiley. Don Ramsey from the UK also has a bean to bar database in development. Q: What's the best "starter" chocolate for someone that thinks dark chocolate too bitter? A: I think Divine Chocolate makes a nice chocolate fudge 70% that hits the right balance of still sweet without turning on the bitter (beans from women's cooperative in Ghana). It's generally my "go to" for default chocolate. Other high quality midrange companies include Taza Chocolate (Somerville, MA; stone ground; different texture), Theo Chocolate (Seattle-based; all beans from the Congo; often with inclusions) and TCHO located in San Francisco.
Q: Where do I buy my chocolate? A: See this list on my credentials page. I try to visit a chocolate store whenever I travel. Love to buy at specialty stores when I'm on vacation or often directly from individual makers.
Q: How much do you spend on average for a good quality chocolate bar? A: I think that the $10 price point probably represents my average. Maybe a little higher as more and more special bars appear on the market. I can often think of it as $1 a serving --- it's a bargain compared to the prices of the "best" of many fine specialty foods. I can have pretty much the best chocolate in the entire world for less than a tank of gas (in Texas, US). I think I've paid the most (~$25) for either a Letterpress Chocolate Bar or perhaps Friis Holm in Denmark. In terms of trying bars, I consider it money well spent (more going to the farmers) and never have regrets - even if I don't like the bar, I learned something.
Q: What's your favorite chocolate education resource? A: I find myself increasingly appreciate of the podcast, The Slow Melt, by Simran Sethi. The Fine Chocolate and Cacao Institute also has a great list of resources for those interested in being a consumer, a maker, a chocolatier, a retailer or a buyer.
Q: Do you eat Hershey's chocolate? A: No. First, Hershey's "milk" at only 11% cacao does not qualify as chocolate to me. And I prefer to know from where my chocolate originates. Overall, I find it best to refer to the mass-market options as "candy" and to leave the chocolate to the real makers.