Recently I stopped in at a fantastic little chocolaterie in Amsterdam, managed by the most charming Irish lady – Van Velze’s.
We were discussing our love of chocolate and I came to learn that they source all their chocolate from a single organic cacao plantation in Costa Rica. Her passion and dedication to supporting the little guys was infectious, and she mentioned that there happened to be a sustainable chocolate festival on in the city, where many other manufacturers with similar attitudes were exhibiting. It was called Chocoa, and it was fabulous. While you may think that a Snickers bar is all you need in life, darling, you have not lived. The chocolate here was amazing, in large part due to the effort placed on single-origin beans, methods of production, and preservation of cacao plantations around the world. Fair working conditions, salaries, and ecological harvesting is a must. This hard work and love is clear in the product. While this isn’t a travel post per sey, I felt like I traveled to some hot and humid locations this weekend.
Just a few favorites:
El Rey: A family business focusing on environmental preservation and better working conditions in Venezuela, chocolate sourced from both small and large-scale Venezuelan farms.
Mucho Mexico: No website as far as I can tell, however I learned a lot at this stand about how climate, soil, and sunshine effects the product. Each bar had a full breakdown describing its birth and life. The “Tejate” chocolate bar is out of control.
Chocolate Makers: Beans are bought directly from farmers, ground using a traditional Spanish “melangeur” and then rolled using a conch. Cocoa shells are used as compost at blueberry farms. The “Gorilla Bar” supports the last mountain gorillas of Virunga National Park in the eastern Congo – cocoa is planted at the edge of the park to provide income for the residents, as an attempt to limit income via logging and poaching.
All stalls were offering samples, so you could really taste the full spectrum, from 40% milk chocolate with sea salt, all the way up to 100% cacao chocolate – dark, intense, and earthy. The exhibitors described their chocolates as if they were describing a fine wine – the beans, geographical origin, and climate all contributing to the complexity. There were tastings in separate conference rooms – including whisky & chocolate pairings, beer & chocolate pairings, and wine & chocolate pairings. The opportunities were endless, and the 15 euro entrance fee was well worth it.
One of the best things about travelling is finding local unique places and things – where the owner/maker is proud to tell you every last detail about their passion and why they do what they do. This was amazingly displayed here by the collaboration between a local Amsterdam Brewery (Brouwerij ‘t IJ), Ciel Bleu, a local 2 Michelin star restaurant, and Chocolate Makers. Together, they created an Imperial Stout with an unusual twist – roasted Trinitario cocoa beans from Chocolate Makers with the traditional roasted malt. More info here: http://www.brouwerijhetij.nl/ciel-bleu-imperial-stout-een-nieuwe-samenwerking-met-de-chefs/. I think it is so cool that you can taste a beer which is the brainchild of a local brewery, restaurant, and made with the product of a local chocolatier. This beer was going like hotcakes, paired with chocolate of course.
The most amazing device below. . . a huge metal mixer churning up ground cocoa beans and cocoa butter into pure heaven.
A finally, my booty from the day. Successful!