Since 2001 Martin Christy has been running Seventy%, a chocolate review website as an authority on tasting chocolate, has since co-founded the International Institute of Chocolate and Cacao Tasting. They have created a 3 level certificate course curriculum and have been holding Level 1 classes for a while now and have started Level 2 classes more recently. Since they started these course they were held in London where Martin is based. It was to my pleasant surprise that I learned that they were going to hold Level 1 and 2 courses after the Northwest Chocolate Festival on November 15th through 18th at the Sweet Treats Beach House in Seabrook, Washington. I immediately signed up as some of you may know, I am always on the hunt to further educate myself on all things chocolate and cacao.
Our friend Erin Andrews, owner of Indi Chocolate had graciously hosted us at the Sweet Treat Beach House and so we were able to build a nice close group rapport with each other. There were 8 of us outside of Martin and we were mostly all chocolate makers and those who work with chocolate! This made discussions full of depth and additional questions fueled by curiosity and passion for cacao and chocolate.
One really cool thing that I wanted to highlight from the Level 1 and 2 courses was the system that Martin and his team is working on to compile chocolate tasting notes from each reviewer in a group. It allows to plot a flavor profile for the group. Based on the various origins of dark chocolate that we tasted, we were able to see the positives and negatives with how we plotted our flavor notes. This will help in the future once they push this system out to the public. It can provide chocolate makers, chocolatiers, those who work in the industry and consumers a lot of valuable information on various bars. They potentially would be able to choose bars with a flavor profile that they like and prefer.
One major lesson I’ve learned from the week was Melt Don’t Munch.
When we munch on a piece of fine chocolate we don’t allow the cocoa butter to melt and it inhibits the release of the flavors of the origin that were brought out through the chocolate making process. When we give it time to melt, we then get to experience an array of flavors.
But what about the chocolate we can pick up at our local CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, etc? We munch on those and they seem like they taste good. There’s added ingredients to those chocolate bars to mask the poor quality of the cocoa beans. Some may even have bad off flavors and aftertastes. I’d suggest you find a fine chocolate bar from one of the few hundred small batch chocolate makers across the US and Canada who buy cocoa beans and pay attention to all of the details to bring out the best of the cacao we purchase.
Overall, the course was an amazing experience where we tasted a lot of good chocolate and a lot of bad chocolate. We were able to develop the knowledge base to help us with our businesses as well as to further develop our palates as chocolate tasters. There’s a lot of growth to happen in this area and we are so excited for the future!