I was interviewed for NHPR! It was really fun to host Shelby El Otmani and Peter Biello of All Things Considered in my home kitchen - they tasted everything, and also recorded sounds of all the equipment as I shared my story. Give it a listen! (tip: the audio interview is more dynamic than the written summary, definitely take the time to listen)
This summit is organized by the Northeastern University Consortium of Food Sustainability, Health & Equity and will cover the topics of sustainability and gender equity in the coffee and cacao global supply chains. Featured speakers include Erika Koss, author of “Magic Beans or Devils’s Brew: The Politics of Transforming the Coffee Sector in Uganda and Rwanda,” and Carla D. Martin, Founder and Executive Director of the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute.
Session One, “Exploring the Global Picture of Cacao and Coffee,” is from 1-2:30pm and includes talks by Erika and Carla, as well as case study presentations by guests from Oxfam and the Coffee Quality Institute. Session Two, “Exploring Beantown’s Role in Cacao and Coffee, includes a Q&A session focusing on sustainability and gender equality initiatives undertaken by local coffee and chocolate companies.
Enna will be part of the Q&A session and there will also be Enna Chocolate samples available for tasting. We encourage you to attend what will undoubtably be a very interesting and informative afternoon!
For more information on this free event check out this link: https://www.northeastern.edu/cssh/policyschool/event/the-future-of-cacao-coffee-a-summit-on-sustainability-and-gender-equity-in-two-global-supply-chains/
Pssst: Enna is making a limited edition batch of chocolate. Only 100 bars of this batch will be made, and they will be numbered and signed. This will be your first opportunity to have your very own bar of Enna Chocolate. Through the sale of these bars we will be able to fund our first major cocoa bean purchase.
Tanzania / Kokoa Kamili / batch 003
This limited edition bar release is made with cacao produced by the Kokoa Kamili coop in Tanzania. This cocoa's scent is floral and chocolate-y, and man does the nano-factory smell good right now! In Enna's production journal it is noted that when she opened her first bag of Kokoa Kamili it smelled like falling in love. Reserve now - these bars will be ready in late June.
(note when checking out you'll be asked for your shipping address even if you want to do local pickup - fill this out and the next step will give you the option to choose local pickup or proceed with shipping)
tasting notes: raspberry, cherry, coffee, lemon. This chocolate also has a quality that can only be described as 'sparkle'. Not a full effervescence, and not a heat. Just a glint of inspiration, spontaneous tears, the starry sky, a curtain drawing back to hint at something big. It comes in like a kitten, not ordinary, not wild either... but just wait for the finish. It grabs your attention: deep, velvety, wistful and pure. Long after you think you've moved on you'll find yourself gazing into space - hello tastebuds, I am Chocolate! - and, dreaming of what can be.
about the beans: Kokoa Kamili works with approximately 2000 farmers in the fertile Kilombero valley. The farmers receive top dollar for their cocoa, and the coop has an agricultural extension field officer on staff who supports the farmers with training on cocoa agronomy. The coop pays a high price for cocoa to enable the farmers to decide for themselves on the best use of this extra income, whether it be upgrading their roof, sending their child to a better school, saving for a rainy day, or simply enjoying a little more spending money. Before the coop was formed these farmers sold their cocoa to a lone buyer who represented the commodity market, and they were paid the lowest cocoa prices in the country. Through Kokoa Kamili they now receive some of the highest prices paid for cocoa throughout Tanzania (most recently 22% above market rate). Kokoa Kamili also purchases cocoa from a nearby convent which runs a hospital, orphanage, and school.
In my photographic education, I spent a year studying under the brilliant artist and teacher Brenton Hamilton. In Brenton's teaching students are encouraged to explore how an artist can express oneself through 'print statement'. Print statement in the case of photography refers to the selection of materials, chemical process, timing, embellishing treatments, and final presentation. All of these combine to form the vehicle that conveys the artist's core ambition - indeed, this matchmaking of process and materials with vision and message is part of any artist's process, regardless of medium. Without intentional finesse and precision, the end result is muddied - we are distracted from whatever the artist was trying to express.
This is something that I think about as I do my roasting tests. I'm looking for a particular balance of acidic brightness, dynamic flavor, and mellow chocolatey goodness. These occur at different points on the roasting spectrum - the most complex brightness may be found in the early part of a roast, while a velvety mellow intensity may take much longer to develop. The chocolate maker must choose an intersection of these elements in roasting, and this sometimes means one desired aspect of flavor is subdued in order to emphasize another. It's a huge challenge to selectively highlight the qualities that we're looking for while diminishing others. Think about this as you taste fine chocolate: can you detect a roasting statement? Is there some commonality among bars by the same maker?
okay, back to the grindstone.... literally!
We've reached an exciting milestone: my chocolate is set to debut tonight on the menu at Black Trumpet in Portsmouth, New Hampshire! Chef Evan Mallett and pastry chef Stephanie Deihl have been getting creative with my Guatemala 70% and my Vietnam nibs, and both chocolate and nibs will make their appearance in a few forms on the new menu. I'm over the moon excited to head over and try the finished dishes!
Guatemala / Chimel B / batch 001
A little back-story... I am also a photographer, and last year I was invited to create the photographic art for a book written by Evan Mallett, chef-owner of Black Trumpet. This was an incredible honor and an amazingly fun project. Mallett is a highly regarded James Beard semifinalist, known as much for his creativity in the kitchen as for his mentoring and collaborative work with other chefs, farmers, and creative thinkers. His book - coming at the end of this summer - will be a beast of a tome, covering over 10 years of his professional career, and food spanning 8 seasons ('8 seasons' you ask? you'll just have to read the book). It contains dozens upon dozens of recipes and stories illustrating Evan's philosophy about food... embellished with lots and lots of photographs by yours truly.
What Evan did not realize at the time was that I was already working on my chocolate-making. That is, making chocolate from scratch, from the bean. So when Evan invited me to be his photographer, he was essentially also signing on to become my most trusted tasting panelist. I use the phrase 'most trusted' because a) he has an incredibly sensitive palate, and b) when I brought my first sample to him he blurted out, "I don't really like chocolate". He is able to articulate the weird and unique flavors that can happen in small-batch chocolate making, and I know that I can always trust him to tell me the truth. (I have since discovered that Evan probably does not dislike chocolate, he is just very picky).
The making of chocolate is arduous and at times frustrating, but the enigma and delight that cacao offers has won my heart. Words cannot really express how excited I am to begin sharing my chocolate with the public.
We're starting very small: at the moment my chocolate is only available on the Black Trumpet menu. We have other exciting things in the works, and will have bars available for purchase very soon, so stay tuned!
Update: the book is now available for pre-order on Amazon! And yes, that's my name below the author's name on the cover. :)
Today we sampled my Tanzania 70% in the form of drinking chocolate. Pure goodness.
My logo is the Mayan symbol for Zero. One might assume that this glyph represents a cacao pod or bean, but actually it is a shell. The Mayan symbol is in homage to the origins of chocolate and its role in Mesoamerican culture and history. Chocolate has always been a precious commodity with a measured value. Zero is significant in that it represents the baseline which is the starting point for any creative and laborious endeavor. The craft of chocolate offers a steep learning curve, and there's nowhere to go from here but up.
I thought my previous test (Chiapas) was successful. But, the Tanzania was pure perfection. We're still nibbling on crumbs here and there... it has a deep embracing start, and a long smooth finish. Everything in between is magic: stars, dreams, hopes, tears, all riding on notes of cherry, mandarin, deep chocolate. It rests back on the palate, not leaving a dry mouth or nose, and the craving for another bite follows for hours. So so perfect. Now to get my hands on more of these beans...
Getting started on a roasting test with some beautifully polished San Juan estate beans today.
An excerpt from my roasting notes:
1. Wine, chocolate, tears, earth, fruit. Satisfying, soulful, deep - matches the scent of the fermented un-roasted beans.
2. Frangipane, ripe green melon, apple jolly ranchers, children playing.
3. Summer, bright sparkles, toasted almonds, a bitterness one wishes to follow.
4. Soothing yet sour, something is falling flat. Wine gone. Sour bananas, sour lemons, sour almonds.
... and so it goes. This roasting test will be done at 3 different temperature combinations, 10 time-steps each: 30 samples to taste and chart.
I am excited about these beans: my heart was swallowed up the moment I cut the bag open and breathed their scent. 'Intoxicating' is the predominant feeling about what I'm tasting so far. This is all about learning how to roast and discern flavor; chocolate comes later.
Starting small... Can't wait to put this baby to work!
I took some time off making chocolate to read and study, and also to give Matt time and space to remodel our kitchen! It is a HUGE improvement over the ancient 1930s era rusty steel cabinets and pock-marked linoleum floor (watch for glimpses of our gorgeous soapstone countertops in some of my pictures).
Because I didn't understand what went wrong with my first two batches, I decided to do some methodical roasting tests, and taste the nibs that resulted from these roasting tests. I conducted three separate tests. Each test included 15 steps of time/temp adjustments, and I tasted nibs at every step of the way. This was an immensely helpful exercise! My friend Minta joined me for one of the roasting tests and helped me to understand a bit more about the Maillard process, which is a significant factor in the flavor development. I was able to identify the problem with the first two batches (severely over-roasted). And more importantly, I now have a better understanding of how the flavor evolves over the course of the roast.
There is no single perfect point where the roast is "just right". Instead, the flavor evolves - it's up to the chocolate maker to choose which point on that spectrum of flavor he or she wants to emphasize. Fruity, bright, lemony, green, savory, unripe banana, roasted banana, cinnamon, almonds, meaty, winey, chocolaty, burnt sugar, and more are some of the words that I wrote on my roasting test notes. Some of these occur in conjunction with each other... and some lead into each other. For instance, the savory meaty quality seems to deepen into that old-school deep "chocolate" flavor that we all love. But it can easily devolve into bitter burnt sugar. The bright lemony and less ripe fruit tones seem to evolve into deeper riper and more winey fruit tones later on. But they don't all evolve on such a sensical trajectory, and the most interesting flavors are not always simultaneous. For instance at the early part of the roast I may sense lemon and nutty flavors, and later on I may sense raspberry and deep chocolate. So how do I make a chocolate that conveys both the lemony quality from the early part of the roast and the deep chocolate tones from the later in the roasting process?
All of this testing was done using lovely beans from Chiapas Mexico. I had 4 pounds of beans left, so I chose a roast profile that I found appealing, and made what I'm now considering my first successful batch of chocolate. I can't call it a complete success though.... as the next step is TEMPERING.
This chocolate project has a steep learning curve, but once this batch is tempered I'll share pictures of the finished bars, and results of my taste tests too... can't wait to share!
Batch 2 was more successful. I made this batch with Venezuelan Ocumare beans. The roast was still a shot in the dark, in fact every step in the process was a bit arbitrary. This batch was much better than the first but still not very good.
Update: It's been a few months since i made this batch, and I tasted it recently. A lot of chocolate makers age their chocolate before they shape it into bars and sell it. With this second batch of mine, the flavor does seem to have settled with the few months of aging - it's not as bitter, and the front taste isn't as acidic as it was when it was first made. The good flavors have a more lasting finish (when I first made it the fine flavors deteriorated quite quickly leaving a bit of a chemical taste in the mouth). I will say, this batch has grown on me!
I am learning about chocolate: its history, how it is made, and its range of flavors and possibilities. For my first batch, I ordered a few pounds of miscellaneous 'testing' beans - they weren't identified, but they were cheap and perfect for my purposes of learning how to make chocolate from the bean. This first batch wasn't very good. But look at that: chocolate, made from scratch!