Chocoa 2015

Last week the Chocoa festival, trade fair, and conference took place in the center of Amsterdam. Chocoa is a annual event and the ‘festival’ part resembles the Origin chocolate event although with more attention towards families, kids etc.. This time I did not attend the festival, but I joined the trade fair instead.

Chocoa trade fair Amsterdam 2015 - cocoa bean testing and sampling.Cocoa bean sampling at the Chocoa trade fair 2015 in Amsterdam. One of the most important tests for the quality of cocoa beans it the so called ‘cutting test’. Typically, a few hundred beans are cut in halves for this test. Visual inspection then reveals the percentage of beans with mold as well as poorly fermented beans (well-fermented beans often show violet colors while a grayish appearance is a sign for non-ideal fermentation).

Changes ahead!

After more than six weeks my first post for this year! What a burden…
Feels like I am far too late for a classical ‘what comes 2015?’ post. Well, who cares.

I am in busy times right now and don’t find any time to spend on blogging. Much worse, I don’t find time to experiment in my kitchen. By now I should maybe rather speak of my kitchen lab because that’s what it became over the last 2 years. Speaking of which: I did spend a lot of time in my kitchen lab in December so that I could distribute many candy bars and caramels to friends and family.

Self-made - home-made chocolate caramel candy barsCandy bar prototypes I made shortly before Christmas. Organic, plant-based, dark caramel with peanuts in dark chocolate. With and without fleur de sel on top. It feels great to do ‘experiments’ where the results are perfectly edible.

Xmas special: chocolate cheating

Christmas is coming, THE chocolate season of the year. So most us buy, eat, and give away a LOT of chocolate over the next couple of weeks. Which is great!
Just try avoiding the most common dirty tricks in selling chocolate to make sure you really get something that’s worth being praised as ‘chocolate’.

 Many nasty ways to reduce production costs and quality of chocolateThere are many nasty ways for reducing production costs (and quality) of chocolate. Low quality bulk cocoa is much cheaper than premium cocoa. Sugar and other ingredients are even cheaper so reducing the overall cocoa percentage also saves money. And often products are marketed as ‘premium’ to sell for much higher prices even if there is nothing premium inside…

Don’t trust these guys!

Christmas time, chocolate time. That seems a pretty universal law although it comes in different styles and shapes. Today for instance, 6 of December, many Germans will get their chocolate ‘Nikolaus‘, but chocolate Santa-Claus-like treats are fairly common in many places. It relates to a lot of great childhood memories, probably not only for me. However, when I had a closer look at my ‘Nikolaus‘ today, it felt devastating. These guys are clearly made of bad bad crap chocolate!

Two chocolate Santa ClausTwo chocolate Santa Claus (here from Lindt)… as sad as it is: most of these guys are made from very low quality chocolate. Actually, it is hardly ‘chocolate’ at all and the best part of chocolate, the cocoa solids, are only present in traces…

Enjoy chocolate season: Van Soest

Feels like I am soooo slow when it comes to blogging. No way that I can keep up with my fast growing (imaginary) list of things I wanted to write about. Thus: random picking!
I still haven’t finished my list of Amsterdam chocolate places, so let me introduce another one that was missing: chocolatier Van Soest!

Van Soest - Amsterdam chocolatier in the Utrechtsestraat.Van Soest – Amsterdam chocolatier in the Utrechtsestraat.

Foods are us! Are we what we eat?

The last two days I attended this year’s ‘Science and Society Conference’ an annual conference series which –this time- was focused on “Foods are us! On becoming and eating”. I had a great time and really enjoyed many interesting presentations by food science experts from very diverse disciplines and backgrounds. This ranged from chemistry and molecular biology to psychology and sociology.

 EMBL/EMBO Science and Society Conference on Foods are us! In Heidelberg ‘Science and Society Conference’ on Foods are us! On becoming and eating taking place at EMBL in Heidelberg

Origin Chocolate Event

Although cocoa has always been a luxurious good and chocolate in its current (western) form is a highly esteemed delicacy, it feels like high-end chocolate is currently being re-invented. More and more bean-to-bar chocolate makers start to produce better and better chocolates, often by systematically questioning, testing, and improving the individual steps of chocolate making.

Origin Chocolate Event 2014 in Amsterdam - Diego Badaró from AMMADiego Badaró from AMMA at the Origin Chocolate Event 2014 in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is not yet Portland

Yesterday I learned more about the rapidly growing local microbrewery scene at Pakhuis de Zwijger. This ‘Brewery Special’ was organized by Indie Brands and mainly consisted of 5 presentations by different local breweries to introduce themselves and tell something about what they do, why they do it and additional anecdotes (the featured breweries were Amsterdam Brewboys, De Vriendschap, De Prael, Oedipus, and Browerij t’IJ). Naturally, this was followed by a beer tasting…

Indie Brands Brewery Special - Amsterdam microbreweries Selection of local craft beers at the ‘Indie Brands Brewery Special’

ArtiChoc – hints of flavor

When I started blogging about Amsterdam’s chocolate world I really had in mind to cover it as completely as possible. Somehow I never finished the list I initially had in mind. Time to catch up I guess.
One place I haven’t mentioned so far in more detail is ‘ArtiChoc‘ located south of Vondelpark in one of the traditionally richer areas of Amsterdam.

Arti Choc - Amsterdam chocolatier Bonbon selection at ‘Arti Choc’, an Amsterdam chocolatier south of Vondelpark.

First time Cider Making

When I found myself picking apples in a beautiful south-German orchard in early September, I wondered what could all be done with the large amounts of organic, delicious apples. Eating, sure. Baking, yes. But wouldn’t Cider be the ideal way to refine the apples’ potential? Only problem: I had never done Cider or anything alike by myself. Normally I use my kitchen (besides ‘normal’ cooking) to experimente with confectionery recipes. Now it’s cider as well…

First time Cider Making - apples from the south German orchard First time Cider Making – Hand-picked apples from the south German orchard I took along to Amsterdam for first cider making trials.