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 making1.
I feel extremely privileged because Amsterdam seems to become an increasingly active hub for the dynamic high-end chocolate scene. Not only does it have its own bean-to-bar chocolate maker, and an excellently linked chocolate shop, it also hosts two annual chocolate festivals that are very visible internationally. One of them is the ‘Origin Chocolate Event’ that took place for the 4th time last Saturday.
To make it short: I had a very enjoyable day and learned and tasted a lot about great chocolates! I was delighted to see and meet a lot of the chocolate makers whose chocolates I appreciate a lot. I went to tastings with Samuel Maruta from Marou and another one with Domantas Užpalis from Naive. In parallel there were tastings by Mikkel Friis-Holm from Friis-Holm and Brett Beach from Madécasse. All of them produce some of the most amazing chocolates on the market.
The event further offered many interesting talks by chocolate makers, but also nature conservationists (Marc Argeloo who is related to Original Beans), or chocolate anthropologists/historians (e.g. Maricel Presilla). I really enjoyed listening to Diego Badaró (AMMA) and Bertil Åkesson (Åkesson’s) and taste some of their fantastic chocolates. People were quite excited about their first bar made from Theobroma Cupuaçu which is a cousin of cacao (Theobroma Cacao). It is very rich in tropical, licor-like fruit flavors and tastes great! But texture and flavor-wise it is very different from the typical chocolate, so it’s hard to compare (as others found as well).
Samuel Maruta from Marou during a tasting (top). Bertil Åkesson (Åkesson’s) on stage together with Diego Badaró from AMMA. Pictures taken at the Origin Chocolate Event 2014 in Amsterdam.
The atmosphere during the event was very friendly and open. It offered a lot of possibilities for me to learn more about technical aspects and details of chocolate making, but also about current and future trends. The event also reflected a point I really like about those small-scale chocolate producers which is that most of them are extremely concerned with the social, economic, and environmental issues in the chocolate world. I wish the real big companies would value those issues nearly as much. But we (=the consumers) also shouldn’t ask for chocolate bars priced at 1€ or less. After all, even the cheapest bulk chocolate comes from beans that were picked by hand. Oh, and before I forget: there was also a round table discussion on ‘chocolate & health’ which was not only boring but in my eyes also useless. If you care about your health and about the life of others (such as cocoa farmers): Simply stop eating cheap crap chocolate and turn to highest quality chocolate of high cocoa percentage. More margin for everybody in the production chain (=fairer), more conscious eating behavior hence lower risk of ‘over-’consumption together with more cocoa (=’healthier’ or ‘less unhealthy’2 ). And best of all: it tastes so much better. And it will make you happy. I promise.
The event took place in the beautiful Amsterdam Tropemuseum and there were also many stands full of delicios chocoales, bonbons and other chocolate-related things.
- I introduced the different steps of chocolate making in another blog post. [↩]
- I don’t really care if chocolate is really healthy or not. I don’t eat if because I want a medicine! The fact that it is still not fully if and under which circumstances it is healthy shows me that it simply is not what some people mean by ‘superfood’ (anyway a totally senseless attribute), but that it also doesn’t do much harm if consumed ‘in moderation’. That’s all I need to know. It doesn’t hurt me and it tastes totally awesome. So I will simply enjoy it without ever thinking about antioxidants or other un-relevant stuff. [↩]