CrushPad Newsletters


2013 July

 

The C-spot®

 Crushpad Newsletter

  Newsbites for the Chocoscenti
July 2013, Issue #7 — Issue #6 here

 

Around the World in 45 Bars

the C-spot’s Chocolate Atlas has added another destination.

Follow us Around the World as we cover the whole chocolate globe in 45 bars.

Tastier than virtual reality or video travelogues, a solid bar of chocolate serves nicely as a portable transport device. It allows us to see, smell, feel & taste a place.

Let’s hop on over to Cameroon, our latest C-spot, to find out if Marcolini’s bar captures a sense of a country that hosted the most diverse varieties of cacáo on the planet (that’s right, chocomanes, Cameroon) at the beginning of the 20th century.

Solomon Islands Update

The January 2013 issue of the C-spot® Newsletter featured a piece on cocoa from Solomon Islands. Their Minister of Agriculture seized upon it & his office issued this press release, naming our own selves as the source.

Who knew our modest chocolate reporting could bring with it such responsibility, that our offhand comments might influence the livelihoods & fate of cacáo growers — we call them “bromans” — half a world away?

Chocolate’s supposed to just be fun & flavor, the stuff of amusement parks, desserts, sports drinks, & kissy romance. How could this effort, begun by an anonymous dumb consumer-turned-chocolate bigmouth, have morphed into this?

And what is this? A job? A career in chocolate diplomacy?

Innocence lost, sinking with the realization that the world can be a conflicted place. Maybe Big Choc has it right after all, seducing people via a hefty dose of sugar to convince all that chocolate is merely candy.

Think we really believe that? Hah.

Summertime Browns: The Chocolate Meltdown

Chocolate used to be like the school year: it took a summer vacation. Too much heat, too much melt. That hiatus has gone the way of the single-income household and the sabbath (Madison & Jefferson were arrested for joyriding in a carriage around Vermont on a Sunday).

Nowadays most chocolate shops stay open year round. Many shift to chocolate ice-cream, iced cocoa drinks & the like during the heat. But chocolate’s taste changes when cold, losing many highs and lows in the cooling.

Signs of progress? Or more daily grind to keep up with spiraling costs to pay The Man?

No matter how much you luv chocolate, take a break for sanity’s sake. Pulsing to the rhythms of life means keeping time in sync with the beat of the seasons — light, temperatures, physical & meta gyrations. Don’t sweat falling behind & catching up. A playwright once observed that sometimes in order to speed up, ya gotta slow down.

In that spirit, the newsletter will be laying low for the dog days of summer by taking the month of August off to get some beach time, lobster rolls, & naps in the hammock.

’til September… choc on,

the C-spot

 

Chocolate Brooklyn

Last month ’twas our pleasure to host the doyenne of the new chocolate era Chloé (do we really need to add Doutre-Roussel?), plus a 2-person film crew in from Venezuela (affectionately known as the “2 Marias” – Maria Fernanda di Giacobbe & Maria Teresa Alvarado) & “The Dan” of Marañón Canyon Cacao behind the Pearson Project in Peru, for a Brooklyn Chocolate Crawl.

While SF arguably sits at the epicenter of American chocolate which may yet shift to Hawai’i, Brooklyn USA sprouts a budding scene amongst its indie rock bands, microbrews, & guys who like to watch girls watching Girls drink beer like nobody’s business.

Here’s a recap:

Mast Brothers – master wallpaper hangers whose stylized wrappers have been so copied near & far that the Bros should file for copyright infringement. Rick & Michael Mast rep Brooklyn from the clean-line layout of a factory in Billysburg, replete with film studio so you can nocialize while visiting. Forget the chocolate –  their current release is a co-branded beer with local brewery Sixpoint.

Fine & Raw – an oxymoron on the face of it, but Daniel Sklaar braves the challenges of so-called “raw chocolate” from a side-street location that doubles as a lounge &, on given nights, a club. In step with his chocolate, the man throws intense parties. Judging by Fine & Raw’s widespread distribution throughout the 5 Boroughs & feedback from retailers, he’s succeeding on both counts.

Raaka – takes a different “raw” tack by wisely dropping the term in favor of the olive-oily “virgin chocolate”. Possibly no one in boutique chocolate accomplishes more with less square footage than Ryan Cheney & Company at Raaka. Enter its small workshop & the crammed quarters somehow manage to fit the cottage chocolate equipment of latter day barsmiths: Aether winnower, Cocoatown universal (grinder / refiner / conch), & Selmi temperer.

Being “raw” means no drum roaster, or any roaster at all. Instead bourbon casks dot the place. Raaka employs them to age cocoa nuts, imparting flavors otherwise contributed by added vanilla, as well as its own wooded character. Check the review of its Bourbon Cask Aged bar.

Cacao Prieto — The excursion ended in the remote section of Red Hook where Daniel Preston painstakingly refurbished his Cacáo Prieto quarters, resulting in perhaps the most state-of-the-art facility in artisan chocolate. No expense has been spared from the vintage equipment to newly-engineered devices (the latter by Preston himself) & a chilled storage holding center to make most other barsmiths weep and drool with envy. An upstairs loft serves as a think-tank for him & his team to peruse blueprints of their own cacáo grove in The Domincian Republic that supplies their cocoa, detailing its field architecture & planting density, replete with extensive testing & analysis of genotypes. An adjoining lounge, including gorgeous floor-to-ceiling rum stills (for a brand Preston labels Widow Jane after the wife of a miner – complicated story), completes the layout.

Simply put, Prieto takes an all-encompassing approach. The level of aesthetic melded to scientific rigor floored us. The applications of Preston’s work might some day benefit the wider field far beyond this island enclave.

The tongue & the eye test (see the C-spot review of Criollo 72) suggests that Prieto could eventually rival some of the titans of the space, such as Gianluca Franzoni of Domori. This would be no small achievement.

 

 

 

 

2013 June

 

The C-spot®

 Crushpad Newsletter

  Newsbites for the Chocoscenti
June 2013, Issue #6 — Issue #5 here

 

Liberation Chocolate

You’ve heard of Liberation Theology, the politically-driven church movement in Latin America whose leaders often became targets for assassination.  Now from Liberia, a country that holds a special place in the hearts of USA descendants of freed African slaves, comes Liberation Chocolate.

Is chocolate the ol’ new religion, as it was during Pre-Columbian times?

Meet Sheikh Abu Turay of the very intelligent-sounding Unreasonable Institute (because in times like these the most “reasoned” of people — mainly Type “A”s, for Ass-kissers & their ilk maids — have become the most shamelessly unaccountable). In his bio he tells of 14 years in a Liberian refugee camp.

His resume also includes rehabilitating former child soldiers, now idling war-wary adults, & reintegrating them into society by refurbishing abandoned cacáo groves in a sustainable enterprise-ecosystem. Sheikh calls his venture Liberation Chocolate.

Difficult to vet the story for its veracity, yes, but one thing is certain: flavor never lies. Even when it tries to, by spiking the ferment pile or adding stealth inclusions, we find it.

Check our review & see if Liberation is the fulfillment of 7-year-old Myles’ suggestion to the Vice President: “I think guns should shoot chocolate bullets so no one will get killed & no one will be sad.”

Cocovanol™

Last month the C-spot® Newsletter featured a piece on Real Fake Chocolate. We explained some of the science behind a flavonal-rich product from Diana Plant Sciences branded Cocovanol™, possibly a precursor to culturing cocoa — the chocolate of the future.

Diana Plant Sciences CEO Marc Philouze sent us a sample. Now we pass the intel on to you.

The Cocovanol™ powder arrived with a Safety Data Sheet of the sort that might accompany transport of bio-hazmats, including safeguards and protocols for accidental release, toxicology, & disposal.

This gave us pause.

We admit it: over the years the C-spot® has made some enemies due to a no-holds barred, no BS approach. One industry insider called us “the most hated site in chocolate”.

Have we gone too far? Do we need to set up a remote mail center to screen our incoming parcels the way the government does?

An inquiry to the company generated this response, direct from Mr. Philouze: “It is indeed safe & self-affirmed GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe). The Safety Data Sheet is more of a series of standard recommendations when transferring materials. I have eaten some Cocovanol™ already many times.”

“Death by Chocolate”? We at the C-spot are not quite ready for that.

See whether Philouze’s reassurance was sufficient for us to put it in our mouths & file this report.

Next Newsletter:      

     Chocolate Meltdown:

The Summertime Browns

 

Choc-Obits

With sorrow we report that the premium chocolate world suffered 2 deaths.

J. Sandy Hepler

The great Sandyno has passed on. J. Sandy Hepler was more than a cacao hunter — he was a pioneering spirit & revolutionary who hurled many off the edge of cacáo & into full-on chocolate romance.

The peripatetic Hepler trekked thru the backwoods of Nicaragua for heirloom cacáo bounty. A field-type kind of guy driven by practical curiosity to find the best-tasting cacáo. He let the “chocolate angels” guide him along the trails. When he made a find he’d camp out close-by & experiment with custom fermentation… very old school… flavor straight from the source.

He’d talk to everyone: start ethical micro-enterprises woven into cooperative structures based on community empowerment & ecological restoration. Chocolate lends itself to such small-scale ventures, emboldening farm families to take ownership of the fruits of their labor, & build up to value-added goods.

With proceeds earned from sales, Hepler & his partners injected capital back into the co-ops to bring appropriate technology to townships for improved permaculture & eco-village design. In their wake composting stations, manufacturing equipment, nurseries, school nutrition, & smiles blossomed bright as Spring flowers.

All to build a better world.

An excellent carpenter but you wouldn’t know it by looking at his house. He never had much money & what he did have he selflessly donated to others, like the elementary school constructed that he named Little Sparrows.

Unfailingly supportive, Sandy once said of the C-spot that we “nailed it”. What he could’ve just as easily said is that he nailed it for us, since we were under his wing for a good part of our journey. He informed much of our site, especially the Nicaraguan section. He taught us a critical overarching principle, viz., the distinction between official science & informal reality. Though the twain meet & partially overlap, science can never hope to capture the totality of nature’s bounty. Attempts to over-rationalize boil down to reductio ad absurdum.

“Try & penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature & you will find that, behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible & inexplicable.” — Einstein

Mott Green

Some creatives go thru life on one name. In the world of premium chocolate everyone knew “Mott” referred to the anchor of cacáo from Grenada Chocolate Company. Friend-of-the-Earth Mott Green was widely eulogized, including by the Grenadian Prime Minister, at his funeral in NYC.

Uncompromising in his standards, Mott embodied “chocolate energy” from his first commercial bar that found its way to the shelves of Life Thyme health food store in Greenwich Village. Even at 60%, hardly a superpower percentage, it was the little bean that could… & did power up the Grenada Chocolate Company — one of the early vertical-integration models among the micro-processors of premium chocolate — & its family of 50 islanders who toiled alongside him. The label is a testament to what they envisioned: a grassroots movement on the up & up without the skullduggery & stealth that mars so many businesses. Well beyond fairtrade, organic & the raft of certifying regimes, it was home-ground chocolate at its fullest.Once at a professional trade show Mott dared to describe C-spot reviews as the “poetry of chocolate”. He overstated the case, & humbled us, because he himself lived it, & illuminated that chocolate is a prism thru which to grasp the world.

The day before his death we were IMing with him regarding a joint project. True to his word, on the morning of it, Mott Green delivered to us yet one more noble act. In the coming months we’ll tell you all about it.

Gone are 2 powerful forces for good in an industry that needs them. Few people can say that they made the world a better place. J Sandy Hepler & Mott Green didn’t have to say it — they just did it.  Raise a bar in a toast to both.

With gratitude for their guiding lights,the C-spot

 

 

 

 

2013 May

 

 

The C-spot®

 Crushpad Newsletter

  Newsbites for the Chocoscenti
May 2013, Issue #5 — Issue #4 here

 

Theobromine

Real Fake Chocolate

Pleather, astro-turf, inflatable sex dolls, bio-luminescence plants, marinol, vanillin, & printable 3-D guns. When will synthetic chocolate join the party? Maybe sooner than later.

Marc Philouze, President of Diana Plant Sciences, rarely says “plant stem cells”, sensibly avoiding any controversy; instead he uses the more accurate “plant cell cultures”.

Philouze works on maximizing cocoa’s properties, specifically its flavonoids — especially the flavan-3-ols like epicatechin & procyanidins — for their purported health benefits (antioxidants, cardio, mood). This method selects cocoa cells lines that produce more flavanols than others, taken from 4 mother trees, & places them in a media or chemical soup to overexpress flavonoids by scaling up the quantity of these compounds in a bio-reactor. That is, cultures grown in a controlled, closed environment such as a petri dish, with nutrients utilizing naturally-occuring vitamins, reducing sugars, yeasts &/or bacteria.

Next it harvests cells from these bio-reactors & freeze dries them, maintained within a whole food matrix. In the case of cocoa that means all 800 or so of its chemical compounds remain present while a few desirable ones, like flavonoids, are amplified… not at the expense of the others but in relation to them.

According to Philouze the process increases overall polyphenol (the larger class flavonoids belong to) concentration to >20%. This effectively straddles the median strip between natural food & nutriceutical phood.

Such concentrations raise questions about both their bio-availability (the body can assimilate only so much) as well as flavor (polyphenols along with the amino acid proline found in chocolate are largely responsible for activating bitter receptors on the tongue). Data on the former is forthcoming while Philouze assures that the taste will be less bitter than traditional raw cocoa. Tune in next month for our assessment.

Combined with nanotechnology flavorings that represent such an infinitesimal amount that they need not be itemized on the list of ingredients yet can dominate the total flavor profile + the work of Prof. Peter Schieberle, chairman at the Institute for Food Chemistry in Munich, whose team identified the 40 or so compounds in a cacáo seed responsible for core chocolate aromas (the subject of the C-spot® article “Designer or Disaster Chocolate?“), these developments signal that the 4th & arguably final phase of Western chocolate history is upon us: the era of science.

It all inches closer to a synthetic chocolate. Beyond deep space, this is deep chocolate. The biggest challenge in this quest could be mouth feel.

Not only do chocolate lovers swoon on contact with cocoa butter, which stakes out a melting point sexily close to body temperature, fat has a direct effect on processing flavor by activating the cortical response area of the brain that controls taste, aroma & reward, which influences how flavors are perceived. No wonder Euro barsmiths add extra cocoa butter to their bars.

Let’s face it: where the rubber hits the road & not the sky, all the talk of Fair-Trade, organic, Rainforest Alliance, sustainability, child labor, etc., will melt away as soon as an artificial chocolate can be hacked. Big Candy will gladly pull up the stakes from the “20/20 Zone” where cacáo grows. And who’d blame them with political instability, climate change concerns & aging under-skilled farmhands?

But would ersatz chocolate be better or worse than the original?

It depends. Each might have their advantages & fans similar to the difference between outdoor vs. hydroponic / Mother-Earth organic vs. greenhouse engineered seen with other botanicals. Anyone who visits coffee shops in Amsterdam can experience this distinction.

Purists need not fret; there will always be a place for classic chocolate.

Real fake chocolate is simply a matter of time. But will it arrive before the Singularity Moment or shall the Robo sapiens get it all?

Next Newsletter:

       Liberation Chocolate

 

Chocolat Bonnat Gabon

Gabon-bons

Bonnat Chocolat is no stranger to hitherto unknown origins. According to the company’s history, it started the whole grand cru phenomenon officially in 1984 & unofficially in 1904. Stéphane Bonnat himself, the current scion of this chocolate dynasty, has lately introduced Haiti, Ceylan, & Cusco to chocolatarians everywhere (Cusco whispered to be, perhaps, the lost chocolate of the fabled Chuncho which the C-spot® reviewed a couple years ago).
 
No surprise then that Bonnat forwards another: Gabon.
 
Been there / done that with chocolate? No one but Stéphane Bonnat.
 
His Gabon is pretty good, or as the French would say, “Gabon c’est bon”. How “bon”? Check the review.

Book Shelf: Der Schokoladentester

It’s been a couple of years since director of sourcing & QA manager Georg Bernardini left Coppeneur Chocolate, a barsmith that vaulted to stratospheric heights around 2009 on the strength of his work on seed selection & applying the German art of engineering, achieving nearly a dozen masterpieces that finesse intense flavor.We were curious what became of this impressive former choc exec.
 
He’s got a new title: Der Schokoladentester.
 
Until now, our favorite German word was Zietchaungundermouton: “world in a mouth”, aptly describing chocolate as one of the great prisms thru which to view the world, each small bite encompassing history, culture, cuisine, botany, ecology, politics, int’l finance, global trade, euphoria, bliss, misery, intrigue & treachery.
 
Schokoladentester might just replace it.
 
Georg Bernardini is Der Schokoladentester (The Chocolate Taster). He knows cacáo inside out & can de-code or read a chocolate all the way thru the incremental steps from bean to bar.
 
Bernardini’s encyclopedic guidebook is arguably the most comprehensive resource of its kind in book format, & we dare say the only rival of any kind to the C-spot® Chocolate Census. (FULL DISCLOSURE: to avoid bias & conflict-of-interest, Georg tapped & generously cited the C-spot® for contributing ratings & reviews in the Coppeneur section of his book.)
 
Georg has devised a unique ratings system. For example, his criteria automatically deducts points if a Dark bar employs vanilla, lecithin, or even additional cocoa butter. While this puts us (respectfully) at odds with him — for if taken to its logical extension, sugar too must be penalized, no? — it puts him among the vanguard of the New Chocolate Puritans. And rather than rating each bar or piece individually, he pragmatically assigns an overall rating for a chocolate maker.
 
Georg also walks the walk — his chocolate critiques come after he’s gotten his hands dirty in the soil where cacáo grows & stuck his paws in ferment piles &, moreover, crafted chocolate on a commercial scale for a business.That spells e-x-p-e-r-t-i-s-e.
Chocolate bloggers & critics in the non-German speaking world need not fear being demolished by the sheer force of this volume. Der Schokoladentester’s very size prohibits translation, which is a shame since he calls out the nonsense that is most of today’s chocolate commentary.
 
No matter how limited your understanding of German, Der Schokoladentester is a heavyweight resource — thorough, informative, & rich.

Choc on,
the C-spot

 

 

 

 

2013 April

 

 

 

 

The C-spot®

 Crushpad Newsletter

  Newsbites for the Chocoscenti
April 2013, Issue #4 — Issue #3 here

 

 

Is Chocolate Gay?

Other than God & sex, chocolate is the most powerful force on Earth. Its connections to the other 2 are indisputable:

  1. Theobroma cacao named by Linneaus is Greek for God-food;
  2. Cacáo earns its reputation as notoriously promiscuous by rampant cross-breeding.

But what about gay? To paraphrase Curt Cobain: it could be. Certain homogenous cacáo populations are self-compatible (capable of fertilizing by its own pollen / reproducing without cross-breeding).

Then again, we all could be.

Mayan iconography & cosmology associated cacáo with the feminine, but today both men & women enjoy chocolate along a diverse continuum (Milk, Dark, Semi-Sweet, et. al.)  So it might be better characterized as bi- or poly-.

In a deeply personal & intensely emotional open letter to subscribers, a contributing editor of the C-spot confides that he had been harboring a secret life. After years of therapy & counseling, he comes out about how chocolate, a specific type of chocolate, helped him come to terms with his orientation & at the same time reciprocates profoundly about chocolate’s own proclivities. In a nib, it’s about being inclusive.

Read his touching & heartfelt account.

Maya Mountain Cacao

Last month we asked, is Criollo all it’s cracked up to be? This month we find out if somewhere high in the mountains of Belize long lost relics of the most ancient of Criollos are being revived. Could be the stuff chocolatarians would sell their babies to the devil for.

Rumor has it that Maya Mountain Cacao is not-so-secretly cultivating this varietal, using an ingenious, time-honored method to deliver the fruits of this treasure to the chocolate underworld: mules with rucksacks.  See our review. To support the good work in sustaining this mountain preserve, consider a donation.

Next Newsletter:

       Real Fake Chocolate

 

 

Chocolate Awards Part II

Chocolate shows continue to sprout up faster than mushrooms after a rainfall. Last month we brought you news of a “raw” bar winning one such contest.

This month we visit a more venerable awards ceremony whose top prize went to a completely different barsmith, different in style & direction, a throwback to classical tendencies.

Interestingly, neither entered the other’s competition.  (Professional courtesy? Hmm).

Somebody had to break the tie & who better than the C-spot?

And the winner is…

Chocolate Meds

Dr. Jeffrey William Hurst is a recognized biochemist & an authority on cacáo compounds. Among his various research assignments, he has published in peer-review journals his chemical analysis of cacáo traces found in Mayan & other Mesoamerican drinking vessels dating back thousands of years, including the oldest known residues in Xoconochco (present day Mexico circa 1,900BCE).

He also has plotted oxidation changes in chocolate’s many formats (seed, bar, powder, etc). For instance, as the lead investigator in a study of antioxidant activity, Hurst found that cocoa oxidants remain quite stable, retaining very high levels of flavan-3-ol content, including samples taken on 80 year-old cocoa powder & 116 year-old cocoa nuts!

We at the C-spot are thankful to Dr. Hurst, who has always & generously fielded our many inquiries. We consider him an invaluable source.

So when the opportunity arose to review his latest book — Chocolate as Medicine: A Quest Over the Centuries, co-authored with Dr. Philip Wilson — we naturally rolled up our sleeves to check what kind of vein-popping remedies course thru it. But because of our close ties to him, we felt obliged to recuse ourselves. Instead we adapted the review of naturopathic physician Jacob Schor, originally published in the February 2013 issue of Natural Medicine Journal.

Choc on,
the C-spot

 

 

 

2013 March

The C-spot®

 Crushpad Newsletter

  Newsbites for the Chocoscenti
March 2013, Issue #3 — Issue #2 here

 

Chocolate Awards: Feast or Famine… or Fraud?

People often ask us “what’s the best chocolate in the world?” Of course we direct them to The Chocolate Census but always with this caveat: ratings & reviews are, like the chocolate melt itself, highly ephemeral. Reviews should be viewed only as snapshots in time.

That said, how can a bar be the best in the world if it isn’t, arguably, even the best in its own country? A country over-run by an army of vapid clones? And so-called “raw” to boot?

Here’s how. Take a ride on our in-depth exposé about chocolate competitions & judge for yourself: Pacari’s 70% Raw review.

Ultra Vintage Chocolate

The Chocoverse was atwitter over news reports of theobromine & caffeine (2 markers for chocolate) showing up in ceramic bowls 1,200 years ago near Canyonlands in present-day Utah, making it the earliest known chocolate north of the Rio Grande. Hardly surprising given the extensive trade network stretching for thousands of miles to the south in Mesoamerica that included parrots & copper bells & seashells.

What is surprising is this: an Ecuadorian cultural heritage magazine — Nuestro Patrimonio #25 — reports that a local archaeological team in collaboration with the University of Calgary discovered traces of cacáo/chocolate, carbon-dated back 5,500 years. The samples are so clear that scientists were able to identify Nacional cacáo harvested by the Mayo Chinchipe culture.

This is groundbreaking. It shifts both the geography & the chronology of cacáo-transformed-into-chocolate by a) modifying our understanding of its domestication (presumed to be Mesoamerica) toward the center of its origin (South America); b) raising the altitude at which cacáo can grow to 3,500+ feet above sea level; & c) changing the timeline of the first known usage of cacáo to 3,500 BCE. Mysteriously, the English-speaking press has largely been silent about this. Until now.

How does it taste? Nearby communities selected 82 native trees around the site & are reproducing them by grafting & seedlings. Stay tuned.

Next Newsletter:

        Is Chocolate Gay?

 

CORRECTIONS: Thanks to Dr. Howard-Yana Shapiro, Global Staff Officer for Plant Science & External Research at Mars Inc, for kindly pointing out to us that our February Newsletter overstated Dr. Juan Carlos Motamayor‘s association with the USDA/ARS; Dr. Motamayor is also with Mars, serving as its Global Program Director.
UPDATE: Last month we featured the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Initiative (HCP). The initiative deserves our support. We’re excited that we’re now part of it: HCP has named the C-spot’s Mark Xian to be the Director of the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund, established to ensure that the important work of this organization achieves its goals. If you want to be involved, lend support, & learn more… well, see last month’s newsletter.

Criollo

…the chocoscenti murmur in soft, reverential tones. Just the sound of it — krē-ˈōl-yō — brings magic-music to their eardrums.

A Spanish word meaning “native” or “indigenous”, Criollo in chocolate could refer to either a specific varietal of cacao originally domesticated by Mesoamericans that earned it a flavorful reputation, or more colloquially to anything grandpa planted in the backyard.  Today many chocolates claim to be Criollo — many more than could actually be produced — in order to leverage its marketing appeal.

Our own ears pricked up upon hearing about a bar that was DNA tested & verified as belonging to the Criollo family. So genuine by any measure that a chocolate crafted from these seeds perfectly reflected its color — a golden strawberry blonde — & so bright it could pass for headlights. Naturally we had to taste it out for a spin. Our review caused a bit of a stir:

   * Bar: $20
   * Criollo Bling Harvest: $200k
* Seaside Villa w/ Cacáo Grove: $2 million
* Flavor: worthless

Choc on,
the C-spot

 

 

 

 

2013 February

 

 

The C-spot®

 Crushpad Newsletter

Newsbites for the Chocoscenti

 

VD: you know you have it. We all do. No, not that, but Valentine’s Day — that special day when humanity, engaged in a conspiracy of love, feels compelled to give heart-shaped boxes to prove our affections.

This VD, divorce Godiva and those who geek about cacáo’s “love compounds” found in “sultry” chocolate like “bliss chemical” anandamide — none, btw, in high enough concentrations to be aphrodisiacs by their lonesome. (Pssst, the secret to chocolate’s effects is in symbiosis.)

On Feb 14, put your love in a tube — of chocolate toothpaste.

Theodent® harnesses the power of cacáo, specifically the active ingredient theobromine (an alkaloid belonging to the methylxanthine class) to build healthy teeth. Reduced here to a pure isolate, it protects teeth against decay, hardens enamel better than fluoride, & encourages maximum re-mineralization. Thank Dr. Arman Sadeghpour at Tulane University in New Orleans for this sweetest scientific discovery.

Not only does Theodent® promote oral hygiene, it makes the act of brushing better than roses. After a li’l dab, you’ll be lip-to-lip en-route to, well — click here to find out. (Need it fast? Like by tomorrow? Try Whole Foods.)

The Buddha & The Chocolate

Last month we brought you news of an off-the-grid origin in Solomon Islands. This month we go way off the deep end to a country where even chocolate insiders are dumbfounded (if not clueless), responding with vague mumblings about “Trinitarios” (a label held in disregard) planted in the 1930s or 40s that are “maybe from Vietnam?”

Here’s the scoop: in a landscape dotted with as many Buddhist temples as opium poppies, amidst bloody social strife, Burma has quietly been cultivating Theobroma cacao.

This week the C-spot® posts the first-ever review of a premium bar from Burma: Franck Morin’s Birmanie. It carries the spirit of Burma’s better side — serene & flexible, bending with the wind yet strong as bamboo.

Today nearly every “single” origin anoints itself with exotic trade names, like “Arriba Nacional” and “La Red“. Burma could call theirs “Theobuddha Cacáo”.

Next Newsletter:

Chocolate Awards: Feast or Famine… or Fraud?

Choc on,

the C-spot

 

Heirloom Cacao Preservation
Like water, chocolate seems ubiquitous. With so much of it all around us, how can Theobroma cacao ever possibly land on the endangered species list?

Enter Dr. Juan Carlos Motamayor, cacáo geneticist with the USDA / Mars Inc., who wrote a seminal paper in 2008 that reclassified the Theobroma cacao species into 10+ varietals where before we thought there were only three. In the follow-on, the C-spot® facilitated a teleconference with him & members of the FCIA (Fine Chocolate Industry Association) during which Motamayor explained how cacáo’s genetic base has narrowed; that prized varietals are vanishing; & the species’ diversity could be lost. To illustrate, he recounted an expedition to the Amazon Rainforest where he spotted a cacáo type he’d never seen before. On a subsequent trip to study the tree again, he found the forest clear-cut for cattle ranching & soybean farming. The tree was gone forever.Since then a consortium led by Guittard Chocolate Co., FCIA & the USDA has formed the Heirloom Cacáo Preservation Initiative (HCP). Its mission: protect, propagate & promote those Theobroma cacao trees endowed with special value — historic, cultural, botanical, geographical & moreover organoleptic (flavor). In short, the diamonds of cacáo.

Such a bold & ambitious initiative deserves support. Get involved, contribute & learn more.

On the Chocolate Trail by Rabbi Deborah Prinz

Everyone knows folks insanely devoted to chocolate (ahem) but who knew Jews were meshuga (crazy) for it? Leave it to a yente Rabbi to get all faklempt over it.

Rabbi Debbie Prinz imbues her book with religious fervor as she wends her way thru the world of historical & contemporary chocolate in search of the world’s best. She ultimately finds it, based not so much on taste but on ethics.

While written for & about all faiths, Prinz tells the little told story of Jewish chocolate. Who knew that the contemporary darlings — the Mast Bros — work among a Jewish Hasidim community in Brooklyn? That the Nazis booby-trapped chocolate bombs? That Jews fleeing the inquisition in Spain were on Columbus’s ship when Europeans first encountered cacáo in the New World?
On the Chocolate Trail expresses a profound message: whether agnostic, atheist or believer, chocolate captivates, connects & elevates all,  nourishing the spirit. That is its higher power.

Rabbi Deborah Prinz walks tall on this trail, grasping what many miss, that chocolate serves up the original & ultimate ‘soul food’. Hashem bless her.

 

 

 

 

2013 January

 

The C-spot®

 Crushpad Newsletter

Newsbites for the Chocoscenti

Hello C-spotters! Welcome to our inaugural newsletter. Fully roasted but perhaps a little underconched. Keepin’ it real (not raw).

 

Solomon Island Chocolate

A King? A Temple? A Bar?

Been to the Solomon Islands? Dunno where Solomon Islands is? Neither did we. A bar from there recently landed on our doorstep. We called 2 of the top cacáo geneticists in the world, guys who plot & map every Theobroma cacao tree on earth. Did they know about this stuff from the South Pacific? They gave it a long think, then said: “Let us get back to you.” When they finally did, they asked “How did you get this? And can we have some?”

This month we post the first-ever review of a single-origin bar from Solomon Islands, about as far off the beaten path as you can get. How does it taste? See the review and find out.

Who is Mark Xian, anyway?

Brady Brelinski, editor of the Flavors of Cacao, sat down with the C-spot’s® elusive figurehead. This far- & wide-ranging interview covers lots of ground & dives to considerable depth. Is it really, as Brady said, a “chocolate magnum opus”? Take a nibble, chocolatarians, & judge for yourselves.

Next Newsletter

Heirloom cacáo — it’s on the way…

 

Marañón Chocolate

The New Nacional Guard

Think your dream job is making chocolate? Meet Dan Pearson.

We dug deep into the dirt to find out what it really takes to make source-to-sale chocolate. Over the holidays we wrapped up this 18-part series about the rescue & recovery of a rare, vanishing cacáo strain in Marañón Canyon, Peru. Come along on this hard-hitting, unvarnished look behind-the-scenes. This isn’t the usual about child-labor, pesticides & yummy cupcake fodder for cafés from Paris to L.A., but the inside dope & intrigue of shady deals, politics, money, power, romance, and some real seedy characters. Read all about it!

Can Chocolate Stop a Civil War?

People in the Congo have a choice: plant cacáo or shoot bullets. Ben Affleck (you’ve heard of him) & the Eastern Congo Initiative are playing their part to end civil war & bring cacáo to the market. Contribute if it suits you, or better yet buy Theo’s Congo Vanilla Nib Bar (reviewed here) & satisfy all your desires at once.

Choc on,

the C-spot

 

 

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