On saturday 25th of October, this years edition of the Origin Chocolate Event was held at the Tropical Institute in the heart of Amsterdam.
It is The Event about chocolate close to me, gathering countless chocolate makers with a deep passion for their product and us, the audience wanting to learn more about the chocolate we love so much. The program of the day is packed with presentations and tasting sessions, combined with a market place in the central hall, where you can taste more chocolate and chocolate related products.
One can attend all the presentations he desires, but unfortunately you can only attend two tastings. My wife and I selected Marou and Amma, as we both are fond of their products and want to know more about the people behind the bars.
Marou + Madécasse presentation
Samuel Maruta (Marou) and Brett Beach (Madécasse) both presented their company, terroirs and specific chocolates. Off course chocolates were passed around the room, showing clearly the difference between Vietnamese and Madagascan chocolate. A nice start of the day.
Samuel Maruta + Brett Beach (far right)
Immediately after the presentation, we moved to on of the tasting rooms where Samuel Maruta took us a bit deeper into the world of Marou. Samuel sure took me by surprise by recognising me in the crowd and promptly requested me to explain how one should properly savour chocolate, as in his own words: he’s more about making and eating chocolate. Brilliant man.
We sampled the well-known spicy-fruity Ben Tré bar followed by the Treasure Island, a new one for me. The difference between the two bars is stunning. I would have to retaste it, but there was a clear and creamy liquorice tone to the bar, which was stunning.
Next, Samuel popped a première out of his sleeve and he offered us their youngest, brand new creation, the 70% Dak Lak bar. I would like to thank Samuel for offering me a bar of this chocolate, so I can review it into detail in the near future. All I can disclose now, is that this bar is a lot milder than some of their other creations, but offers an explosion of spicy flavors! I’m truly excited!
The market place
While going from room to room, you have to pass by the central hall, where dozens of stands offer all sorts of amazing products. Impossible to name them all, they went from Claudio Corallo over Akesson’s, Republica Del Cacao, Marou, Solstice, Naive, Grenada Chocolate Company, Original Beans, Chocolate Makers to Solstice. And then I forget about a dozen more! Combine this with cacao cooking stands, cacao beer, chocolate and wine pairing and so on, you will understand this little market is an event on its own!
Amma… well, no… Idilio and Tibor Szanto tasting
What started out as a little hick-up ( Diego Badaro not being able to make it to Amsterdam on time), was quickly changed into a spontaneous double tasting act by Niklaus Blumer from Idilio and Tibor Szanto. Both these chocolate makers offer a wide variety of high quality origin bars and happen to use some beans of the same region, offering a very exciting tasting session.
Niklaus offered us an Ocumare and Porcelana bar, both originating in Venezuela. Idilio creates such smooth and harmonious chocolate bars, packed with earthy and roasted flavors.
Niklaus Blumer – Tibor Szanto
Tibor passed the very same Porcelana around and immediatly you discovered the difference in their ideas. Tibor Szanto uses stone grinding and shorter conche, creating a slightly coarser end product with a wonderful flavor complexity that keeps evolving. Where Idillio goes for harmony, Tibor goes for layers of taste. His Rio Caribe offered similar flavor ranges, adding a bit more fruits and finally his Carenero Superior bar took my breath away with its clear marzipan and cherry flavors.
Finally, Niklaus finally let us taste something I searched for since a long time, a very satisfying milk chocolate. Their Orinoco is made from cacao beans collected in the wild (so no plantation cacao) and offers amazing amounts of caramel and a heavenly aftertaste.
A great session indeed!
Being Belgian I’m both biased about Belgian Chocolate and intrigued by people like Dominique Persoone, who are so dedicated to their product. The Belgian chef Dominique has a very popular filled chocolate factory and has even turned the heads of the Rolling Stones with his Cacao Shooter, but here he presented a view on the expeditions he undertakes to cacao producing regions. You think it is all about Criollo, Trinitatrio and Forastero when it comes to cacao? Think again. There are over one thousand different cacao related plants, all producing pods and beans. Dominique set up his own plantation, the Chocolate Line Plantation in Mexico, where he cultivates several species and now starts to experiment with them to create his own made chocolate. Yes! Finally Belgians start to see the light and at least try to make it to the bean to bar scene.
The result is still experimental, but it is far different from what I tried so far. Still a tad to sweet perhaps, but with an exquisite texture and aroma, it makes me look forward to any real production bars. Even Clay Gordon already sees the potential. Personally my palate had been a little overwhelmed to appreciate the subtleties – so I’ll have to try again later when he sells the chocolate.
Birth of Chocolate – Daniel and Linda Lorenzetti
Finally we attended our last presentation, by a couple who has become resident explorers for the Tropical Institute. They already did a project on coffee and now turned towards cacao. Their aim is to give the audience and idea of where chocolate comes from, focussing on the people who cultivate, treat and sell cacao. They travel all over the world, documenting both fine and bulk cacao producers.
However, the presentation was far to commercial for me. Instead of focussing on the story of one or two people in the project, we got a series of photo’s a bit of explanation all aimed at the audience to be aware about their product. Ending predictable by showing the sponsors. A missed chance in my view on a day like this.
Time flies by when you are having fun, so before we knew it, our hotel and dinner reservations for that night called and we had to leave the event.
If you like fine chocolate and if you ever have the chance, you owe it to yourself to visit this great event. It give you the opportunity to meet the makers and hear their stories first hand, while tasting a great collection of fine chocolates. Some would call this heaven!