Interview with Shawn Askinosie of Askinosie Chocolate Part 1 by Victoria Cooksey

Shawn Askinosie has been making craft chocolate for over a decade now, but he was originally a criminal defense lawyer and back in 2005 Shawn switched to bean-to-bar chocolate making. Askinosie Chocolate is located in Springfield, Missouri. This bean-to-bar chocolate factory sources 100% of their beans directly from the farmers with Shawn Askinoise making frequent trips right to the source of the beans in Ecuador, Tanzania, and the Philippines.

I recently got to have an amazing conversation with Shawn Askinoise for the purpose of this interview. Despite being a bit under the weather, Shawn was extremely generous with his time. I could have asked him a 1,000 questions, but did my best to limit them down to a two-part blog interview. Shawn Askinosie has such a positive approach to life, is involved in several projects to truly make a difference in children lives (more on that in part 2), has a huge depth of knowledge of craft chocolate and all that is involved with it and still somehow manages to remain extremely humble at the same time.

And now for the interview Part 1:

Shawn Askinosie of Askinosie Chocolate Continue reading “Interview with Shawn Askinosie of Askinosie Chocolate Part 1 by Victoria Cooksey”

Dick Taylor Solomon Islands Exclusive Release 2 Review

Last year I purchased the 1st Dick Taylor Solomon Islands Exclusive Release bar at the NW Chocolate Festival in Seattle, WA.  This year it’s back and I was able to order it on Dick Taylor’s website.  I got bar #01024 of this 72% dark chocolate bar made with cacao from the island of Paspaskato.  The cacao is grown there by Kenny Patovaki. This particular bar is made from his winning cacao from the Solomon Island Chocolate Week.

Dick Talyor Solomon Islands Exclusive Release Bar pic taken at Fort Worden, Port Townsend, WA Continue reading “Dick Taylor Solomon Islands Exclusive Release 2 Review”

Dark Matters Tasters and Makers Series: What is Craft Chocolate? Part 2

Welcome to What is Craft Chocolate Part 2.  The Question asked in Part 1 last week was: The definition of craft chocolate varies so much person-to-person. How do you define craft chocolate and/or how do you think it should be defined?

Check out Part 1 here:

http://darkmatterschocolatereviews.com/2017/08/04/dark-matters-tasters-makers-series-craft-chocolate-part-1/

And now let’s find out how more tasters and makers answer:

Hazel Lee, Bean-to-bar Maker, The Chocolate Tasting Flavour Map 

Hazel Lee:  I find this question a difficult one because there are no legal standards that differentiate craft/bean-to-bar chocolate from standard, poor quality bulk chocolate and one could argue any chocolate to be “craft” or “bean-to-bar” because of the lack of legal definitions.  However, when I am asked “what is craft chocolate?”, I say that it has been processed with a focus to produce a high quality chocolate, working with the fine flavours naturally present in the quality cocoa beans that have been ethically sourced (rather than buying poor quality cacao, roasting at a high temperature and adding a high level of sugar and /or milk powder and/or vanilla flavour or other flavours). I usually compare craft/bean-to-bar chocolate with wine, in that different origins will hold different flavours with many other factors influencing the final flavour of the bar (maker style, terroir variety, etc.).  I also like to highlight that all of the hundreds of wonderful flavours that are found in wine/chocolate come from the grape/bean alone (unless flavoured or with inclusions including milk, of course).  So it’s something to be savoured and explored than eaten for a sugar fix. Continue reading “Dark Matters Tasters and Makers Series: What is Craft Chocolate? Part 2”

Chocolat Madagascar 65% Fine Milk Chocolate Bar Review

This Chocolat Madagascar 65% Fine Milk Chocolate bar is made from single-origin cacao from Sambirano for a tree-to-bar craft chocolate experience.

Color:  Light/medium brown.

Nose:  Dark/milk, milk sugar, condensed milk, milk chocolate fudge, and roasted hazelnuts.

Chocolat Madagascar 65% Fine Milk Chocolate bar pic taken in Port Townsend, WA Continue reading “Chocolat Madagascar 65% Fine Milk Chocolate Bar Review”

Dark Matters Tasters & Makers Series: What is Craft Chocolate Part 1

Welcome to the Dark Matters Tasters & Makers Series.  This series will occur periodically over the next twelve months with each post looking at various craft chocolate topic questions and then featuring the thoughts and opinions of several craft chocolate reviewers, makers and writers on that question.  I love interviewing people in the chocolate industry and thought this would be a fun format to see variations in answers brought together in one place.  Will there be similarities?  Will the answers all be different?  Let’s find out!

Question 1:  The definition of craft chocolate varies so much person-to-person. How do you define craft chocolate and/or how do you think it should be defined?

Sophia Rea of Projet Chocolat

Sophia Rea:  This is a very good question.  Definitions have their cerebral aspects but there is also a felt-sense aspect to a definition.  Others will help with the first more than I, but I will share with you my experience of craft chocolate.  What comes to mind is the heart.  I can taste the intention, the memories and the stories of the craft-chocolate maker in their chocolate. Starting with the outside wrapper, to the foil, to the bar itself.  I always notice how the maker chose a particular cacao bean, the percentage, whether to add inclusions or not and of course the ingredients.  The size and thickness of the bar, the color of the bar, the mold, the color of the foil, the texture of the chocolate, the many prominent and subtle flavors the bar imparts and the design of the wrapper all come together for a mindful experience.  Craft chocolate is the art of making all the senses come alive! Continue reading “Dark Matters Tasters & Makers Series: What is Craft Chocolate Part 1”

Interview with Jacques Dahan President of Michel Cluizel USA/Noble Ingredients, Ltd.

Michel Cluizel is a French chocolate making business that was started in 1948. I’ve been enjoying Michel Cluizel chocolate for several years so I am extra excited to bring you this interview with Jacques Dahan the President of Michel Cluizel USA.
A special thank you to Estelle Tracy, 37 Chocolates, for the introduction that made this interview possible.
Jacques Dahan President of Michel Cluizel USA

Continue reading “Interview with Jacques Dahan President of Michel Cluizel USA/Noble Ingredients, Ltd.”

Dormouse Chocolates Dark Honduras Dark Chocolate & Toasted Madagascar White Chocolate Reviews

Dormouse Chocolates is a craft chocolate maker located in Manchester, England.  They also happen to be one of my favorite bean-to-bar chocolate makers.  A big congrats to Dormouse for their recent UK Rising Star Award from the Academy of Chocolate Awards!  Well done ladies!!!

1st up today is their Limited Edition 75% Dark Honduras bar.  This bar was in one of Dormouse’s monthly chocolate bar subscription boxes. The origin of the beans is Copan Highlands, Honduras, and the bean type is Mayan Red. Conch time 48 hours.

Limited Edition 75% Dark Honduras Dormouse Chocolates Pic taken in Port Townsend, WA

Color:  This bar is a medium/dark brown that also has a reddish/purple color in certain lights.

Nose:  Black currant, jammy, new world red wine, coffee.

Texture:  Good snap and very smooth.

Dormouse Chocolates 75% Dark Honduras Limited Edition Bar

Taste: Buttery to start, some tannins, dried cherries, Cabernet Franc grape taste and acidity, red fruit. and dark honey.

Finish:  A very long finish around 25 – 30 minutes.

Dormouse Chocolates happens to be making a fantastic white chocolate bar called Toasted Madagascar White 38%.  This bar keeps selling out so be sure to check their website often, or send them an email to see when it will be back in stock.  The cocoa butter in this bar comes from criollo and trinitario beans from Madagascar Sambirano Valley and has a 28 hour conch time.  The milk powder in this bar is toasted which makes this an extra tasty white chocolate bar.

Color:  Toffee, golden color like caramel.

Nose:  Caramel, condensed milk, nutty.

Dormouse Chocolates 38% Toasted Madagascar White (full size bar) 

Texture:  Very smooth.

Toasted Madagascar White (mini bar size)

Taste:  Buttery, caramel, roasted macadamia nut, cream and light brown sugar.

Finish:  A medium/long finish with some fruity notes.

Dormouse Chocolates: 

https://www.instagram.com/dormousechocs/?hl=en

http://dormousechocolates.co.uk/

Victoria Cooksey:

https://www.instagram.com/victoria.cooksey/?hl=en

Watch all my craft chocolate review videos here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCm-lp-lF_wB2oX_592jK9UQ

Note: Dormouse added a mini bar of the Toasted Madagascar White bar to one of my orders I had placed with them and I loved it so much I immediately ordered a full size one.

Interview with Mackenzie Rivers of Map Chocolate Co.

Mackenzie Rivers’ skills are as varied as her Map Chocolate is creative.  She has been a Grand Canyon river raft guide, a writer,  a bean-to-bar consultant, has had an apprenticeship at Chocolate Alchemy,  and is winner of two Academy of Chocolate Awards in 2017 and so much more.

I personally have always enjoyed the lovely wrappers she chooses for each bar, the quality of the bars, her creative ingredients for Map Chocolate bars and hearing about the inspirations behind each bar. In my mind I think of Mackenzie as a bean whisperer because she seems to be able to take an idea for how she wants a bar to be and then gets the beans to bring forth the flavors from out of those beans and/or imagine the perfect inclusions to match the beans, all to create the chocolate taste experience that she desires.

And now, the lovely inside and out of Mackenzie Rivers:

Mackenzie Rivers of Map Chocolate Continue reading “Interview with Mackenzie Rivers of Map Chocolate Co.”

Interview with Cecilia Tessieri, Founder of Amedei

In 1998 the first officially labeled Amedei bars became available and since then just looking at Amedei’s packaging evokes feelings of luxury. Those who know anything about bean-to-bar chocolate list multiple Amedei bars such as Porcelana, Chuao, and Amedei 9, and more in their tasting repertoire. Today’s interview is with Amedei’s founder Cecilia Tessieri, maitre chocolatier.  So sit back, imagine yourself in Italy, taste a piece of Amedei chocolate, and enjoy the read:

Cecilia Tessieri Founder of Amedei Continue reading “Interview with Cecilia Tessieri, Founder of Amedei”