NW Chocolate Festival Seattle, WA Craft Chocolate Trends 2017

The 9th Annual Northwest Chocolate Festival took place this year on Nov. 11 -12th, 2017 in Seattle, WA. This was my third year to attend ( I live in Port Townsend, WA so I drive to the Bainbridge Ferry to get over to Seattle.  So grateful to live this close to an event like this!).

The NW Chocolate Festival is a fantastic place to try 100+ craft chocolate makers from both the U.S. and international locations.  Plus, there are several educational talks, presentations, and workshops throughout both days.  There is something for everyone!

For example, Hazel Lee presented a workshop that involved tasting chocolate while utilizing her lovely Taste with Colour Flavour Map and then the participants painted what colors or pictures they envisioned while savoring the craft chocolate.  It was enjoyable to listen to what attendees tasted and the colors the envisioned.  Especially people who weren’t overly familiar with craft chocolate flavors.  (Want a Taste with Colour for your own?  Check it out here:  Taste with Colour). I’ve had her flavour map for a few months now and didn’t even know I associated colors with flavors until then.  (Find out more about Hazel in my interview with her:  Hazel Lee ).

Hazel Lee Taste with Colour Workshop at The NW Chocolate Festival 2017

Another amazing presentation was made by Shawn Askinosie of Askinosie Chocolate, touching on stories and inspirational information from his new book (Meaningful Work).  I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing him earlier this year for this blog (Interview with Shawn Askinosie Part 1).

Shawn Askinosie of Askinosie Chocolate

Now that you have an idea of some of the programs that are available, let’s move on to this year’s craft chocolate trends from the NW Chocolate Festival!

NW Chocolate Show Trends: (Listed in no particular order).

Coconut: The use of coconut milk, coconut sugar, etc., continues to be on the rise as both interesting flavors and tasty dairy substitutes for those with allergies, and other preferences.

Endorfin Foods and Charm School Chocolate

Coffee:  I noticed a rise in makers using coffee in their bars, and in this year in general. More makers are producing bars that list the specific coffee origins/roasters versus just “coffee” on the packaging.

Fruition Chocolate, Manoa Chocolate,  and Mestico Chocolates

Nuts:  So peanut butter, almond butter, and hazelnuts in chocolate is no surprise, but I’m happy to see pistachios, and especially cashews, having a stronger presence in both praline and nut butter use. I particularly enjoyed Marou’s cashew butter bonbon at this year’s show.  One of the best examples I’ve tasted with cashews! You will be noticing more Bronte Pistachios from Sicily listed on bars.

Since I don’t have a pic of nut butter bars, I present the next best thing: Jessica Tupper, The Seattle Dessert Geek & Victoria Cooksey two nutty chocoholics pictured in their natural habitat :):):)

(All kidding aside, Jessica is awesome!  Check out my interview with her at: Jessica Tupper ).

Brown Butter:  The brown butter trend continues in both dark and milk chocolate along with a rise in use for white chocolate.

Solstice Chocolate and Creo Chocolate

White Chocolate:  This year white chocolate and white chocolate inclusion bars have taken off more than ever with an increasing amount of makers listing cacao butter origins and moving towards pressing their own cocoa butter.  I had actually expected to see more white chocolate bars than I noticed at this year’s show, however, there was a good selection. Map Chocolate often uses swirls of white chocolate on their bars, etc; many makers are “toasting” or “caramelizing” the dairy in the bars, and some like Charm School Chocolate find alternative ways to make non-dairy forms of white chocolate.

Solstice Chocolate, Map Chocolate, Charm School Chocolate, and Sirene Chocolate

Besides tasting all the fantastic craft chocolate, another bonus of attending chocolate shows in the pleasure of meeting the chocolate makers themselves face-to-face!

Lauren Heineck of WKND Chocolate and Well Tempered Podcast, Victoria Cooksey, Mackenzie Rivers of Map Chocolate

(You can find my Dark Matters Chocolate Reviews interviews with these ladies at Lauren Heineck and Mackenzie Rivers ).

Mmmm….Map Chocolate!!!

It’s also a blast to catch up with fellow craft chocolate writers, bloggers, and tasters!

Sharon Terenzi, The Chocolate Journalist

(Love Sharon?  Then read my interview with here here:  Sharon Terenzi ).

International Makers/Japan:  Besides several USA chocolate makers the International presence continues to grow yearly the festival including makers like Hogarth Chocolate from New Zealand and Sirene Chocolate from Canada.  Last year Sweets Escalier from Japan attended.  This year Sweets Escalier was back along with Green Bean to Bar and Minimal Bean to Bar from Japan as well.

Sweets Escalier Craft Chocolate Maker from Japan NW Chocolate Festival 2017

Minimal Bean to Bar Craft Chocolate Maker from Japan NW Chocolate Festival 2017

Minimal Bean to Bar, Sweets Escalier, and Green Bean to Bar

Emily Packer Koons of Cacao Review We finally met in person!

(Listen to Emily’s interview on Well Tempered Podcast and through Nov. 2017 check out Cacao Review’s Kickstarter campaign ).

Great catching up with Barbara Dolleschal from Zotter Chocolates at NW Chocolate Festival 2017 

(Want to know more about Zotter Chocolates? Check out my interview with Josef Zotter ).

Unusual flavors/inclusion bars: Inclusion bars have certainly been around awhile, but each year they grow and change.  Last year, I saw tons of chocolate items with lavender and ones with ghost pepper.  This year makers like TCHO have a Maker’s Series of just 523 bars of each made.  The one I got at the show is their Umami bar with black garlic, seaweed, shiitake and sea salt. I know, garlic in chocolate, but it works!  I actually found myself craving pasta afterwards.  (Mushrooms keep showing up more and more in chocolate by the way). Endorfin Foods bar with white sage was particularly tasty, Ethereal Chocolate has a bar with blood orange, vanilla and olive oil ganache. (Keep an eye out for chocolates with different fats like olive oil, advacado, etc., another trend). Makers like Violet Sky Chocolate are using interesting ingredients like ginger root, rose petals, and lime leaf as seen in the pic below.  That bar is called Pierce The Veil. (Another increasing trend is an increase in fun titles for bars).  One of the more unusual bars I tried and purchased pictured below is by Zotter which includes sheep cracklings.

Makers Like Madre Chocolate are using some lesser know items like Jaguar Cacao.  Per Madre’s wrapper “Jaguar Cacao, or Cacao Blanco, is the lesser known sister plant of the cacao”.   Mission Chocolate makes a bar with Cupuacu (theobroma grandiflorum, related to cacao).  This bar was one of the chocolates tasted in Hazel Lee’s Taste with Colour workshop.  I was glad I was able to find, and buy it, at the festival!  (I found the Cupuacu had tasting notes of mango, pineapple, Juicy Fruit gum, and more.  I will post on it officially soon. This is also the bar the inspired Hazel Lee to add bubble gum to her flavour map).

Violet Sky Chocolate, TCHO, Ethereal Confections, Zotter Chocolates, Mission Chocolate, Madre Chocolate, and Endorfin Foods

Thrilled and honored to have met Domantas Uzpalis founder of Chocolate Naive in person at last!

Chocolate Naive is another maker that includes interesting ingredients like porchini, kefir, tahini, and more.  One of Chocolate Naive’s newest projects is Nano_Lot featuring rare, micro batch bars to further promote chocolate education.

Salt:  The inclusion of all kinds of salt in craft chocolate is in full force including smoked salts, black lava salt, Icelandic salt, and more.

Lovely colors of Violet Sky Chocolate bar packaging at The NW Chocolate Festival 2017

I hope you enjoyed these pictures and trends from this year’s NW Chocolate Festival.  I’m looking forward to meeting even more of you there next year!  Until then what are your current favorite chocolate trends, or ingredients/trends you’d like to see more of in craft chocolate?

Victoria Cooksey:


Watch my craft chocolate reviews and cooking videos at:


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