This weekend in Washington, DC The Chocolate House hosted the 5th Annual DC Chocolate Festival at the French Embassy. I, for one, am really over virtual events and when I saw this I was beyond excited. Of course, I was absolutely ecstatic when they extended guest passes to me. Let’s face it, being given press passes never gets old.
Chocolate is one of my favorite things in the world to eat. In my career, I’ve spent a great deal of time working with both cocoa growers in Ghana and chocolatiers in the US. As a chocolate lover and as one fortunate enough to see this industry from both ends of the value chain, I had to attend the DC Chocolate Festival and it did not disappoint!
I really had a great time meeting all the wonderful chocolate vendors and talking to them about their work and upcoming projects. I especially enjoyed talking to Cocoa Town about their marvelous multi-use chocolate processing invention and attending the Future of Chocolate Tasting workshop with 37 Chocolates. Of course, I also snagged some chocolate goodies to bring home with me too from Sleep Walk Chocolateria among others.
Party like it’s 2024 — the future of chocolate tasting is social (Estelle Tracy of 37Chocolates.com)
The best thing I loved about this workshop was thinking about all the different ways you can explore the coffee bean with your guest. Too often we think only about about sampling different varieties of chocolate. Estelle got us thinking about the whole bean. We sampled both bean-dried paste and bean sauce. Two very delicious flavor and texture variations to add an interesting mix to our next tasting party.
Cocoatown Craft Bean-to-Bar Chocolate on a Shoestring Budget
Dr. Balu Balasubramania and Andal Balu of Cocoatown spoke about issues that were near and dear to my heart in their presentation. They spoke about the challenges facing small-scale cocoa producers and the need for those producers to be able to add value to their raw materials in order to have any meaningful economic gain.
They unveiled their compact processing matching and spoke about their hopes that it would be able to empower small-scale farmers to be able to produce consumer goods and enter the marketplace as producers of bean-to-bar products.
In our private conversation, they made mentioned to me that the machine could be used to process a variety of commodities like nuts and grains, and they hope that they can roll it out to farmers globally.
There were many impressive chocolate companies present during the festival but I have to admit that I was most impressed by Sleep Walk Chocolateria. Most notably because they had an all-hands-on-deck approach to their activation, a very Latino way of doing things which being Colombian I can’t help but admire, but it also showed how much chocolate was a part of their culture.
The artwork on the wrappers was the first thing that caught my eye. My son’s father is Mexican-American (Chicano) so I’ve been immersed in the culture for a long time and I do have a great appreciation for it. As soon as I saw the symbolism on the wrappers, I knew what it meant and I was drawn in. But then the taste!!! WOW!!! Just WOW!!! This has to be among the best chocolate I’ve ever had in my life. It was amazing.
The Big Picture
All in all, The 2022 DC Chocolate Festival was a great event. It was informative and entertaining. Plus, it gave vendors a much-needed opportunity to get in front of consumers, an opportunity that many had not had since the pandemic. Along with the tastings and workshops, there were also film showings for those who need to know more about the social and cultural landscape that drives the chocolate industry.
I have high hopes for the future of this festival. I hope that as the festival continues to grow we can get to have more chocolate-inspired cooking demonstrations and we can see more ways that chocolate is applied in the cooking landscape. I’d love to see more chocolate cake, chocolate ice cream, chocolate wine, chocolate everything. LOL