Did you know there are three types of cocao tree? And that they can only grow in tropical regions 20 degrees either side of the equator? Or that the process of developing the chocolate that we know and love is an ordeal and a half!
Last week I was invited to the Hotel Chocolat Lock In at the Princesshay Exeter store, for the #SchoolOfChocolate and let me tell you, not only was the experience delicious, but it was enormously engaging and educational.
And folks, they've only gone and made it available to book for parties, haven't they! Cleverclogs.
Our host, the lovely Lyssa, who has earned her beautiful cocoa pod brooches through her thorough education in chocolate, and her visits to the Hotel Chocolat plantations in the Rabot Estate, Saint Lucia, broke down the process beautifully for us. Unpacking everything from company island ethics and the lengthy and varying harvest processes, to the fine art of roasting, refining, grinding and tempering, all of which play great parts in achieving different end results for a specific taste experience.
She shares photographs that she took herself while over in Saint Lucia, and demonstrates (with a dose of taste testing along the way) some of the techniques used, and unpacks why each element is essential, and important to the integrity of the product and company.
Still in awe, we took to a table and was introduced to a pack of information including a Chocolate Glossary (a term that I pray I get to use again in context one day), a break down of how to assess the range of senses, not just taste, oh-ho no, in sampling the chocolates that were to come, a beautifully illustrated Tasting Tree with word lists that made my little writerly self terribly excited, and, you guessed it...
We were provided a selection of six chocolates plus an additional dark bar which exhibited a snap to demonstrate tempering, which Lyssa guided us through as we used our pack, to ascertain which words might apply to the taste experience we encountered with each, magnificent bite.
Of the six; Coffee & Walnut Cake, Custard Tart, Supermilk Ceaser, Chocolate Brownie, Carrot Cake and Florentine Isabelle, I have to say, my favourite was the Carrot Cake, as my reaction on the linked vlog on our channel will portray with full, unapologetic transparency.
I walked away heavy with fresh new wonder at the craft, and a refreshed outlook on eating these beautiful little treats, as I have to admit, since becoming a work at home, home educating mum, I'm no stranger to a sugar binge.
I can detect a scent difference now and smile at the snap of a well tempered bite.
What excites me additionally, is their More Cocoa Less Sugar campaign which they run as workshops for children (we're booking up our Exeter community of home educators pronto!) and you can also book the experience I was invited to as a private event at £10 per person.
Please speak to Lyssa at the Princesshay Exeter store for more local events and bookings for Lock Ins and childrens workshops, or connect with your closest branch to get the deets on how to sink into this dreamy evening of pure bliss with friends.
See how our event went over on our vlog on youtube.