Podcast

#WomeninChocolate Year in Review 2018

Last year I committed to creating more traditions and rituals moving forward in my life in chocolate, such as the 2017 #womeninchocolate year in review post. The goal was to be able to share the achievements and greatness of others around the world, essentially, to share more stories, as the Well Tempered podcast is more finite. As you’ll see from some of the women participating in this year’s edition, the end of the year is a time to reflect on the momentous moments and challenges we faced - and oh what a year it was for many of us, but what we all have is common is two-fold: we are united by cacao and we are grateful yet unsure what exactly lies ahead. I’ve developed a new ‘nib of wisdom’ in 2018; ‘treat every one and everything as if it were a limited edition.’ As I’ve added more personal and professional traditions to this year’s agenda, such as highlighting 24 women in 24 days via Instagram, (inspired by the Advent calendar model that Lilla of Little Beetle Chocolates organized (see below) and that WKND Chocolate took part in), I am unable to say if it will continue again next year. However, I can say that for this time and place in history, it was a joy to put it together, and every single womxn and more are deserving to have their story told. As Mackenzie Rivers of Map Chocolate (also a WT podcast guest) noted in one of her Instagram posts this week, this year does seem to be the year of #womeninchocolate, and that observation, I am confident is here to stay.

Loads of thank yous as per usual. Estelle Tracy as a huge supporter and WT community admin. Our global community for their knowledge sharing, curiosity, and intensive work in their local regions to spread the word of fine chocolate through their individual expertise and projects. Damaris Ronkanen of Cultura Craft Chocolate for organizing a very memorable trip to Mexico, and to Hugo Chavez & team of Agrofloresta and Chema Pascacio & Dra. Angie Joo for hosting at Finca La Rioja. Mireille Discher deserving of so many thank yous! Hawaiian cacao and chocolate friends and colleagues, Nat Bletter, Dylan Butterbaugh, Dan O’Doherty, Dan Corson & Berndt Stugger,at Hamakua Cacao Farm, Seneca Klassen — mahalo for a wonderful visit. Sophia Rea for offering mental and physical space for the women in chocolate Mujeres Milagros retreat in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Tamara LaValla for being there when I couldn’t. All WKND Chocolate customers — thank you for letting me do something that brings me such immense purpose. Well Tempered podcast guests, and all of the women patiently waiting for future interviews; I dream of having the chance to make you all shine. My new amigos in Spain that have made this landing more gentle and welcomed me into this micro-community of craft chocolate that we are all wishing gains attention of the country’s public sooner than later. I’d be remiss not to mention my husband, who doesn’t understand this wild world of chocolate and my particular obsession with it, but willingly opens his mouth for every sample out of the WKND kitchen, and deep down wants to see me reach my goals.

Appreciate you all (readers, listeners, choco-friends, and more) playing a part in this incredible journey we’re on!

- Lauren Heineck, Founder of WKND Chocolate & the Well Tempered Community, Host/Creator/Editor of the Well Tempered Podcast

Australia

Alison Pierce Co-Founder of Bean Bar You

Alison on the right, Chris on the left; Directors of Bean Bar You. Photo credit: Bean Bar You

Alison on the right, Chris on the left; Directors of Bean Bar You. Photo credit: Bean Bar You

1) What has been the defining moment of 2018 for you in chocolate? What milestones are you grateful for this year? 

AP: My absolute highlight for 2018 was attending the Northwest Chocolate Festival for the first time. Getting to meet so many people we have worked with from around the world was lovely and we also made many new friends and connections. I'm mainly grateful simply for the opportunity to be running a small business in this fascinating and friendly industry, but specific milestones I'm grateful for include: making our first batch of chocolate (for personal consumption only) and getting our 1000th chocolate bar rating (meaning we have enough data to start doing some really cool analysis).


2) What's on the horizon for 2019, and what are you most looking forward to within your work and the industry as a whole? 

AP: I am so excited to see where the Australian craft chocolate scene goes in 2019. There are so many innovative origins, techniques and business models emerging at the moment. We would love for Bean Bar You to be able to better support Australia's bean to bar chocolate makers, whether that's through supplying beans and equipment or using our data to provide useful market insights. It is an exciting time and I am so grateful to be part of it!

Links:
Bean Bar You Website
Instagram: @BeanBarYou


Canada

Catherine Goulet Founder & Chocolate Maker of Avanaa Chocolat

catherine goulet avanaa.jpg


1) What has been the defining moment of 2018 for you in chocolate? What milestones are you grateful for this year?

CG: For me 2018 was a year of pure growth. When I started Avanaa (December 2016) I was working alone. Things have been so great that we are now 4 people working at the shop. It’s such a great feeling to have a dream that became reality. That is for sure a real defining moment for me to be able to build a great team, so fast!. I feel that I am starting to make the complete circle from the producers to us (as a team) who could actually earn a living wage from a crazy idea...making chocolate in Montreal.

I feel that we did a great job educating our chocolate lovers about the complexity of cacao & chocolate but also about the reality of the producers. We also had the opportunity to visit 2 of the 3 co-ops that we are working with. It was such a gratifying experience to be able to see them, thank them in person for their work, and bring them chocolates we made by hand; we look forward to this continued relationship and possibility.


2) What's on the horizon for 2019, and what are you most looking forward to within your work and the industry as a whole?

CG: Well 2019 will be a very important year for me. I want to continue building a great team so we can continue growing while having a lot of fun together. I would really love to go back to Tumaco, Colombia to see how they are improving their techniques and growing their community.

Finally, on a more personal basis, I hope I will be able to have a more balanced life. I have a 2 year old daughter and when I opened the shop she was only 5 months old. I feel I’ve been juggling between being a mom, an entrepreneur, a partner, and just a simple woman - all at once. I also wish to be able to be part of some chocolate events in the new year. I would like to be more closely surrounded with other chocolate makers; I want to learn from their experience but more importantly I want to feel their energy!!

Links:
Avanaa Chocolat Website
Instagram: @AvanaaChocolat

Honduras

Rosalba Castellanos Founder and Chocolate Maker at San Carlo Chocolate

Photo credit: Rosabla Castellanos

Photo credit: Rosabla Castellanos

1) What has been the defining moment of 2018 for you in chocolate? What milestones are you grateful for this year?

RC: This year we grew greatly as a business. Our learnings and achievements this year helped us define success for our company and brand San Carlo Chocolate. We are now known for the quality of our chocolate, using the finest cacao (fino de aroma) harvested from our home country, Honduras. We are now selling our chocolates in 20 retail locations (5 months); as you know an incredible effort, not only because it’s difficult to make bean to bar chocolate, but even more work to sell it. As artisan chocolate producers, participating in national festivals and events was an important step for us as well as. On a personal level, I was awarded by USAID as a successful female entrepreneur this year.

What has also brought me great joy this year is my participation as part of a local Honduran cacao tasting panel. I am learning to comprehend the nuances of cacao in our country.

//

RC: Este año ha sido representativo de lo que es el éxito para San Carlo Chocolate, crecimos como empresa , como marca y ahora somos conocidos por la calidad de nuestro chocolate, elaborado con cacao fino de aroma cultivado en nuestras tierras hondureñas , fui premiada como una mujer de éxito por USAID, ONU mujeres , he logrado posicionar mi marca en 20 puntos de venta a nivel nacional en 5 meses , lo cual representó uno de los retos mas grandes , porque transformar el cacao a chocolate no es fácil, y poder venderlo es aún más, participé en ferias nacionales , las cuales son de mucha ayuda para nosotras las artesanas del chocolate  .

Actualmente estoy formando parte del panel de catacion de cacao en mi país , aprendiendo a identificar los atributos de nuestro grano , lo cual me llena de mucha satisfacción. 


2) What's on the horizon for 2019, and what are you most looking forward to within your work and the industry as a whole?

RC: In 2019 I hope to be able to launch my brand in international markets, as well as develop new recipes and products. Through those goals, San Carlo can contribute to the economic development of my beloved Honduras, and have the chance to assist other women in launching their own businesses.

//

RC: Para el 2019 espero poder llegar al mercado internacional , introducir nuevos productos , así poder contribuir al desarrollo de la economía de mi amada Honduras y poder ayudar a otras mujeres a emprender sus propios negocios 

Links:
San Carlo Chocolate Website
Instagram: @sancarlochocolate

Hong Kong

Hilda Chan of Founder & Photographer of My Chocolate Diary

Photo credit Hilda Chan: shown here at Dandelion Chocolate Tokyo, one of her favorite chocolate cafes, March 2018.

Photo credit Hilda Chan: shown here at Dandelion Chocolate Tokyo, one of her favorite chocolate cafes, March 2018.

1) What has been the defining moment of 2018 for you in chocolate? What milestones are you grateful for this year? 

HC: I have been tasting fine and craft chocolate since 2015, as well as taking photos of them because I know I may forget how beautiful the chocolate looks in that moment. I love to make drinking chocolate and bake brownies at home. Earlier this year, I tried Soma’s Old School bar, which is a 2-ingredient chocolate with a crumbly cookie-like texture, made in a rustic method by a vintage machine.  My family and I loved it so much, that I tried to make this at home from cacao nibs that I gathered from my son’s school party.  The feedback was so good that I started to search for a more consistent supply of high quality nibs, and transformed them into a cookie/bonbon shape for sale. I name this chocolate “Renaissance Dark”. Sophia Rea from Projet Chocolat, who is fan and connoisseur of chocolate history, inspired me with this name. It is because of this new project #RenaissanceDarkChoc that 2018 has been a particularly special year to me because spreading the cacao love to my family, friends and chocolate lovers - who have grown up in the era of commercial chocolate and forgotten the taste and purity of real chocolate - is especially important.

2) What's on the horizon for 2019, and what are you most looking forward to within your work and the industry as a whole? 

I hope to share the Renaissance Dark chocolate with more people, especially in Hong Kong, through coffee shops and chocolate/tea/wine tasting events.  I love to enjoy this cacao creation with Chinese or Japanese tea at home and I believe it pairs well with coffee, tea and many different beverages.  People here in HK will line up more than an hour for pancakes and Taiwanese milk tea, while chocolate shops (selling cakes/bonbons) nearby sit empty. There are many new cookie shops built in collaboration by celebrities too, but chocolate on a whole is still known as a kind of sugar and candy confection to many people of Hong Kong.  Many of us do not even know chocolate is made of cacao beans. I hope there will more cooperation and movement of fine and craft chocolate, to see more chocolate cafes, bean-to-bar chocolate factories and shops here. I am also happy to have the ability to drive the movement forward together!

Links
#RenaissanceDarkChoc website coming soon
Instagram: @mychocolatediary

Hungary

Lilla Toth-Tatai Founder of Little Beetle Chocolates Ltd.

Photo credit: Lilla Toth-Tatai of Little Beetle Chocolates

Photo credit: Lilla Toth-Tatai of Little Beetle Chocolates

1) What has been the defining moment of 2018 for you in chocolate? What milestones are you grateful for this year?

LTT: Without question, it's my Taste.Better.Chocolate. Advent Calendar. I have been thinking about it for a few years and right at the beginning of January 2018 there was a moment when I knew that it is now or never. And so I began contacting makers who I know personally, then I was reaching out to others all across the globe. The responses were positive and encouraging. This is a mammoth-sized project for a tiny startup company like me (I only launched my business in December 2017). I kind of knew this, but I couldn't stop thinking about it and I just felt that it will work out somehow. It had to. Since I was a child, I was always dreaming about inventing something, or doing something for the very first time. Without trying to sound bigheaded, I feel so grateful and happy that I created the very first craft chocolate advent calendar that features not one but 24 different makers' chocolates. There are moments when I still can't believe that I did it. But then I get a message on Instagram and see that someone at the other end of the world opened their chocolate for that day, and my heart just flows over from joy. I have learned so much through this whole project. I feel very grateful for all the lessons, the difficulties, the challenges, and of course the rewarding feeling of reading positive comments. 

On top of all this, I even challenged myself with running a Kickstarter campaign for the calendars, and I was completely blown away by the support coming from friends, chocolate lovers and complete strangers too. Two successful projects in one year, this is still unbelievable for me. Once again, I would like to thank everyone who has supported me reaching these goals and making my dream project come true. 

2) What's on the horizon for 2019, and what are you most looking forward to within your work and the industry as a whole? 

LTT: This is a tough one. Many people already asked me whether I will do this calendar again in 2019. Of course, I'd love to. But at the moment my personal (and thus my professional) life is a bit unstable regarding my permanent location, and to run a business without some stability (and we are talking about deliveries coming from all around the world) it seems very complicated. Not to mention the not very small business friendly atmosphere in the Hungarian economy. Let's just say, that at the moment I can't say for sure whether I'll do it or not. But don't worry, I will announce it in time. 

My other project idea is something that I have been thinking about a lot, and that is more suitable for my current unstable circumstances. I would like to be more present online through informative blog posts such as reviews but also educational pieces related to chocolate and my main focus will be to build up my YouTube channel with useful, informative, interesting videos. I would like to do this in Hungarian too, as there isn't anything like this yet on the online platforms and I would like to see the Hungarian chocolate scene to improve especially now that we have more and more new bean-to-bar makers. Another thing, also connected to chocolate education is that I really would like to work on changing the attitude of chocolate consumers towards quality chocolate and especially the way we introduce chocolate to children. I think this is the way to go if we want to build a strong, quality-drawn, eco-friendly, ethically sensitive generation who will continue to build a better world for cacao farmers, chocolate makers and chocolate consumers. (More on a personal level, I want to work on reducing waste and switching to a more eco-friendly household and lifestyle altogether).

I'm really looking forward to attending some chocolate events next year, like Chocoa in Amsterdam and hopefully the NW Chocolate Festival in Seattle too! Unfortunately it doesn't seem like that I'll be able to travel to a cacao plantation next year, but I will keep my eyes open, maybe some opportunity will present itself later on. 

Links:
Little Beetle Chocolates Website
Instagram: @littlebeetle_chocolates

Korea

Max Gandy Writer & Podcaster at Dame Cacao

Photo credit: Max Gandy

Photo credit: Max Gandy

MG: For over two years now I've lived in a small town a couple of hours outside of Seoul, and I remember the exact day that I realized there was a chocolate maker in my province. I jumped up out of my desk chair and just about dropped my jaw on the ground. The next day was a public holiday, and the maker even spoke English. It was fate! Since that meeting, I've found myself connected and weaved into this small community of chocolate makers and movers & shakers in South Korea. Over the course of 2018 in particular I've watched it absolutely explode, with a 200% increase in the number of makers.

Becoming part of this small but dedicated community working to make change in a relatively small part of the world has been an absolute joy. Many creators want their work to appeal to a large group of people, and English-speakers often feel pressured to connect with everyone, but the makers in Korea have a very specific goal: change chocolate culture in South Korea through education. It's a large goal to be sure, but it's also a much smaller part of this global movement towards better chocolate, and we all have our roles. 

So sure, I've had a lot of number-based goals achieved this year, but I've also spent a lot of time asking myself what makes me happy and why, and it has nothing to do with numbers. It's these connections I've made with chocolate people around the world, from Thailand and Tanzania to the US that have imprinted themselves upon my memory. I'm proudest of the articles I've written that have changed how people saw or thought about things. I've even taken my family on trips, and they've begrudgingly admitted that some of their favorite moments were spent chatting with chocolate people.

In addition to letting my family in on my chocolate travels, I spent much of the latter half of 2018 preparing a way to let everyone else in on the enjoyment. I've been listening to the chocolate podcasts on offer, especially Well Tempered, for almost as long as they've been out. But I've always wished there were more of them, so for the last several months I've been creating the podcast I always wanted: Chocolate On The Road.

The bi-monthly show is part documentary and part interview series, with the current focus on Asia and the Pacific. New episodes will be out every first and third Wednesday, so mark your calendars! Episode 0: The Origin Story launched December 19th, 2018, have a listen here. I can only hope that 2019 will bring as much joy & shared experiences as 2018 has, and even more positive growth to the fine cocoa & chocolate markets.

Links:
Dame Cacao & Chocolate on the Road Website
Instagram: @damecacao
Instagram: @chocolateontheroad

Nigeria

Moji Aina Founder & Chocolate Maker of Pod Chocolates

Photo credit: Moji Aina of Pod Chocolates

Photo credit: Moji Aina of Pod Chocolates

1) What has been the defining moment of 2018 for you in chocolate? What milestones are you grateful for this year? 

MA: I have worked as a chocolatier in Lagos since 2008, but it wasn't until this year I properly started making bean-to-bar chocolate using our local cacao here in Nigeria. It has come with numerous challenges, however, I am super grateful that I took the plunge and started this endeavor. I have been able to channel my creativity and love for Nigerian food fusions in my chocolate. I created a Zobo (hibiscus flower) chocolate; a first in Nigeria. I have also made a Plantain Firecracker chocolate bar which I believe is not available anywhere else in the world. It contains fried unripe plantain and a local yaji (suya) spice mix. I truly am very passionate about our cacao and the various opportunities I think it can bring to the country, especially in the area of tourism. Nigeria has so much to offer the world in terms of heritage, culture, landmarks and of course, mouth-watering food. I have had the pleasure of sharing my passion for Nigerian chocolate and tourism on two platforms this year, one of which was the Cocoa Festival that took place in Osun state, a place with one of the most amazing waterfalls I’ve ever seen.

2) What's on the horizon for 2019, and what are you most looking forward to within your work and the industry as a whole? 

MA: The bean-to-bar chocolate industry in Nigeria is relatively new, but I look forward to sharing the Nigerian chocolate gospel with the populace and beyond! I am working on a few projects, one of which is a Chocolate Week. More importantly though, is also getting the farmers up to speed with technology and modern farming practices. There is a learning gap, and even though farming is not my area of specialty, it is something I probably have to learn and help train farmers on improved farming/processing practices, since my chocolates will only be as good as the beans I am able to procure.

Links:
Pod Chocolates Website
Instagram: @podchocolates


Portugal

Sue Tavares Co-Founder and Head Chocolate Maker at Feitoria do Cacao

Photo credit: Sue Tavares

Photo credit: Sue Tavares

1) What has been the defining moment of 2018 for you in chocolate? What milestones are you grateful for this year?

ST: For the year of 2018 we faced the challenge of increasing our annual production. It was imperative that we buy new and larger machines, and thankfully that was made possible due to our increase in sales, as well as some personal efforts. I sold my car and we :finally: purchased new grinders and a more effective winnower. We doubled production capacity and, after 3 years of day-in and day-out work, we were able to leave the machines working all night without supervision! Going through some breakdowns on the new and older machines, and being forced to disassemble, repair and put them to work again (something I really felt uncomfortable with) was a rich learning experience in regards to our lifetime learning in chocolate. As a result of these new insights, we feel much more confident dealing with different equipment and, at the same time, were able to improve the quality of our chocolate and chocolate making methods.

The year of 2018 brought us so many good things that it’s hard to highlight a few of them. We feel truly grateful for the people who have crossed our path, that helped us to reach prestigious places like hotels and restaurants. We feel so lucky we have met and are surrounded by people who support and cheer us up when needed.

2) What's on the horizon for 2019, and what are you most looking forward to within your work and the industry as a whole? 

ST: The more we work with chocolate, the more we feel the need for more knowledge. For the next year we hope we are able to learn outside our own factory. We want to keep growing as a company so we plan to hire one other employee, and also hope we'll be able to invest in other new machinery in order to further optimize our production, always focusing on quality. 

When I think about how it was when we started (just 3 years ago), we can see that some things are changing for the better. Customers are putting more value on the work and dedication of the chocolate maker, and love and respect for the ingredients. Not just the elaborately designed wrapper, but also the interesting story behind each chocolate bar. We’re seeing them make up there own minds about it, and we hope to see that continue in 2019. .

Links:
Feitoria do Cacao Website
Instagram: @feitoria_do_cacao


Trinidad & Tobago W.I.

Sarah M Bharath, Cocoa Agronomist (emphasis on post-harvest processing)

Photo credit: Sarah M Bharath

Photo credit: Sarah M Bharath

1) What has been the defining moment of 2018 for you in chocolate?

SB: 2018 marks the 20th year of my involvement in the cacao industry, or Theo-space (as I prefer to call it). 20 years ago, I was introduced to the rabbit hole that is cacao research and all of its associated adventures. Unlike many folks in this industry, I came to Theo not because of a childhood passion for chocolate or even an adulthood craving for it.  Far from. Chocolate was, and still is, actually not the driving force for me at all. I came to the Theo-space because I needed a job, and I needed to work with plants at a deeper level. What I thought would have been 1 year of 'growing up in a research environment' turned in to 12 years of research, at my home university, across practically every aspect (pathology, agronomy, processing, product development) that aims to understand cacao, its inner workings, and its utilisation. Since leaving the confines of academia in 2011, I have found myself exploring deeper connections with the land, its plants, and its cacao stewards (Theo-stewards as I like to call them). I do so via knowledge sharing in the extension and training services that I provide to farmers both at home and more recently, within the Caribbean region. The defining moment of 2018 for me in cacao/chocolate? I'd have to say it lies in learning to appreciate the incredibly informative tool that chocolate is in opening the portal of understanding about cacao for both producers and consumers alike. I am deeply motivated by the genuine energy exchange that continues to take place when producers and consumers see and appreciate at a deeper level, just how much the final chocolate (or other value-added) product is greatly influenced by every action of the Theo-stewards, from soil-to-tree-to-saleable seed. My almost-daily work alongside our producers involves walking the fields and just listening to these stewards tell their stories about their trees, noting the subtleties of the soils on which they stand, paying attention to every companion plant in the Theo-space, observing every pod, tasting different bean varieties as we go along, monitoring fermentations with a level of attention and precision that was previously unknown to these stewards, discussing solutions to ongoing drying challenges and then tasting with them the chocolate that comes from the fruits of their very own labour. These all comprise my defining moment. In this way, I find myself sharing with the farmers the necessary toolkits that will allow them to truly embrace and own the processes in which their homegrown cacao then becomes a source of pride and better earnings that they had never before envisioned.


WT: What milestones are you grateful for this year? 

SB: Two main events stand out for me this year:

1. Being able to ship for the second year, cocoa bean microlots for the Trinidad Microlot Project that Meridian Cacao Company (Portland, OR) initiated in 2016. This year's harvest was an insanely difficult one for everyone because of the terrible rains that plagued the early part of the harvest and, via disease spread, destroyed at least 60% of our yields in most cacao estates cross-country. Our microlot farmers battled against many odds for most of the season - especially major drying crises. But, we fought hard, and we fought together. And we did our best to get some beautiful lots coming from very diverse farms with incredibly diverse flavour profiles. Quite striking for such a tiny island! If nothing else, this year's harvest taught us a great deal about resilience, improvisation and teamwork. And for that I am eternally grateful.

2. 2018 also saw me start more knowledge-sharing initiatives across neighboring islands in my Caribbean region. I'd only ever dreamt of being able to work and share alongside farmers in our island chain. And this year saw not just one member country grant me the opportunity to exchange much-needed knowledge with its farmers and other industry partners, but three! These 3 countries (Jamaica, Guadeloupe, St. Vincent) represented very different circumstances, expertise and resources at the ground level. As a direct result of this, each one and its people taught me many new and fabulous things about the Theo-space, and the deep importance of understanding contextual challenges and solutions. Guadeloupe ramped the challenge up several notches by pushing me out of my anglophone comfort zones and gave me the chance to successfully execute my 2nd full in-French-only 2- week cocoa training programme there. As a young cacao researcher all those years ago, I was not even sure I would ever have the skill to read an entire cocoa article in French, much less teach the intricacies of cacao to native French speakers one day! I was deeply humbled, honored and empowered to just get on with the knowledge exchanges. Delightfully, my trainees brought a wealth of enthusiasm, complementary knowledge, experiences and general bien-être that made our training together totally memorable, and eternally shareable, experiences.


2) What's on the horizon for 2019, and what are you most looking forward to within your work and the industry as a whole?   

SB: In 2019 I am hoping that the industry as a whole begins to truly wake up to (and act on!) the fact that cacao urgently needs to be de-commoditized if we are to truly be fair to the farming populations across the globe. There will be no sustainable advances in this industry if we do not pay due respects to the sources and caretakers of cacao. On a personal note, despite current (seemingly) zero clarity on actual projects to come, I remain deeply excited and encouraged, so I know that much adventure and learning await me in 2019. I want to continue encouraging among our producers, a greater willingness to re-integrate cacao into more diverse agri-spaces, so that we can truly encourage farming systems that are not only sustainable at an ecosystems-services level, but regenerative at both human and environmental levels. My core mission of course, remains the same: share, teach, learn, grow. It applies to me and to every farmer with whom I will work side-by-side, no matter where I find myself standing. I am also greatly looking forward to building my own expertise this year through some focused training programs that will allow me to return to a bit of deeper 'student life'. Adding new (or modified!) tools to my own toolbox will help me better serve the cacao communities that want to improve upon their own journeys with Theo and its much-needed companions in the agricultural space.

Links:
Instagram @phytophilic

United States

Andal Balu Co-Founder of CocoaTown

Photo credit: Andal Balu

Photo credit: Andal Balu

1) What has been the defining moment of 2018 for you in chocolate? What milestones are you grateful for this year?  

AB: Defining moments for 2018 are quite a few for CocoaTown and me. I am grateful for being selected to receive the MetroAtlanta Export Challenge Grant from Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and the GLOBE award from GA (Georgia) Department of Economic Development. CocoaTown was nominated for ‘Georgia Small Business Manufacturer’ of the year award. I also had the opportunity to participate in Georgia Trade Mission to both Colombia and Peru. I am thankful to all the wonderful people in the world of Chocolate - Cocoa farmers, chocolate makers, choco-preneurs and more. We got to visit Colombia and Grenada for the first time, as well as trips to Peru, Trinidad, France, Netherlands, India and Mexico. I am blessed to know Juan Carlos Lopez of Colombia, Reyna Flores, Mayari Castellanos, Dr. Darin Sukha and many more wonderful people who took care of us during our visit to their countries. I am also thankful to all our employees who are working hard to take care of our customers. Most importantly I am thankful to our customers all over the world who appreciate our effort to offer a wide and ever increasing range of products.  There has been overwhelming support from our customers when we redefined our company as a complete solution with a line of machines for the bean to bar industry, 

2) What's on the horizon for 2019, and what are you most looking forward to within your work and the industry as a whole?   

In 2019, we are moving to a new facility in a neighboring town, Alpharetta, GA (after being in Roswell GA for 26 years of our business history). We are working on introducing new equipment for the bean to bar industry. We look forward to collaborating with more research centers and co-operatives worldwide. It is exciting to see new opportunities emerging, as small-batch chocolate making and industry expands in other countries.  As a company, we want to create more choco-preneurs especially among farmers. I love to travel and learn about new cultures and languages. It is so fascinating to find out that we have lot of Tamil words in other languages and our custom is similar to the ones in other countries, especially we found in Chiapas, Mexico. 

Links
CocoaTown Website
Instagram: @Cocoa_town

Esther Bobbin Director of NW Chocolate (Un)Conference & Founder of United by Chocolate

Photo credit: Esther Bobbin

Photo credit: Esther Bobbin

1) What has been the defining moment of 2018 for you in chocolate? What milestones are you grateful for this year? 

EB: It has been an honor for me to see the Northwest Chocolate (Un)Conference blossom and evolve year-after-year. We integrated a greater variety of session styles and formats into the (Un)Conference this year. And whenever you pivot and try something new it feels unpredictable and risky. The new formats also lent themselves to more needed support and contribution from the cacao and chocolate community – and the community delivered with open arms.

This year, in particular, I felt that I was at the confluence of immense change and evolution in our craft chocolate community. There is a new generation of chocolate craftsmanship arising and I am very intrigued to see how it evolves. This noticeable entrepreneurship boom in the craft chocolate industry includes chocolate makers and retailers — budding companies but also larger entities from media, commodity trading, and agriculture non-profits. To me, it signals that the world is taking notice that there is real value in craft chocolate. I think we are turning a corner and I believe consumers are following suit. And even more exciting, these new entities I witnessed hailed from all corners of the globe, and weren't just restricted to the US. And though we are an expanding community, unity continues to be part of the fabric of the chocolate community. I witnessed a willingness to share and contribute to new members of the craft community that surpassed my expectations…and to me that is truly special. I am very grateful to be part of such a community.


2) What's on the horizon for 2019, and what are you most looking forward to within your work and the industry as a whole? 

EB: In addition to directing the Northwest Chocolate (Un)Conference, I started a Women in Chocolate Lean-In Circle in Seattle, WA. I have since moved to Virginia and I am exploring how I may continue to foster a community amongst women in the cacao and chocolate industry. What this looks like is the early stages of the organization United by Chocolate (@unitedbychocolate). It will be dedicated to increased knowledge sharing, across the network of people and countries that make chocolate, by removing language barriers. Throughout our 2019 beta-phase, I look forward to exploring ways we can share the wealth of wisdom and support the creation of new friendships across our fabulous global community.

Links:
United by Chocolate Website
Instagram: @unitedbychocolate
NW Chocolate (Un)Conference Website
Instagram: @nwchocolate


Maddy (Madeline) Smith, Hawai’i Cacao & Chocolate Expert at Barefoot Chocolatini

Photo credit: Maddy Smith

Photo credit: Maddy Smith

MS: If you ask anybody living on the Big Island of Hawai’i this year, what the defining moment was for them, I’m pretty sure everyone would agree; May 3rd, 2018, the day Kilauea started to erupt. The volcanic eruption took out a number of cacao farms, evacuated too many families, farmers and animals and damaged multiple cacao trees via the acid rain. All of my cacao keikis (seedlings, keiki means small or child in Hawaiian), lost leaves, had leaves turn brown due to the sulphuric dioxide which when bonded with rain, creates acid rain. It was a challenging time for most, a unique opportunity to understand the varying levels of comfort each person is capable of withstanding, and gave quite an eerie apocalyptic vibe to our otherwise picturesque seaside jungle lifestyle. Fortunately, the lava eventually stopped mid August, and life has started to show signs of new growth, including on our beloved cacao trees.

I officially launched my Chocolate Farm Tour & Tastings in March, and have been loving the personal interaction with these traveling, and intelligent foodies! They teach me so much and are so honest and attentive. I truly can’t thank myself enough for taking the leap of faith and moving to Hawai’i in 2015 to follow my dreams. If you ever come to the Big Island of Hawai’i and you love chocolate, please reach out! I’d love to talk story with you and share some tasty chocolates together! In August, I launched my Chocolate Bar Crawl. We meet in downtown Hilo (Big Island) and get chocolate wasted on local chocolates! 

It’s been an exciting year beyond the lava, as I was asked to be a cacao bean judge at the 7th Annual Big Island Chocolate Festival in Kona (https://bigislandchocolatefestival.com). I was honored and thrilled to take my learning to the next level as I was able to taste alongside Dr. Nat Bletter of Madre Chocolate, from O’ahu. The process was so fun and entertaining for me, that I have been inspired to launch Chocolate Tastings & Pairings as an additional service! Think private parties like bachelorette, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings… you get the idea. For anyone who is a foodie, loves chocolate, and geeking out with others as a form of entertainment and education, this is perfect for you.  

In April 2018, we also executed the First Annual Hilo Cacao & Chocolate Festival (https://hilochocofest.com), put on by the East Hawai’i Cacao Association. It was a HUGE hit! Entry was free and over 1,500 people joined us for the day to learn all about growing cacao and eating chocolate made by local growers. We displayed the entire bean to bar making process, gave away 500 cacao keiki/seedlings, and Barefoot Chocolatini offered cacao farm tours which sold out within the first 20 minutes. We had 14 cacao farmers who are ALSO chocolate makers, sharing their chocolates with attendees who purchased a “Chocolate Tasting Passport.” They could judge who they thought made the best chocolates on island, Puna Chocolate won first place! The Second Annual Hilo Cacao & Chocolate Festival will be Saturday, April 13th, 2019 at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel. Come get chocolate wasted with us… in the Napa Valley Of Chocolate; HAWAI’I! 

Beyond the Second Annual Hilo Cacao & Chocolate Festival, I am looking forward to the Hawaiian Chocolate Intensive Retreat happening January 6–12, 2019 at the Hawaiian Sanctuary in Pahoa, Hawai’i (https://hawaiiansanctuary.com/retreats/chocolate-intensive-retreat-2019/). Dr. Nat Bletter of Madre Chocolate will teach and lead the group of attendees everything you need to know from "Bean to Bar to Business.” I will take the group on a couple of excursions including a Chocolate Bar Crawl, waterfalls, and the iconic Uncle Robert’s Night Market in Kalapana Kaimu, a slice of old school Hawai’i. This is a super rare and very thorough offering for the chocolate lover, or the aspiring or budding cacao farmer. Demand for cacao in Hawai’i is extremely high (remember, we have some of THE RAREST cacao in the WORLD) and the supply is extremely low and already spoken for.

I am also looking forward to expanding my farm and creating my own small batch, single origin, limited edition bean to bar chocolates with some of the rarest cacao beans on the planet. My goal is to make Hawai’i a destination for chocolate lovers and share our special terroir with the world. Make sure to pop on over to my social media pages as well as my website to join my mailing list so you can get the sweet scoop on exclusive offers, recipes and invite-only events. Cheers to an amazing 2019! Aloha!

Links:
Barefoot Chocolatini Website
Instagram: @barefootchocolatini

That’s a wrap for 2018! Thank you all #womeninchocolate everywhere!