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Chocolate tasting a hit at The Community House

By Staff | Nov 4, 2015

Once Upon A Bean Chocolatier and Owner Tracy Peck sets up a display of her artisan chocolates at The Community House. MEGHAN McCOY

More than 60 attendees were treated to a variety of Single Origin, Fair Trade Venezuelan Cacao chocolates during the monthly potluck at The Community House.

“I thought it was the greatest. It’s the king of the cacao,” Once Upon A Bean Chocolatier and Owner Tracy Peck said of Venezuelan Cacao.

She brought samples of 34 percent cacao white chocolate, 41 percent cacao milk chocolate, 58.5 percent dark cacao chocolate, 61 percent dark cacao chocolate, 73.5 percent dark cacao chocolate and cacao nibs for a special tasting last week. The dark chocolates, she said are not bitter because it is low in acidity.

“The higher the cacao number, the less sugar that is involved and the healthier it is for you,” Peck said. “The FDA only requires that 14 percent cacao is present. That is less than my white chocolate.”

Before the tasting began, Peck, who has a booth at the weekly Sanibel Farmers Market, explained the process of harvesting a cacao bean and turning it into chocolate. The cacao bean grows in a cauliflower effect from the trunk of the tree, which grows to be about 25 feet tall. The tree does not start producing the cacao beans until year five and only produces for 25 years.

“The largest producer has been the Ivory Coast,” Peck said of the cacao beans.

The bean is harvested in November and July. Once harvested it is fermented for three days before drying in the sun for a week. The beans are then roasted before it goes through the chocolate process.

Peck said after a chocolate makers roasts the cacao it is grounded down into nibs before being turned into a cacao liquor. She said cacao butter is added to the chocolate to create a nice smooth surface, which stays on the palette for longer periods of time.

Two or three cacao pods are used to make one little chocolate bar.

The attendees were instructed on how to do a proper chocolate tasting, complete with a chart of the variety her business offers.

“Chocolate is very similar to the wine tasting,” Peck said. “The first thing you are going to do is look at it. Is it free of any blemishes? Does it have air bubbles? Does it have any streaks in it? Is it shiny?”

The attendees recorded what they saw before they were given the next step in the tasting process.

“Once recorded what you saw, you want to smell it. What aroma do you get from it? Are you noticing hints of caramel, fruit? Is it smokey, musky,” Peck asked the crowd.

She said if the chocolate is rubbed between the thumb and finger the smell will be enhanced due to the butter being brought up to the surface.

Individuals were instructed not to chew the chocolate, but rather put it in their mouth, letting it come up to body temperature. She said once the chocolate starts to melt, they should move their tongue below the chocolate.

“You want to taste and breathe out through your nose and see whether or not the smell differs from what you are tasting,” Peck said.

The chocolatier moved to Naples five years ago from Los Angeles. She began dabbling with Belgium chocolate for the holidays while living in Vancouver. It was not until she was introduced to Venezuelan cacao that she became serious about being an artisan chocolatier.

“I can do a maximum of 17 pounds, but to control the flavors, I like to do small batches,” she said.

For more information about Once Upon A Bean, visit www.onceuponabean.com, or call (239) 206-3092.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.