Recently, we were invited to attend a Chocolate Tasting hosted by Cocoa Runners at Prufrock Coffee in London. Before we get into the chocolates, let me first give you a background on who the Cocoa Runners is!
So Cocoa Runners is basically a club started by and for chocolate lovers and enthusiasts. They find craft chocolate made by chocolate makers who source out premium chocolate beans directly from small farmers from different parts of the world who value high quality, transparency, value and ethical practices. These makers usually manufacture their bars of chocolate in small batches, to maintain the high standards from creation to delivery to purchase.
With the Cocoa Runners Clubs, chocolate lovers are invited to join in and subscribe and receive a curated box of chocolates every month. This way, you can slowly discover your preferred chocolate, while also learn about different makers, processes, practices and cocoa beans.
The monthly subscription for a Cocoa Runners box is only £18.95 and Cocoa Runners promise that the 4 chocolates that they send over per month are valued at much higher than the cost of the service!
Photo by Samad | The brochure with the list of chocolates we tried that night!
So, upon entering Prufrock Coffee, we were handed a glass of red wine to enjoy with our chocolates, along with a small brochure with information on all the chocolates we tried that night.
The one thing I absolutely enjoy about food is learning about how it's made, where it comes from, the people behind it and basically anything and everything about it! An educational experience is always great and allows you to be mindful of what you consume. As the saying goes, "you are what you eat".
The night was clearly dedicated to expanding our minds towards chocolate. Cocoa Runners educated us on how to properly taste chocolates, identify flavour notes -- very similar to wine or coffee tasting actually, differentiate between high quality chocolate and cheap ones, identify flavour preferences, as well as the general state of chocolate productions and its impacts on the world.
Photo by Samad | Introduction to Cocoa Runners
Photo by Samad | Our chocolate table!
So, how do you differentiate between bad quality chocolate and good quality chocolate? Simple. Look at the ingredients list. If it has anything MORE than cocoa, cocoa butter, sugar and/or milk like artificial flavourings, emulsifiers, preservatives and anything fake looking, then it's probably bad quality.
Tip: if the list of ingredients takes up the whole part of the back of the wrapping, then it's probably horrible chocolate.
Photo by Samad | These are cocoa nibs by Menakao. They're 100% cocoa and they still had the skin of the cocoa wrapped around it. This was hella bitter! I personally didn't like it but for all you people who love bitter chocolate, this one's for you.
Photo by Samad | The chocolate shaped like a cube right in the centre of the photo is a unique one! It's one by Taza and it's called the Mexicano Cinnamon and yeah, you guessed it. There's cinnamon in it! It was a very strange chocolate because the texture was very sandy and coarse, however the chocolate was very sweet and fruity! It's made up of 55% cocoa and the beans are from the Domenican Republic, while the maker is from America.
Photo by Samad | Explaining flavour profiles based on the origins of the cocoa beans
I'm extremely happy that I got to experience this chocolate tasting because firstly, I figured out what type of chocolate I prefer -- apparently I lean towards Carribean chocolates and during that night, I fell in love with the Blanxart bar which had beans from the Domenican Republic containing 72% of cocoa and was made by a chocolate maker in Spain. The only way I can describe the flavour is that it's very rich, dense, creamy and reminds me of tradition Italian chocolate. Everyone described it as "very chocolate-y" and hell yeah it is!
Secondly, we learned about the process behind the production of chocolate. It's always nice to know how things are produced and how much labour goes into making a 100g bar of sinfully delicious chocolate. It makes you appreciate the efforts and thoughts behind the creation of it.
And thirdly, we learned about how mass production of low quality chocolates, like the crappy ones you can find in grocery stores, can impact the environment and the standards of lives of the people who source the chocolate beans.
In the country of Congo, 80% of the jungles there have been deforested because of the farming of cocoa beans; this is the fault of multi-billion dollar companies. Not only that, these cocoa beans are also frequently being farmed by child slave labourers!
Think about this when you purchase your next bar of chocolate! Read more about it here.
Photo by Samad | This is my favourite chocolate from the tasting; a Blanxart bar, 72% cocoa from the Domenican Republic and made in Spain. Try it!
So, I would like to thank Cocoa Runner for the knowledge, the opportunity to try different chocolates by ethical makers, and for expanding our mind about the chocolate industry. Please, when buying chocolate, or any food product for that matter, take to consideration the origins, production and labour behind it, because that'll really help you make the right decision as a consumer and not just that, it's also generally a healthier and more ethical way of living!
If you see Cocoa Runners hosting an event in London, I'd highly recommend you to attend it because I thought it was great! If you're a interested in joining the club, you can subscribe via their website for only £18.95 a month!