Friday, September 28, 2012

Northwest Chocolate Festival Awards

This evening I attended the opening event for the Northwest Chocolate Festival, which officially begins tomorrow. I met with several of the chocolate makers and chocolatiers, mingled with others of the chocolate world, saw a preview of some of the classes, and tasted a few samples.

Prior to NWCF, six judges did a blind tasting of many bars that were sent in advance for judging. Judged awards were given in two categories: Single Origin and Inclusions.

In the judged Single Origin category, the winners were:

In the judged Inclusions (flavored chocolate) category, the winners were:
  • GOLD: Lillie Belle Farms The Most Awesome Chocolate Bar Ever
  • SILVER: Madre Triple Cacao
  • BRONZE: Madécasse Arabica Coffee

They also gave out non-judged Founder's Choice awards, including:

You can still buy tickets at the door for this weekend ($30 per day) on the third floor of the Conference Center at the Washington State Convention Center.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Review: Fresco 211 Ghana

Richard's Rating: 6.0
chocolate makerFresco
cacao trees(unknown)
size40g ~ 1.4oz
cocoa solids73%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetenercane sugar
other ingredients(none)
list priceN/A
colormedium-dark brown
PANTONE 19-1317
Bitter Chocolate
texturelined, scoring, bubbles
aromaroast (tobacco), earth, fruit (prune), sweet (molasses), spice
snapmedium hard
tasteearth, roast (cocoa), wood, fruit, sweet, hint of sour, hint of nut
finishsomewhat bitter, slightly sour
United States chocolate maker Fresco numbers each of their chocolate bar formulations sequentially, and are presently making 209 through 218. The packaging for each of these single origin bars reveals not only ingredients and cocoa solids percentage, but also the general roasting and conching strategy that was used. All chocolate is made in a nut-free facility.

Recipe 211 contained 73% cocoa solids (cacao beans from Ghana and added cocoa butter) plus 27% cane sugar. The chocolate was made using a medium roast and a medium conche.

Fresco's bar are small, only 40 grams. They are scored into 10 pieces, with each alternating piece lined either horizontally or vertically. 211 came wrapped in silver foil-sided wax paper inside a paper box. The production date was December 19, 2011 (one of the 570 bars of batch #11-028). The best before date was January 2014.

The color of 211 was a medium-dark brown Bitter Chocolate (PANTONE 19-1317). The bar had small bubbles in one or two corners of most pieces, but otherwise looked great. It had a medium-hard snap.

211's aroma contained roast, earth, fruit, sweetness, and some spice. The roast was that of tobacco. The fruit scent seemed to be mostly prune. The sweetness smelled of molasses.

The chocolate initially tasted earthy, with a cocoa roast. As it melted, I experienced wood, fruit, and a hint of nut. Sweetness and a hint of sour were also present.

The melt was smooth. The length made it just into medium, with the chocolate flavor lasting about 20 seconds after the chocolate was gone. The finish was somewhat bitter, with a slight sourness.

You can purchase Fresco 211 online for $7.00 in the U.S. from Chocolopolis or Cocova.

Monday, September 24, 2012

International Chocolate Awards 2012 Semi-Finalists

The International Chocolate Awards have national and regional semi-final competitions throughout the year, followed by a grand final this year in London in October. The results of the last of those competitions have been published, and here are all of the winners in the unflavored dark chocolate bar category (along with cacao origin).

Americas (full results)
GOLD: Pacari 70% Piura-Quemazon (Peru)
SILVER: Amano Cuyaga 70% (Venezuela)
SILVER: Franceschi Canoabo (Venezuela)
SILVER: Fresco 212 (Dominican Republic)
SILVER: Pacari 70% Nube (Ecuador)
SILVER: Pacari Raw 70% (Ecuador)
ECUADOR NATIONAL GOLD: Pacari 70% Nube (Ecuador)
UNITED STATES NATIONAL GOLD: Amano Cuyaga 70% (Venezuela)
WORLD FINALIST: Amano Chuao 70% (Venezuela)
WORLD FINALIST: Amano Ocumare 70% (Venezuela)
WORLD FINALIST: Amma 60% (Brazil)
WORLD FINALIST: Franceschi Sur Del Lago (Venezuela)

Europe (full results)
GOLD: Michel Cluizel Los Anconès (Santo Domingo)
SILVER: Bonnat Porcelana (Venezuela)
SILVER: Domori Guasare (Venezuela)
SILVER: Original Beans Beni Wild Harvest 66% (Bolivia)
FRANCE GOLD: Michel Cluizel Los Anconès (Santo Domingo)
ITALY GOLD: Domori Guasare (Venezuela)
SWITZERLAND GOLD: Idilio No. 2 Selección Amiari Merideña (Venezuela)
WORLD FINALIST: Domori Apurimac (Peru)
WORLD FINALIST: Menakao 72% (Madagascar)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Giveaway: FREE tickets to Northwest Chocolate Festival

The Northwest Chocolate Festival generously provided us with two tickets to give away to this year's event. The two free passes are for Sunday, September 30th, and allow you to experience a full day of the 2012 Northwest Chocolate Festival being held at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. For more information about the event, please see my posting about it or the event website.

To enter this giveaway, just send us an email at with "NWCF Tickets" as the subject line and in the text of the message include your full name.

Entry email must be received by midnight PT, Tuesday, September 25, 2012. One entry per person. Winner will be selected at random. Tickets are valid for admission to the 2012 Northwest Chocolate Festival on Sunday, September 30th. The winner will be able to pick up their tickets at Will Call with photo identification.

Good luck!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Event: Northwest Chocolate Festival September 29-30 in Seattle

The Northwest Chocolate Festival (NWCF) will be held in Seattle from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day during the weekend of September 29th and 30th at the Washington State Convention Center (800 Convention Place, Seattle, WA 98101). The theme of the weekend is Taste, Learn, and Celebrate.

Tasting includes not only an amazing selection of chocolate (from at least 14 chocolate makers, including: Amano, Caribeans, Dandelion, Dick Taylor, Fresco, Grenada, Kallari, Lillie Belle Farms, Madécasse, Madre, Olive and Sinclair, Stirs the Soul, Taza, Theo), but also chocolate desserts and even drink pairings.

Learning includes a huge variety of more than 60 classes to choose from about single origin chocolate, crafting chocolate, farming cacao, trade equity, evaluating chocolate, tempering chocolate, pairing chocolate, health benefits, chocolate foods, etc.

For an additional $10 and attending classes, NWCF is offering their Chocolate Academy "Masters in Chocolate Level 1" certificate, which also includes Chocolate Academy membership. Membership benefits include a quarterly newsletter, discounts on tickets to future festivals, and invitations to special chocolate events at partner businesses.

You can read more about the entire weekend on their website: and the class schedule.

In addition to these activities open to everyone, VIP tickets are being sold that include full weekend passes, an exclusive "Meet the Maker" opening night reception, additional pre-festival VIP tasting events in Seattle, a complimentary tasting flight in the Beer and Wine Garden during the festival, Chocolate Academy certificate described above, and more.

You can purchase any of the following tickets in advance and pick up your non-transferable ticket at Will Call with photo identification:
  • $53.95+tax full weekend pass [$60 at the door]
  • $27.40+tax one day pass (age 13+) [$30 at the door]
  • $11.47+tax one day youth pass (12 and under)
  • $122.98+tax VIP full weekend pass and more
Tickets are also available in advance at a few retail locations such as Chocolopolis without the online service fees (thus, $50, $25, $10, and $115, respectively).

Prices have increased since last year, but with so many bean-to-bar chocolate makers and great classes, the fourth annual Northwest Chocolate Festival might be the best chocolate event in the U.S. this year. If you will be in the Seattle area, you do not want to miss it. Lindy and I are attending, and we hope you'll be able to get there, too!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

List: Chocolate With No Exposure To Nuts

We received email from one reader asking about chocolate bars that have absolutely no exposure to peanuts (actually a legume, not a nut) and from another about any nuts at all.

People with severe food allergies need to avoid products not only that contain them as ingredients, but even that are manufactured on equipment with environmental exposure to them. For some, even trace amounts can be dangerous.

The following chocolate makers either indicate nut-free or at least have no warning on their wrappers about any potential presence of nuts. I tried to contact and confirm the complete absence of nuts with each of them, and discovered some additional info about potential tree nut exposure. I didn't hear back from Bonnat.

In addition to the list below, Potomac has one grinder that was formerly used with peanut butter. The grinder has since been thoroughly cleaned many times and is now used only occasionally for small batches. Due to that potential exposure, though, I excluded them from the list.

Remember to always carefully review all labeling before purchasing any chocolate, as previously safe chocolate may no longer be so.

Makers With Chocolate Bars Not Exposed To Nuts

Please see our permanent Chocolate Lists page (link at upper right) for current information.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sale: 25% off Gnosis Chocolate in September

Gnosis is running a 25% off promotion that is valid on everything they sell through the end of September. They have many raw chocolate products in addition to the two unflavored dark chocolate bars we've reviewed (Dazzling Dark and Simplicity). Here's their full online store.

Use coupon code SEPT-25 at checkout for the discount.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Event: Northwest Chocolate Festival on SALE

Living Social has a terrific deal on now for a one day pass to the 2012 Northwest Chocolate Festival on September 29 and 30. I haven't yet written a posting about this year's event, but here's my posting about the 2011 event and you can read about this year on the Northwest Chocolate Festival website.

You can purchase a one-day pass for either Saturday or Sunday for only $15 (vs. $25 at Chocolopolis, $28.77 online, or $30 at the door). NWCF is my favorite chocolate event of the year, and this offer is likely the best price you'll find to this year's event. Groupon had a similar deal a few weeks ago. The deal is scheduled to run for two days, but may sell out before then. Here's a direct link.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Review: El Ceibo Heritage 75%

Richard's Rating: 8.0
chocolate makerEl Ceibo
barHeritage 75%
cacao trees(unknown)
size80g ~ 2.8oz
cocoa solids75%
added fatcocoa butter
emulsifiersoy lecithin
other ingredients(none)
list priceN/A
colormedium-dark brown
PANTONE 19-1012
Dark Brown
texturesmooth, scoring, text imprint, uneven sheen, bubbles
aromaspice, earth, roast (coffee, smoke), sweet (molasses), fruit
snapmedium hard
tasteearth, fruit (plum, apricot, pear), spice, sweet (honey, molasses), nut (almond), wine, roast
meltmore smooth
finishslightly tannin, slightly bitter
El Ceibo is a local cooperative of 1200 cacao farmers that both grows and makes chocolate in Bolivia. Their tree to bar Heritage chocolate comes from wild cacao growing in the Covendo region of Alto Beni and is crafted into bars in their factory in La Paz.

Heritage 75% was made in collaboration with Chloé Chocolat. The ingredients were organic cocoa mass, sugar, organic cocoa butter, and soy lecithin.

The 80 gram bar was scored into one large central piece imprinted with "EL CEIBO" and twelve smaller pieces. It came sealed in silver plastic inside a paper box. The best before date was 26 July 2013.

The color of the chocolate was a medium-dark brown Dark Brown (PANTONE 19-1012). The bar had a smooth surface, but had an uneven sheet and some bubbles. The snap was medium hard.

Heritage had an aroma of spice, earth, roast, sweetness, and fruit. The roast was coffee and smoke. The sweetness smelled of molasses. I had trouble identifying the fruit scent, which I thought might contain olive.

I tasted many flavors in this chocolate: earth, fruit, spice, sweetness, nut, wine, and roast. The fruit included plum, apricot, and pear. The sweetness tasted of both honey and molasses. The nutty flavor seemed to be primarily almond.

The melt was more smooth. The chocolate flavor lasted about 25 to 30 seconds after the chocolate was gone, giving it a medium length. The final aftertaste was slightly tannin and slightly bitter.

El Ceibo Heritage 75% is currently sold out at El Ceibo Chocolate. However, you can purchase this chocolate online for $4.99 in the U.S. from Caputo's Deli. This price is a bargain, as Heritage 75% typically sells for $8 or more elsewhere. In France, you can purchase it for €5.5 from Chloé Chocolat.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Second Anniversary!

Today is the second anniversary of One Golden Ticket. Over the past two years, we tasted chocolate from 54 chocolate makers and posted reviews of 196 chocolate bars.

For the most part, this blog was meant to be a personal record of my tasting notes of chocolate bars as I tried them. Few people read it during the first year, probably only some curious friends. We had only 426 page views during that first month two years ago. Word has spread a little since then, with a recent month of 26,836 views. I hope this site has become a useful reference for others passionate about chocolate.

At the same time, I must admit to growing a bit tired of writing this blog. While I anticipate continuing to do so for the time being, I suspect the frequency of my postings will decline.

I recently had an email interview with Brady Brelinsky of Flavors of Cacao about chocolate and reviewing chocolate. One aspect I described was the evaluation process we use at One Golden Ticket to review a chocolate bar. You should be able to read the whole interview on his website in October. Here's an excerpt:

"We photograph the wrapper ahead of time. At our initial evaluation session, we begin by photographing the chocolate bar. After examining the appearance, texture, and snap, we then make two or three passes and take notes on the aroma, taste, melt, length, and finish in that first session. We might taste multiple bars in an initial evaluation session, using bread and water to clear our palates between passes and bars. To help ensure consistent data by hopefully eliminating situational effects (for example, anything we might have eaten recently), I evaluate the chocolate again on at least one other occasion before posting our results. I like to do that session in the morning a few hours after brushing my teeth without toothpaste and not having consumed anything other than water. At some point, we edit the photos, cropping and adjusting the color to make them as close as we can to actual wrapper and bar appearance (Lindy is much better at this than I am, so the good photos are usually hers). While writing the review for the blog, I make a final pass with the chocolate to confirm our earlier results. Finally, I search the web to find the lowest prices for purchasing that chocolate bar online, and include links to those for each shipping area (typically one for North America and one for Europe). Overall, it probably takes about 3 to 4 hours for each review."

Friday, September 7, 2012

List: Chocolate Makers Not Using Lecithin

This is the second posting answering e-mail from our readers trying to find chocolate that meets certain criteria: in this case, chocolate that does not contain any lecithin.

Remember to always check the ingredients before purchasing, as chocolate makers occasionally change them: a chocolate bar without lecithin today may have it in future. For example, Lindt recently changed the recipe for Excellence 70% and it now includes lecithin.

Chocolate Makers Not Using Lecithin

Please see our permanent Chocolate Lists page (link at upper right) for current information.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

List: Chocolate Bars Without Cane Sugar

Several people have e-mailed us with requests for finding chocolate that is made on equipment without any exposure to nuts, lower glycemic chocolate that is sweetened with something other than sugar, chocolate without lecithin, and other criteria. I've answered those questions individually, but now I'll begin posting and maintaining such information on the site as well.

This posting is the first of them, listing chocolate bars that are made either without a sweetener or with a sweetener that is something other than cane sugar.

Chocolate Bars Without Cane Sugar (sweetener)

Please see our permanent Chocolate Lists page (link at upper right) for current information.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Review: Bonnat Équateur

Richard's Rating: 7.0
chocolate makerBonnat
cacao trees(unknown)
size100g ~ 3.5oz
cocoa solids75%
added fatcocoa butter
other ingredients(none)
list priceN/A
colormedium-dark brown
PANTONE 19-1012
Dark Brown
texturesmooth, scoring, text imprint, slight scuffing, slightly uneven sheen, tiny bubbles
aromaroast (tea, cocoa), earth, floral, sweet (honey), fruit (fig)
tasteearth, roast (tea), sweet (caramel, honey), fruit (berry, fig), tannin
finishsomewhat tannin, slightly sour
French chocolate maker Bonnat makes single origin Équateur with cacao from Ecuador. The ingredients and proportions are Bonnat's typical ones: 75% cocoa solids (cacao beans plus added cocoa butter) and 25% sugar.

The big 100 gram bar was scored into 32 small pieces around a central block with the "BONNAT Voiron" imprint. It came wrapped in foil-sided wax paper inside a paper sleeve. The best before date was August 2013 (Lot A).

Équateur had a medium-dark brown Dark Brown (PANTONE 19-1012) color. The surface of the bar was smooth with slight scuffing and a slightly uneven sheen. There were some tiny bubbles present. Unfortunately, it arrived broken (along the second vertical scoring line, as seen in the photo above). The bar had a hard snap.

The aroma consisted of roast, earth, floral, sweet and fruit scents. The roast was a combination of tea and cocoa. The sweetness smelled of honey. The fruit seemed to be a dried fruit, most like that of fig.

The chocolate tasted of earth, a tea roast, sweetness and fruit. The fruit flavors included berry and fig. I tasted both caramel and honey in the sweetness. There was some tannin present as well.

The melt was smooth. The chocolate flavor lasted about 15 to 20 seconds after the chocolate was gone, giving Équateur a short length. The finish was somewhat tannin and slightly sour.

You can purchase Bonnat Équateur online for $8.45 in the U.S. from Chocosphere or for £4.95 in the U.K. from either Chocolate Trading Co. or Mortimer & Bennett.