The Chocolate Life

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For a chocolate connoisseur or an aspiring one, I think a study of the styles of individual chocolate companies is very useful. A few years ago, a website called The Nibble, provided a tour by Peter Rot, called 'The World's Great Gourmet Chocolate Producers'. It was a comparison of how each differed in style. I was very impressed with this 2 part tour (written in 2005 and 2006).

I'm hoping Chocolate Life members would like to create a database of the styles or characteristics of bean to bar chocolate producers. A similar database would be useful for those who produce bon bons and truffles but I'd prefer to keep the database's in separate discussions.

I'll start with a couple that I have on my list as an example of what I have in mind. Any corrections to my listings are welcome as well as improvements in how to document the styles.

Bonnat
Country: France
Ingredients: no lecithin, no vanilla, extra cocoa butter
Roast: dark
Conching time:
Fermentation:
Misc:

Domori
Country: Italy
Ingredients: no lecithin, no vanilla
Roast: dark
Conching time: short
Fermentation:
Misc:

Guittard
Country: USA
Ingredients: less cocoa butter
Roast:
Conching time: short
Fermentation:
Misc:

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Brady:

I ran across the following piece of software that looks like it might be a perfect way to implement this. Please take a look at the following screencast to see if it looks like that to you.

http://openrecord.org/screencast.html

If you think it might work, I will do what I can to download it and install it as a sub-domain of TheChocolateLife.com (e.g., chocolatemakers.thechocolatelife.com AND chocolatiers.thechocolatelife.com) and we can figure out how to structure the content before making it available to everyone.

:: Clay
Clay:

I viewed the openrecord demo. I trust your judgement on this since I'm not familiar with other software. I think it would work and seems simple enough to use for everyone. It's not all that attractive but I think it would do well to serve the main purpose of organizing data and possibly linking it to other databases (such as Sera's Chocolate Slotting Mapping). I have a feeling the dead space will be filled with google ads. I find that distracting. And on a page that is all white and set up more like a spreadsheet, it might even be uninviting enough that people wouldn't participate. Just a thought. I realize it's free software. With The Chocolate Life site itself, you have color, photos and a background. Would this be implemented to make it more appealing for use and would you still feel like you are working within The Chocolate Life site? I hope I'm not out weighing visual appearance over functionality. Also, how much can people overwrite and change the original format? Can the database essentially be hijacked and transformed into something different than the original database? A couple of functions I'd ideally like to see, but not sure if it's worth the effort at this point. 1. A "search" feature. 2. A forum attached or linked so that people could make requests and discuss content.

Brady
Brady:

All of these are very good concerns. I do not plan to implement OpenRecord exactly as it is; in fact I probably won't use the software at all. What I will do is use it as a template to create something that does what we need it to do. For example, I would want the software to integrate with the NingID sign-on, so that you would not have to use another password and I could give interested ChocolateLife members administrative privileges to that application.

I also want to make it prettier to look at (make it seem to be like a natural part of TheChocolateLife and not something completely alien) and I have no intention of putting Google ads anywhere. (In fact, I plan to remove the Google ads from this site when it starts generating revenue through book and chocolate sales.)

Search is high on my list as is a "suggestion" facility. A forum could easily be created by creating another "page" within the application (like the "suggestions" in the demo for the book club only a little more sophisticated.

In fact, if I could figure out a way to import all of the content from this site, I could probably do a complete social network using a tool like this with the correct pages and plug-ins.

:: Clay
Here's the link to the first page of the series of articles on house chocolate styles Brady refers to.
Has anyone ever invited Hans-Peter Rot to join TCL? I enjoy his reviews on seventypercent.com
This is a good start, but the most important item I'd like to see would be descriptions of "Characteristic taste".

"Characterisitc style" would also be good to have. It could be a bit more comprehensive and could include items such as appearance of the squares, texture, mouthfeel, artistry of packaging, cost...

When the field names are finalized I'll add this to my own Chocolate database and keep track of the info, as I have time.

So here are the current fields I've got. (The names can be changed if there are better terms.)
Company
Country:
Ingredients:
Roast:
Conching time:
Fermentation:
Characteristic taste:
Characteristic style:
Misc:
Scharffen Berger

All of the 7 Scharffen Berger bars that I've tasted have had a very distinctive dominant taste. but I'm such a novice that I don't know how to describe it. The best I can do is "red wine" or "red fruit" like raspberry or red grape. How would you describe this taste?
Amedei

All 8 of the Amedei's that I've tasted also have a distinctive characteristic. They've become my favorite maker. How would you describe their common traits?

As a neophyte I feel like I can only dance around it but not nail it. I'd call it something like malt, hay, caramel. There's even something that I can only compare to the aftertaste of Twizzler's black licorice. (Is it OK to compare such a majestic chocolate to something as plebeian as Twizzler's?)
Brady on Amedei

As far as the Amedei characteristic, alot of people describe it as raisin and or licorice (which is probably your Twizzler taste). I always describe it is as wine or mild rum. That's just what I get everytime, but I would assume what I call the wine/rum notes is the raisin everyone else gets. Other people describe their characteristic trait as dried fruits/figs.
Theo Broma

To add to your latest list of categories I have two more: aging (a rarely mentioned process that several makers do) and equipment. As far as equipment, I'm wondering if we'd find any connection between companies who for example, all use the Universal.

Company:
Country:
Ingredients:
Roast:
Conching time:
Fermentation:
Aging:
Equipment:
Characteristic taste:
Characteristic style:
Misc:

We could place each entry individually with each post, just the way I started the discussion or we could make a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet would be easier but most people wouldn't open it. If we entered everything manually we could copy and paste things to a single list when we think we're done. I have information on several companies in my notes already but may not get time to start entering in the discussion for a few days.

Brady
Since it's relevant to this discussion I'll put the info for the article "Five Facets of Fine Chocolate" here too. All 5 facets contribute to the maker's trademark flavor and style.

And here's the star illustration of the 5 points too.

While I have to applaud the FCIA for what they are attempting to do, one reason I don't heartily endorse the organization (I am not a member and am not interested in the politics of organization) is that they consistently get basic facts either mixed up or totally wrong.

The star above is just another example of getting things mixed up: it confuses chocolate makers (people and companies who make chocolate from beans) with what the French refer to as fondeurs - people or companies that buy chocolate from chocolate makers and then melt and mold that chocolate into bars and/or turn it into confections (truffles, bon bons, etc.).

So I don't agree that the facets as presented are relevant to the discussion and contribute anything meaningful to a chocolate maker's trademark flavor and style unless we agree that:

a) We are only talking about chocolate makers; and
b) We agree that artistry and presentation do not contribute to the taste of a chocolate.

For a chocolate maker, I contend that issues such as proper tempering and molding techniques fall under the Technical Expertise point and - if we're getting really technical (and we're just talking about chocolate makers) - Technical Expertise and Production Practices can be considered to be one and the same.

For chocolate manufacturers we might consider reconfiguring the star thusly:

1) Cacao Origin
2) Post-Harvest Processing (which is usually beyond their control)
3) Roasting Expertise
4) Technical Understanding of, and Control over, Production Processes
5) Non-Chocolate Ingredient Quality

Just my $.02
:: Clay

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