Check out the photo album from the weekend. [ Note: I am working on a new approach to blogging, which is to put all the photos in an album and to write detailed notes for each photo. Blog entries cover topics not shown in the photos. ]
Featuring well over 50 exhibitors this year from all over the world and representing a wide variety of styles of chocolate and confectionery, Chocolate Unwrapped is the ultimate event on the Chocolate Week calendar each year.
Chocolate Week itself this year comprised over 350 different events that took place all over the UK, making it the most extensive and inclusive chocolate festival in the world. Rather than focusing on getting a small number of exhibitors into a hall and charging people for the privilege of tasting, Chocolate Week showcases the variety of work being done in chocolate in the UK - in their places of business - making it unique among chocolate festivals.
In addition to featuring over 50 exhibitors, there are both demo and tasting programs, and I was in London not only to speak to the Academy of Chocolate on Friday but to give a presentation in the tasting room on Sunday.
Admission to Chocolate Unwrapped is a modest £10 with a widely available discount coupon, ensuring a steady stream of visitors that - fortunately - did not at any time feel overwhelming. The location, the new home of the London Film Museum, is right around the corner from Covent Garden and a short walk from the Savoy Hotel.
One of the things that impressed me about Chocolate Unwrapped - which has matured immensely from it's start in 2008 - is its diversity an inclusiveness. There are chocolatiers and chocolate makers from all over Europe and beyond not just the UK and they range from established mainstream companies (both national and international) to small startups. This year included a trio of companies from Italy, one from Spain, two from the Caribbean, one from Denmark, one from Nigeria, one from Madagascar, and even one from the US and the speaker roster in the demo and tasting program is also diverse.
What's also amazing is the quality brands that are attracted with stand that are not just managed by sales staff but by the chocolatiers and confectioners themselves. So not only is there the opportunity to sample and purchase chocolate, but also to talk directly to the people who make what you're tasting, gaining some pretty deep insight into the passion that drives them to do what they do.
I have said before that I think London has the most dynamic chocolate scene on the planet: it certainly overshadows anything New York has to offer. I was impressed with what I saw at the NW Chocolate Festival and I think that the show might grow to rival Chocolate Unwrapped eventually, especially because of its focus on putting together an extensive and very high-quality educational program. But Seattle does not have easy access to the broad spectrum of producers that London has.
I think, in part, that Chocolate Week has played an important part of this perception of the London chocolate scene, along with the commitment of some key companies and people, which include members of the Academy of Chocolate.
I definitely enjoyed my four days here in London and the two days at Chocolate Unwrapped, and on one hand I will be sad to leave in the morning, though I am very much looking forward to traveling to Amsterdam tomorrow - my first time there - and participating in the Origin Chocolate conference on Tuesday and Wednesday. Many of the people I spent time with here in London will be in Amsterdam (and at least three of them were in Seattle, too!), and I am looking forward to meeting in person people I have known of for some time but have never met in person.
My next blog entry will be from Amsterdam. My luggage is getting heavier, not lighter, each day. I now have about 2.5 kilos more chocolate than I started out my trip with.