One of our product photographers recently had the pleasure of joining Craig and Sophie from Grounded Pleasures for an afternoon of hot chocolate tasting. She also learned about the process for chocolate production from growing and harvesting the cocoa, through to the process of blending and producing the flavours that Grounded Pleasures have in their range.
The event was held at a cafe local to Grounded Pleasures, Kittelty's at the Gallery in Ballarat. Those who came along were all passionate in their own ways about food, so it was great to hear the diverse questions put to Craig about everything from the nutritional properties of cocoa through to how the harvesting of the beans impacts the community that is growing them.
Craig talked about the complexity of chocolate and how it is the most complex thing a human can taste, with over 700 elements impacting the tasting experience. To understand this, we then at a fermented cocoa bean, which tasted like having a shot of alcohol. It was potent, but also there was this complex mix of fruitiness, bitterness, nuttiness and more. Craig discussed all the flavours with us to help us pay attention to what we were tasting. He also pointed out that red wine and coffee, while also being complex things to taste, only have 400 components that make up the tasting experience.
Craig also discussed the origins of coffee, which can mostly be traced back to a single origin, versus cocoa, which has 27 different varieties and counting. He emphasised that most encyclopaedias only recognised about 3 varieties of cocoa, but that the plant is so reactive that even more species are a given.
Once the beans are fermented, they are then roasted and crushed. This is where Grounded Pleasures have a significant different to most host chocolates and cocoas. In the crushing process, they ensure that 25% of the cocoa butter is retained. Not only is this the most you can retain while keeping the cocoa as a powder, it is higher than the 8-12% average for most standard shelf bought cocoa products. Cocoa butter is a critical element of the cocoa and maintaining as much as possible keeps the integrity of the complex flavours. One of the participants pointed out that she sells brownies at her business and when she ran out of Grounded Pleasures cocoa and used a different brand, the taste was very different. She thought the high cocoa butter content would be the reason for this.
Craig is a big fan of chocolate orange so this flavour blend was one of the first they produced. Just like their French Mint flavour, it took them quite a lot of time to match the flavour to their beans, tasting many, many options before settling on a blend that they thought enhanced the taste of the cocoa. This passion is also evident in every single one of their blends. One particular victory is their white hot chocolate. Because white chocolate is made from cocoa butter, this was a really complex challenge for them, but the work paid off: they now are the only Australian producers of a white hot chocolate mix.
Sara from Kittelty's brought out a chocolate cake made with the cocoa as well as a taste of chilli chocolate ice cream. This one was spectacular, as the chilli heat wasn't overwhelming and followed after the taste of the chocolate, making the whole flavour experience last even longer.
We've just added more to our range of Grounded Pleasures chocolate. Try introducing some of their fine ingredients to your pantry.