Cococlectic's Chocolate Tasting & Whiskey Pairing Class @ Square HQ
The Square Chocolate group partnered with Cococlectic to provide a complimentary whiskey and chocolate pairing experience to folks at the Square office. Cococlectic is a company dedicated to helping new American bean-to-bar chocolate makers get the word out about their chocolate by providing a monthly chocolate subscription. In addition to that, they provide several other services such as guided tastings and other classes that can be found in their site.
For our tasting, we paired Bulleit Bourbon, Bulleit Rye, and 7 Stills Fluxuate with eight mystery chocolates!
Doreen and Brent are currently attending culinary school and run Cococlectic.
Brent loves savory foods, so chocolate is a somewhat odd choice, but he loves pursuing passion, and there’s a lot of passion behind chocolate! He used to work in administration for a culinary school when he decided to switch to the other end of the table and pursue a culinary career himself. Given his administration background, he knows a lot about Food Teaching and Food Administration.
Doreen used to live in Malaysia and grew up eating chocolate only as a family event once in a while. When she moved to the US and tasted craft chocolate, she was stunned at the flavor. Cococlectic started because she would mail chocolates back to her sister from the US. As people caught wind, they asked her if she could mail chocolates to them too, and thus, a company was born. Doreen cares a lot about the conditions for chocolate farmers around the world, and loves that craft chocolate makers care as well. Her passion comes from promoting makers that promote safe and healthy farming practices with good socioeconomics.
Notes (conversations among the group)
Chocolate 1: Ethereal Confections 80% Belize
The coffee from 7 Stills clashed in conflict with the fruity notes of the chocolate.
Oh? I thought that was the only one where the 7 Stills improved it, for everything else, I thought it overshadowed the chocolate.
Did you get spicy?
Yes, spicy and bitter!
I started taking some medication that made me lose my sense of taste, but recently it’s been coming back, this is great!
Chocolate 2: Ethereal Confections 80% Madagascar
I was surprised it was 80% because it was very sweet and acidic.
By nature, Madagascar is sweet and acidic, it is very easy to tell them apart from other origins.
So what’s the best whiskey pairing with this bar?
It made it spicy?
I purposely put the rye because it didn’t pair with anything; rye just tastes better with water and ice (for me!). People always say the rye always threw them off.
My palate is different, but the bourbon was too sweet, for me the rye offers a balance.
The strength of all the alcohols knocked out my taste buds, I couldn’t taste anything, I guess there’s a reason why it was used as an anesthetic back in the day.
I liked what you said about breathing after eating it, eat the chocolate, then breath the whiskey, worked really well.
It’s a throwback to old fashions (the drink), where the citrus is the first thing you smell from the rind, before you even drink anything.
Chocolate 3: Ethereal Confections 80% Dominican Republic
This was amazing!
I taste cinnamon and clove, it went really well with the bourbon, but took me a while cause the taste of the chocolate was subtle.
Dominican Republic is usually earthy, so it goes well with those things.
Chocolate 4: Starchild 70% Dominican Republic
I really liked 4, it was my favorite with 7 Stills.
I loved the bourbon and 7 Stills with it. It brought out cherry flavors.
Yeah, we thought it was sweet and brought out cherry flavors.
I got butterscotch!
I actually wrote down “holy shit” next to that one!
Chocolate 5: Starchild 70% Tanzania
This is a more mellow version of #4.
It’s actually pairs really well with 7 Stills, more cardamom, coffee like.
What did people think about the bourbon with this?
Sweet, a little bitter and dry.
For the rye, it was bitter, not much complexity.
Chocolate 6: Starchild 70% Nicaragua
Really interesting alone, pungent, woody?
The chocolate itself has deep smooth flavors of chocolate cake, brownies, and nuts, with subtle fruits. It was very interesting for me. They used coconut blossom sugar too, so I wonder if that made a different flavor profile.
That paired really well with the bourbon.
That didn’t work with me, I liked it with the rye.
Is it cheating if the tasting notes describes chocolate as chocolate cake?
According to Manoj, it’s totally okay!
These notes came from five minutes with discussing with my friends >.>
It’s actually really hard to find good descriptions! Let us know if you find good ones!
Chocolate 7: Starchild 70% Guatemala
Really rich flavors, with the 7 Stills you get toffee and smokiness.
You didn’t get that?
With the rye you get caramel, molasses.
Yeah! We got that.
Chocolate 8: Sol Cacao 70% Madagascar
I didn’t like this one at all.
I thought this one tasted grassy.
I wrote down green pepper.
Green pepper, yeah!
7 Stills was my favorite pairing for this one.
Us too, did it taste like dark coffee, burnt caramel, smoky?
With the bourbon, we tasted pepper, and with the rye, smores and graham crackers.
We found that 7 Stills was the best pairing, but we’re biased.
Does 7 Stills only make one thing?
They have 4 different styles that I know of, this one is Fluxuate, a coffee porter. They use a cold brew coffee porter, and they distilled it.
I looked it up and 7 Stills is in Bayview and it’s open until 10!
Do you have a favorite dessert wine to pair with chocolates?
I can’t remember the wine maker, I’m so bad with names (En Garde - Magdalena!), I go through so many chocolates and tastings, but I have one that I really really love, the chocolate was French Broad? And it was 81% (Palo Blanco Community Chulucanas), next time we’ll do a port and chocolate tasting!
Can you tell us more about Cococlectic!
For us, the main goal is to feature local chocolate makers who don’t have a voice. These chocolate makers don’t have an outlet to promote themselves, so having this platform is great, and they can take advantage of our customer base. We love that we are able to help them spread the word of bean to bar chocolates made in America!
Do you ship internationally?
We don’t anymore. We did ship to Israel once, but because it costs too much and it’s a logistics nightmare because of temperature and weather, we don’t anymore. It’s unfair for the chocolate bars to go through that.
How do you find chocolate producers?
I look every day for new makers, we hear of them from word of mouth or they’ll even come to us directly. They’ll give us samples, and we’ll taste them. We also have specific criteria that we filter through. They can’t be big, no Dandelion or Mast Brothers, or that you can just go to the store and buy them easily. We look for smaller makers. Second criteria is that they must source ethically, and also have really good chocolate!
Our process is to the point where chocolate makers have heard of us and they send us samples. We get them all the time and we sit down and try them and compare with different bars with different origins. Having the opportunity to meet and talk to the makers is great too. It’s all about passion. For example, have you heard of Cao Chocolate from Florida, have you heard of them?
Yes we have, look at your notes!
So think about the logistical nightmare he has for heat. We just decided to take summers off for R&D ;) but at the end of the day, it’s a pain to ship chocolate with ice. When you talk about passion, this guy lives in Florida and he still makes this happen!
I have two unrelated questions! Do you have a connection to growers?
Not yet. [more explanatory answer that I failed to write down]
Since your audience is people passionate in chocolate, people who do things like chocolate cold brew at home, etc…because of that, are you interested at all in providing folks like us a way to play around and mess with chocolate?
As you get to know more chocolate makers, we learn more, and this can eventually become more possible!
If you gave me something I can put in my oven and ends with bad chocolate for $100 I would buy it.
We’ve also toyed with the idea of getting people to sponsor farms, but it’s hard to get into. We’re still in school, so this is a lot of work just as it is. We’d like to get more involved, but only as much as time allows. We are definitely looking into the working closely with a farmer and possibly pay them to grow cacao for us.
You mentioned before that you taste a lot to decide what makes it into the monthly. Do you have a large variety, or do you pick something specific?
We just do it by taste (after all the criteria’s have been met). We’ll get a bunch chocolate makers per month, and we just do it by taste, honestly. We bring different folks to offer opinions on taste on top of the usual team we have tasting for us already. For me, you can buy a regular bar in the store, so for you as a customer, I want to give you different options, bars you can only find out about through Cococlectic, to educate you about new flavors! What’s the point of shipping you a bar when you can go out and get it at the corner store?
Who here remembers the Terroir Bolivia bar? people raise hands
Next chocolate maker on our list is using the same beans, it should be interesting to see how their bar tastes in comparison!
You’ll eventually learn to taste the different origins more frequently and also notice the differences in the same origin by different makers!
I’m ignorant, and if you were me, and Manoj said, ‘here is your big chance to ask your question,’ what would you ask yourself to best reflect you.
We feel………..that this is our contribution to adding to the world. Did everyone enjoy their experience? yes, claps Then we’ve done our job.
…but that’s not a question! Is there something you guys do that you’d like people to ask about?
Really, the whys, this is fun! We all work, we all have to make coin to survive, but this is fun, and applying fun to make coin, this experience is mutual, what you guys give us for feedback allows us to give back better next time.
At the end of the day, Doreen has a huge passion for chocolate, I have a huge passion for food and taste. I’ve worked a lot in my life, so this is just fun for me and allows me to grow my palate.
Do you have any rules? Like no red wine with fish?
Never put your chocolate in the fridge! It condenses and moisture will draw the sugar out of the bar, and when you taste it it’ll be gritty and unpleasant in your mouth. Don’t do it! His mom puts it in the freezer, I was like nooooooooooooo!
Also, one thing to answer the previous question, for me, I want to be able to educate people about chocolate, as you said, you’re ignorant, you don’t know much.
I now know to not put it in the freezer!
Good! But the education piece is very important, because after taking chocolate classes, you really find out that it’s so hard to make chocolate. You gain so much more respect for the makers. I’ve grown a new appreciation for that.
So my palate sucks, all 10 tasted the same, but you know what attracts me to chocolate? It’s that it grows in the equator where people are rather screwed and you can bring it up here and sell it for a good price. Cococlectic has an awesome chance to help people’s lives! People like me who don’t know much about chocolate and whiskey get hooked by that bit!
[some talk about how awesome this is for farmers] …wait, did you have a question?
Why do you think this chocolate is not popular in Malaysia?
Vietnam has some great cocoa beans, and there’s some good chocolate that comes from there, but Malaysia doesn’t grow much. It’s not a big agriculture that people focus on much.
I’m actually working with a gentleman in Mexico. He’s working on growing strands of corn that are obsolete there (most corn is from 10 common strands). He also did mention that Mexico has a ton of cacao farms but it is not well taken care of and he thinks that there is a lot of potential there. His cousin is works with agave farmers and he tries to pay them and treat them well, because after all, agave comes from that region so why not take care of them!
We are going back to Malaysia to visit this one farm and plantation to see how it’s going. We’ll report back!
How do you determine that they’re using ethical practices?
We go there! Travel, see what they’re doing, research!
Well, technically, we let the chocolate makers go through that aspect of it, making sure that they are bean to bar, fair trade and such.
How do you vet for chocolate makers then?
Some of the chocolate makers have that relationship with the farmers who then tell us how it is. The community is really small and everyone knows everyone, so if you’re lying about something, it’ll come out.
cough Mast Brothers cough
Are you sick? Need some whiskey?
Question! Is there a monthly subscription that I can sign up for?
YES! The website is www.cococlectic.com
One more thing, what’s the temperature in Malaysia? I’ve spent a couple of months in Oaxaca, Mexico. The chocolate is so different there! A lot more sugar, stable, hard, must be a different flavor palate there, but the chocolate is extremely different still!
They put additives in it to make it more stable. That’s why in Malaysia you can’t get good chocolate because of stability and shelf life. When I went to Cuba I got to visit a chocolate maker, and you can see the chocolate melting as you walk out the shop.
Liquid chocolate is popular in Mexico, are there chocolate drink makers?
Have you heard of MILO?
YES, love MILO!
Yeah, the temperature is a big deal, we’re really lucky here. For there, they have to put it in the fridge, I feel bad for the chocolates.
What do you want to know more about in your R&D phase?
I want to be able to find out how to make the beans better and how to cultivate and sustain a specific strain. Beans as a species are dying, it’s really sad, so I want to be able to see if there’s anything we can do to change this. For us, if we can support these makers, the makers support farmers, and the farmers can support their crops, then we’re doing our part. I want to be able to see how else we can improve this cycle.
What do you mean cocoa beans are dying?
The strain; less and less cocoa pods are growing in a single tree itself. It’s a climate thing, as well as farmers finding more money in growing other crops compared to cacao, so they trade for other things such as soy beans, poppy, etc…
My selfish aspect for R&D is to travel!
We might, in the next couple of years, when there’s no more chocolate makers to feature from the US, start featuring bean to bar makers from other countries, but for now, we want to focus on local! We want to help the local chocolate makers grow.
Do you ever get jaded? “Oh, another Madagascar bar?
Doreen: I get up and eat breath chocolate! Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I’m there.
What about European chocolate makers?
We spoke with someone in Belgium who really loves the bean to bar makers, but most chocolates there, though pretty high quality, are not bean-to-bar. You are starting to see smaller chocolate makers experimenting with the process though.
What is bean to bar?
Bean to bar means the maker sources beans from farmers or distributer, and they import it in and make the chocolate bar the entire process from the bean itself to the bar you’re eating. Usually that process has less than 5 ingredients, more usually just chocolate, sugar, and maybe cocoa butter. There are makers who use soy lecithin and other additives to make it more shelf stable but we don’t feature them because we want chocolate in the rawest form possible. Some other craft makers will buy cocoa liquor from Guittard or Scharffen Berger who will then make blends to make their chocolate. That would not be bean to bar.
Is there a scale for what makes them too big to be part of Cococlectic?
We want the smaller guys who can’t make chocolate in time. We give them a 6 month lead, but if they have 1000s of pounds a week, they can sustain themselves, we’re mostly helping the little guys.
So what is the most unsuspecting chocolate combination with chocolate and X, a good one, what would it be?
Craziest pairing? I’ve heard avocado with chocolate is good.
I’ve had that, it’s good.
I don’t like to dilute my chocolate, I like it in it’s purest form. Baking.
Cheese and chocolate worked! I liked it!
Really? We were just saying how it didn’t work.
I recently experimented with smoked salt in my cold brew coffee. I went overboard.
Written by Manoj Dayaram of Square