Every day, chocolatiers are thinking of new and exciting concepts for chocolate. Moving into 2013, we like to examine the trends that are currently making a big splash in the world of chocolate. In recent years, the industry has seen chocolate expand its capacities, and we are seeing that shift as much today as when the first bacon chocolate bar hit the shelves. Many new ingredients have imbued chocolate with powerful flavors, however, a new commitment to fair trading and sustainability have imbued many chocolate with a sense of global responsibility. The call has never been greater for environmentally conscious chocolates, and chocolatiers have responded with chocolate that is both friendly to the planet and absolutely delicious. Join us as we explore what's hot in chocolate.
Chocolate is not something that one eats, chocolate is an experience, and chocolatiers have understood this as much as anyone. The combination of chocolate with flavor has always been popular--'chocolate + anything' is an equation for success--but many companies are being more conscious of how to really accent the flavors of the cacao. For example, tea infused chocolate has shown a great deal of culinary mastery in bringing the right flavors to light at the right time. Likewise, Chuao's more recently released bacon bar adds maple syrup into the mix. The deep sweet flavor of the maple helps pair the tangy notes of the bacon to the cacao notes of the chocolate.
Neuhaus, the famous Belgian chocolatiers, have two chocolate boxes that perfectly exemplify people's desire to appropriately pair chocolate. The assortments come with small booklets describing how best to pair the chocolates with tea or coffee or wine. The combinations make for a spectacular tasting party. More and more, people are trying to pair chocolates on their own and unravel the mysteries locked away in the cacao bean.
Cinnamon and Chocolate
Cinnamon is certainly the 'in' spice at the moment, and not just for holiday cookies. More and more chocolatiers are discovering that a high quality cinnamon in the right amount can have a versatile and rich flavor beyond the spark of spice that we've come to expect from American cinnamon candies. No chocolatier has blended cinnamon and chocolate to higher perfection that Dolfin. The Dolfin Cinnamon bar uses the highest quality Ceylon cinnamon, and though the bar is simple in concept, the execution is phenomenal. The rich flavor profile Dolfin draws from the bar makes it no wonder why cinnamon is here to stay.
Chuao and Vosges use cinnamon in their spicy bars to help bridge the gap between spicy pepper and luscious chocolate, and Madecasse pairs cinnamon with African sakay for a flavor combination that is as fantastic as it is diverse. Cinnamon has a way of filling out a chocolates flavor without overpowering it, nearly any chocolate combination could benefit from a touch of cinnamon.
Chocolate with an International Twist
More than ingredients, chocolatiers are infusing their chocolate with a story and a setting. As the planet becomes more like unto a global village, chocolate eaters have an appetite for foreign delicacy. Like a mantra, we hear the desire of our customers to travel the world through chocolate.
Al Nassma, a chocolate from Dubai, takes the very German concepts of chocolates and infuses the flavors native to the Arabian Peninsula, with camel's milk, dates, and macadamia. The fusion of these two cultures creates an incredible chocolate experience. Mariebelle has a fantastic bar that infuses Green Matcha tea into white chocolate, bringing the flavors of a Japanese tea ceremony to the palate of chocolate lovers everywhere. Chocolate has always brought people together, there is no reason why it shouldn't bring cultures together as well.
Cacao Bean Origin
For many, a cacao bean is a cacao bean is a cacao bean, but for each little seed the flavor can vary quite a bit. Like wine grapes, the quality and taste of the cacao bean is different depending on the acidity of the soil, weather throughout the year, and the minerals in the water. A cacao bean grown in Madagascar is going to vary wildly from one grown in Hawaii, which will vary greatly from one grown in Venezuela. Chocolate connoisseurs are becoming much more cognizant of those flavor profiles, and we're seeing many origin conscious chocolates become very popular.
Chuao uses cacao beans grown in Venezuela exclusively, and the smooth meaty texture their chocolate gains from quality cacao bean is a powerful reward. Michel Cluizel is a bean to bar company, which means they own the plantations where they get the cacao beans, the Michel Cluizel collection box has chocolates each made from a single region within a country from around the world. Valhrona has some bars that narrow the cacao bean origin even more; the Valhrona estate bars source cacao only from a specific single estate to create a bar with a vibrant and clear cacao flavor.
With shifting weather patterns and destructive storms, people are becoming more aware of the impact we are having on the environment. Furthermore, the more aware we become of other countries, the more we want to help them, rather than exploit them. Chocolate has never been an easy process, but, now more than ever, companies are trying to find ways to create a chocolate that is both good for the environment and for the people in it.
In terms of packaging, many chocolate companies, Vosges and Chuao included, have switched over to soy inks, which create less pollution than their predecessors. Many companies are using a greater percentage of recycled and recyclable materials.
For the chocolate, fair trade has become an emblem for some of the greater chocolates. The list of companies using fairly traded cacao is long and comforting. In countries where they are undergoing economic difficulties, it's good to know chocolatiers are actively trying to improve conditions. An investment in the cacao farm is an investment in the chocolate. Madecasse has taken the process a step further; their chocolate is both grown and manufactured in Madagascar, which they boast has 4 times the impact of your average fair trade agreement. Additionally, keeping the processing and harvesting local, lowers the amount of fuel necessary to ship the chocolate to and fro. The best part, of course, is that the chocolatiers that are making these adjustments, are creating some of the most fantastic chocolate there is. Chocolate tastes better when it's guilt free.
The world of chocolate is constantly changing, and we can joyfully taste the evolution of flavor, knowing that chocolates can only get better with time.