a journey, a chicken, and a friend.
the idea of making chocolate from bean to bar was a revelation, the kind that stops you in your tracks. as someone who loved chocolate i knew it as bars i snuck into movies or handfuls of tiny chips or big blocks i whittled into slabs for campfire s'mores. as someone who liked to bake and worked as a pastry chef i chopped it and melted it and swirled it on a spoon and licked it off my fingers. but i never thought to ask where chocolate came from or how it was created or even wtf. i knew it as Made By Someone Else.
what i knew was end result: bars, chips, kisses. what i had no clue was how it transformed from a cacao pod grown near the equator, the seeds inside fermented and dried in the sun, into chocolate i could buy at the grocery store.
(i should tell you right now that i believe in chocolate. as a food group, as a stand-in for the day when your best friend is MIA, as a breakfast food, as a bartering tool when words are not enough, as a currency of kindness, as a thread wrapping round the world. it's chocolate, which is to say, a heck of a lot more than just flavor.)
i've pickled grape leaves in the grand canyon, lived on a sailboat, made apple butter when i was at law school + should have been studying, and cut my hair with a swiss army knife, but i never knew i could make my own chocolate.
then one day someone handed me a chicken. and four beautiful life-changing words: you can make chocolate. it was a chocolate chicken, made from wild-crafted beans from bolivia, and despite how darn cute it was i took one look and then a big bite. and i thought hmm. and then i started asking questions, like how and what and where. soon thereafter i was handed some cacao beans and a roaster and a grinder, and another brave soul took a bite of the chocolate i made and said more please. and that's when i knew: i could make chocolate, but better than that, i could make real chocolate and that made me happy.
but happy is not something to sit on or keep tucked under our wings: it need to fluff its lil feathers and fly, head out into the world. kick up a ruckus, maybe stir a few emotions, maybe open some eyes.
map chocolate is people-crafted.
the cacao beans in chocolate pass through many hands: the hands of farmers who planted and tended the trees, harvested the cacao pods and split them open, who fermented and dried the beans and used their wisdom, experience, and know-how to bring those beans one step closer to what we call chocolate. the truth is, a cacao bean in its raw state is a far cry from what we have come to know (or be told) as chocolate. and that is part of the magic and beauty, and of course, the story: every bean has a story to tell, but only if we're willing to let it speak, and do our part to listen, and taste.
the hands that help chocolate find its voice are also the hands that filled the burlap bags and the hands of the folks who help the farmers get a fair price for their hard and good work, and the hands that eventually pass the beans into mine. i wouldn't be sorting and roasting, scooping the beans into the winnower and melangeur, pouring the chocolate into the molds and wrapping my chocolate bars if it wasn't for those many, many hands who shape the way for small batch chocolate makers like me.
the best part is the part that comes next: with every bite the story unfolds. and that, my chocolate loving friends, is where you come in.
mackenzie, chocolate maker
photo: Juanita and her cocoa pod, bobby neptune/usaid