Friday, July 31, 2015

Don't let your biases get in the way of tasting chocolate

For our seventh Anniversary Month celebration in July, we hosted a chocolate "bracket" among sixteen bars from our craft chocolate collection. Similar to a NCAA basketball tournament or a NFL Football season, we arranged the sixteen bars into brackets, and customers could submit "fantasy brackets" in advance of the competition. The most perfect fantasy bracket, as judged by me, the Chief Chocophile, won a Golden Ticket entitling him or her to a free bar of chocolate every week for a year. The stakes were high!

For the next eight Thursdays, our weekly chocolate happy hours featured blind tastings of the competing bars in a particular bracket. Any customers who came to happy hour had the chance to taste the bars and vote for two of their favorites, with the winners moving on to the next round. We handed out ballots as customers came in the door so that each person only received one ballot (no stuffing the ballot box!), and we were careful to cut the tasting pieces small enough so that customers would have a difficult time recognizing the brands just by the appearance of the bars. There were even times I had difficulty figuring out which bar was which just by taste.

Before I provide observations and thoughts about tasting biases, I'd like to congratulation Shawn
Shawn Askinosie
Askinosie and the team at Askinosie Chocolate! A job very well done! Not only does Askinosie make fantastic chocolate, they work directly with cacao farms to create some of the most meaningful cacao sourcing I've witnessed. Make sure to read about "Shawnie" Askinosie's recent sourcing visit to Tanzania as told by a cacao farmer himself for

While I've always enjoyed this bar from Ecuador, it's gotten better over the years. I often found myself surprised by how much I liked this bar during the blind tastings.  While I didn't know what bar it was during the tasting, I knew when tallying up the votes, and, frankly, was often surprised that I'd voted for it over some of its competitors. And this didn't happen just once. It happened over and over again.

Today I got together with my team of mathematicians to crown the winner of the chocolate fantasy bracket league. As we reviewed the fantasy brackets, it was fascinating to see what people thought would move forward to each round and to the finals. It was a good reminder to not let your tasting biases get in the way.

What do I mean by that?

While the bars in our collection are all good chocolate, they are a craft product that is different every time. While one batch of a particular origin by a particular chocolate maker may be excellent, the next may not be quite what you remember.

It might be that the next cacao harvest wasn't as good as the last, or that the chocolate maker is experiencing more humidity or heat than usual, or any number of other things.

It could also be that the batch is much better than what you remember. Perhaps the chocolate maker received a particularly good batch of cacao or has gotten better at chocolate making with time and experience.

Your taste buds aren't the same every time, either. What you've eaten, the time of day and your mood can affect how you taste chocolate.

Pretty packaging can also get in the way of your taste buds. Much as I'd like to say packaging doesn't matter, I think it does, even subconsciously. When I've been asked by new craft chocolate makers about how to go about putting their bars on the market, I always tell them packaging is important. While some in the industry may think I'm being too commercial in providing this advice, my experience is that it affects peoples' perceptions of the taste of the chocolate.

What to do about biases? Unless you're able to have someone set up a blind tasting for you on a regular basis, it's hard to avoid them. I recommend tasting a group of chocolates together rather than one at a time. I become a much tougher judge of taste and texture when there's a group of different chocolate makers for comparison. The comparison helps me get around any packaging and brand biases (e.g., "I know I like this bar because I've always liked this bar").

Don't write off a bar forever if you don't love it the first time. Wait awhile and try it again. Sometimes a new batch can do the trick.

Monday, March 16, 2015

How we curate our collection. A response to the article on Mast Brothers

Our team evaluating chocolate
Yesterday posted an article titled, "The High End Chocolate World Hates Mast Brothers: Why do specialty shops refuse to carry one of the best known craft chocolate brands in the country?"

I agreed to be quoted for this article because I believe Mast Brothers receives an unfair share of press, and there are some talented chocolate makers who don't receive their share. I'm glad to see Rogue Chocolatier, Patric Chocolate, Fruition Chocolate Works and Amano Artisan Chocolate mentioned as some of the best. The title of the article, however, is unfortunate. My father taught me never to use the word "hate" for anything. He said that was how the Holocaust started. While I haven't found Mast Brothers to be worthy of the praise it receives, I certainly don't "hate" it.

So why don't we sell Mast Brothers' chocolate? They may be "one of the best known craft chocolate brands in the country," but they haven't scored high marks on our tasting evaluation panel. They're not unique in that accomplishment. Let me explain.

As one of the premier craft chocolate retailers in the country, we receive a lot of chocolate samples from craft chocolate makers who would like us to add their chocolate to our collection. While most chocolate makers are incredibly passionate about chocolate and their craft, not all of them create chocolate our tasters would consider good. If you're going to pay $10-$12 for a bar of chocolate, we want to make sure you're getting something we're proud to sell you for that price.

For the first few years Chocolopolis was open, I'd taste the chocolate samples we received, and I'd make the decision about what we'd carry. However, like any human, I have my tasting biases, and those may be different than the tasting preferences of my employees and customers. For example, I'm not a fan of heavy roasts or anything that might make chocolate taste like coffee. I tend to prefer a lighter roast on my cacao along with notes that are more fruity and floral. I'm less likely to prefer a bar with earthy notes, but some people prefer earthy over fruity. My tastes aren't "correct", they're just preferences. You get the idea.

About a year ago we enlisted a group of customers from our Frequent Bar Club to join our employees in a monthly tasting panel. We prepped them on our philosophy and approach to choosing chocolate, and they committed to join us once a month.

So what happens when you have a group of random chocolate lovers rate chocolate? They all have different opinions. No great surprise when you're dealing with different peoples' tastes. While their opinions may differ, the bulk of the ratings and comments from our tasting panels tend to fall into groups. Like you'd expect in any statistical group, most chocolates receive an "average" rating.

I'm not willing, however, to stake our reputation or spend our money on "average" chocolate. A chocolate has to be well above average or "world class" to gain entry to our shelves.

What are the criteria we're evaluating? Taste and texture.

It takes a skilled chocolate maker to create a complex chocolate, one that begins with one flavor note and continues to change and evolve into others as the chocolate melts in your mouth. Many of the chocolates we taste are "one-note", offering one flavor profile throughout the melt. Some might have two notes, but very few offer flavor complexity.

Complexity is only part of flavor equation. The flavors need to taste good. For example, while there are certain cacao-growing regions that tend to produce smokier cacao, the chocolate shouldn't taste like a bonfire. A few medicinal notes in a chocolate may make it interesting, but too many and it becomes an unpleasant affair. I've tasted bars with strong diesel, bacon and rubber notes (all in one bar). Not something I'd be willing to pay for.

While these savory, earthy notes may sound unpleasant in chocolate, I'd like to offer up a bar that I wish we could sell in the store as an example of an earthy flavor profile that works. The French chocolate maker and Chocolatier, Bernachon, creates a chocolate from the bean that offers leather and tobacco notes. I tasted his chocolate for the first time and I thought, "Now I know what leather and tobacco taste like." It's one of the most interesting bars I've ever tasted, and it totally works. It has wonderful complexity and texture, and it challenges my palate. It's one I probably wouldn't eat on a daily basis given my preference for fruity and floral notes, but I appreciate it and recognize the skill of the maker.

The second criterion for evaluation is texture.

Texture is one of the areas where most craft chocolate makers miss the mark. There are only a handful of chocolate makers who have conquered texture, most of them listed at the top of this post. Excluding unrefined chocolate from this criteria (e.g., Taza and Claudio Corallo), chocolate should be smooth and creamy. Unfortunately, the chocolate samples we receive from most makers are gritty or chalky or have a peanut-butter-like stickiness that is goopy and chalky at the same time.

We almost never receive a sample with good texture. It's disappointing, particularly when we taste a chocolate with great flavor. Sometimes poor texture is enough to scuttle a bar's chances, even if the flavor is great.

The craft chocolate market has grown significantly from the six American craft chocolate makers who were producing when we opened the store in 2008. There are new craft chocolate makers popping out of the woodwork every day. It makes our job a lot of fun because we get to taste and try new chocolate, and I am optimistic that each new taste will bring us a world-class chocolate that we can add to our shelves.

In the coming months, we're even planning some regional "throw downs" for our tasting panel. We'll be pitting bars from the same region that we already sell against each other to make sure they're still worthy of shelf space. It should be fun, and we're hoping these chocolates continue to make the cut.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Cacao sourcing & farily-traded cacao: first-hand experience abounds at NW Chocolate Festival

Northwest Chocolate Festival 2014
If you're interested in issues related to cacao sourcing and fairly-traded cacao, the NW Chocolate Festival offers great speakers who can bring the complexity of cacao sourcing to life. This is a rare opportunity for chocolate lovers to interact directly with experts in the field who often live or travel extensively in cacao countries of origin.

You're most likely to find me hanging out in these seminars, soaking up a wealth of knowledge from the individuals presenting, many of them fascinating characters in their own right.

It is particularly difficult to make recommendations for what not to miss since there are so many great options. You can't go wrong with any presentation happening in the series titled, "Who's Your Farmer? Cocoa Farm & Field". You'll have a difficult problem on Sunday, when you'll have to choose from a number of fantastic presentations that are happening at the same time.

Here's what I wouldn't miss:

10am - Emily Stone, Maya Mountain Cacao, Belize: "Opportunities & Challenges for Sourcing Cacao". Emily is an impressive young woman who co-founded Maya Mountain Cacao in Belize. She is currently based in Guatemala, where she's setting up a new cacao sourcing operation called "Cacao Verapaz". You can read about Emily in one of my previous posts on my trip to Belize.

11am - Maricel Presilla, Chocolate Expert & Award-Winning Author: "Field Report: Latin American Cacao". Maricel is the author of an important book in the world of cacao, The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. She's an expert with significant experience in Central American cacao, and she happens to also be a James Beard Award-winning chef.

12pm - Lars Moller, Ingemann Fine Cocoa, Nicaragua: "Creating Sustainability in Nicaragua"
While I have never met Mr. Moller and I don't know much about Ingemann Fine Cocoa, Ingemann's approach to sourcing is a very different model from Maya Mountain Cacao. Both are meant to decrease the inequities of cacao trading for the farmer, but they've taken very different routes to get there. I'm curious what Mr. Moller has to say. I'm particularly curious about how Ingemann's 30-year guaranteed market access works for farmers.

3pm - Dr. Carla Martin, Harvard Fellow: "Labor and the Chocolate Industry: Let's Look at Who Works and What Doesn't... Who's Your Farmer". Dr. Martin looks at sourcing from an academic and research perspective. She provides her insights in an approachable format that makes this topic easily digestible to anyone interested in trade issues.

4pm - Amanda Thomas, Yellowseed: "Conscious Trade in Peru: Transparent Pathways to Economic Development and Environmental Conservation". Yellowseed is a fascinating organization that aims to use the internet and cell phones to provide farmers with more direct connections to buyers, eliminating the middle man and improving transparency at every point in the supply chain. It's a technology startup with a bright future.

10am - Emily Stone, Maya Mountain Cacao, Belize: "Origin Pioneering: Central America". See my comments on Emily Stone in my Saturday list of recommendations.

10am - Dr. Kristy Leissle, Cocoa Expert, University of Washington: "Where Food is Fuel, Cocoa in West Africa". Dr. Leissle is an engaging speaker who has spent a considerable amount of time in Ghana researching the cacao industry. She presents interesting, first-hand examples from her experiences, and she brings a political economy perspective to her findings.

11am - Mark, Meso Cacao: "How We Built a Chocolate Factory in Honduras". A first-hand account of setting up chocolate manufacturing in the country of origin. This approach keeps more of the value of the finished product in the country, and it often enables more direct trade with cacao farmers. It also has its challenges.

12pm - Dennis Maccray, CEO Theo Chocolate: "Congo Initiative: Chocolate Makes a Difference". If you've heard Ben Affleck talking about Theo Chocolate, it's because of Theo's involvement in the Congo Initiative. An impressive program meant to give a war-torn population a chance at a future, the Congo Initiative has shown some pretty impressive results.

12pm - Greg D'alesandre, Dandelion Chocolate: "Sourcing for Flavor - Our Journey to Discovering the Best Cocoa Bean for the Best Chocolate Bar". As a craft chocolate maker, it's important to find and source the most flavorful cacao beans. This is often easier said than done. I'm looking forward to hearing one craft chocolate maker's approach.

1pm - Zohara Mapes, TCHO Chocolate: "Sensory + Quality Analysis + Origin Flavor Labs, Working with Cocoa Farmers to Enhance Chocolate Flavor". As a company that has struggled and overcome flavor challenges in the past, I'm curious to hear TCHO's specific approach to giving farmers feedback on flavor.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Discovering the NW Chocolate Festival

Northwest Chocolate Festival 2014
Seattle is very fortunate to be home to one of the premier chocolate festivals in the world. The Northwest Chocolate Festival offers the Pacific Northwest's devoted foodies and chocolate lovers a chance to connect with renowned chocolate experts from around the world who flock here for a weekend filled with chocolate.

This year's festival runs from October 3-5 at the Bell Harbor Conference Center. The festival is chock full of chocolate education, tasting and demonstrations from craft chocolate makers, renowned chefs and chocophiles.

There are so many educational and tasting experiences this year that it's hard to know where to start. Stay tuned to this blog every day this week as I make workshop recommendations.

I'll start today with recommendations for the Culinary track. There are some amazing chefs and chocolatiers scheduled to make chocolate demonstrations. Both Saturday & Sunday offer a great lineup, but if I had to choose one day for the Culinary track, I'd choose Sunday. Why Sunday? Award-winning chefs Alice Medrich and Maricel Presilla both present. That's reason enough!

While all of the presenters have something to offer, this is a list of ones I wouldn't miss.

11am - Autumn Martin, Hot Cakes: "True caramel sauce"
12pm - Julian Rose, Moonstruck Chocolate: "Elegant homemade truffles"
12pm - Michael Recchiuti, Recchiuti Chocolate: TBD, Pro Series
1pm - Jeff Shepherd, LillieBelle Farms: "Blue Cheese Truffles steal the show & the DO NOT EAT THIS BAR"
2pm - Alice Medrich, award-winning chef: "Let's make a chocolate almond tweed torte"

12pm - Alice Medrich, award-winning chef: "Chocolate truffles in a chocolate pretzel basket"
1pm - Julian Rose, Moonstruck Chocolate: "Elegant homemade truffles"
2pm - Maricel Presilla, James Beard award-winning chef & cacao expert: "Single chile chocolate Mole sauce w/Tamales"
2pm - Michael Recchiuti, Recchiuti Chocolate: TBD, Pro Series
3pm - Bill Fredericks, The Chocolate Man: "Polycarbonate truffle molding, pro technique"

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Visit to Hummingbird Farm in Belize

The chariot for our farm tour - a cart pulled by a tractor
One of the highlights of my trip to Maya Mountain Cacao (MMC) for Taza Chocolate's annual Chocolate Week was a day trip to Hummingbird farm in the Cayo District of Belize. The trip was a last-minute addition to our itinerary after MMC signed a 10-year operating agreement with the current owner of the farm shortly before we arrived in Belize. It was a three-hour car ride each way to get from our base in the Toledo District to the farm in Cayo, but it was an incredible experience that became my most vivid memory from our trip.

Known as "Hummingbird Hershey" among the Belizeans, the farm was originally an 1,800 acre cacao farm owned by Hershey. It was the first commercial cacao-growing operation in Belize, and it was the most modern cacao farm in the world at the time it was created. It had a goal of becoming as mechanized as possible with an aim to produce 200 lbs of cacao per acre. As if to illustrate this point, our visit began while standing in front of the mechanical dryers that were used to dry the cacao after fermentation. Emily Stone, the Managing Director of MMC, said, "We'll get rid of those."

A mechanical dryer
Unlike the traditional Mayan farms that are filled with a multi-culture of fruits, vegetables and useful plants, Hummingbird Hershey was planted as an orchard with a canopy that wasn't very substantial. Picture an American apple orchard, and you'll get the idea. Rows and rows of neatly arranged cacao trees as far as the eye can see. While orchards are productive and efficient, the cacao tree prefers some shade with its sun. Cacao thrives in a dense jungle that includes lower canopy shade trees such as banana and plantains supplemented by higher shade trees such as rubber and mango.
Orchard rows are still visible after years of abandonment
MMC signed the operating agreement with the current landowner, who converted 1,400 acres of the property into a commercial citrus orchard. The remaining 400 acres are filled with the original cacao trees, which have been left to fend for themselves for a long time.

The operating agreement puts MMC in charge of rejuvenating the cacao trees, training the farm workers on proper cultivation and harvesting techniques, fermenting the cacao and selling it. MMC's goal is to ship the cacao from Hummingbird as a separate origin/estate cacao next year.

There's a lot of work to be done to get Hummingbird up to MMC's high standards. One benefit of the farm being inactive for so long is that the cacao was immediately eligible to become organic certified because it hadn't been exposed to fertilizers or pesticides in years. By the time we arrived, MMC had already begun grafting new seedlings onto the existing root stock to improve cacao varietals and harvests.

New seedling grafts are protected with dried palm leaves
We were in Belize at the peak of harvest so we saw farm workers sitting under trees in a pile of cacao pods, cracking open the pods and putting wet cacao into buckets. The buckets were collected and brought to the starting point of our visit, the area with the fermentation bins, sun drying beds, and those obsolete mechanical dryers.
Hummingbird farm workers cracking pods and taking out the wet cacao beans
Thanks to Pete, the intrepid botanist on our trip, we sucked on more cacao pulp that day than I've probably had in my entire life. Pete was picking pods off every tree he could reach from the tractor, cracking open the pods and passing them around. There was so much amazing flavor in the mucilage on those beans. The taste of the pulp was incredible - it tasted like an all-natural version of a Jolly Rancher Green Apple Candy.
Fresh cacao
By the time the cacao is ready for the premium chocolate market it may have a different name. The name "Hummingbird" is so associated with Hershey that MMC was brainstorming other names. Whatever it's called, I'm looking forward to tasting my first bar of chocolate made with Hummingbird cacao.

If you'd like to see more photos from our day at Hummingbird farm and my trip to Belize, join us this Tuesday, July 22, 2014 at 7:00 pm at the store for my slide show presentation.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Challenges of Making Chocolate in Hawaii: A Visit with Dr. Nat Bletter of Madre Chocolate

In advance of our free chocolate event with Madre Chocolate this Tuesday, 7/8 from 5-7pm, I spoke with Dr. Nat Bletter, one of Madre's co-Founders, about his unique route to becoming a chocolate maker and the challenges of making chocolate in Hawaii.

Nat has a very interesting background that almost screams "cacao". He received a PhD in Ethnobotany, which is the study of the plants people use for medicine, psychoactivity, construction and food. While Nat happened to be studying ethnobotany in a lot of places that grow cacao, such as Guatemala, Peru and Mali, he had no particular interest in chocolate.

It wasn't until a friend, Cameron McNeil, asked him to contribute a chapter to her book, Chocolate in Mesoamerica: A Cultural History of Cacao, that he developed his interest in chocolate. While he liked chocolate, he was reluctant to write the chapter because he didn't know anything about chocolate. Once the book was published, Nat had a lot of requests to make chocolate. He said to me, "My friends didn't care that I'd contributed a chapter to the book, they just kept asking me to make chocolate."

He began making chocolate in New York City using a food processor and a coffee grinder, and selling the chocolate at farmers' markets and holiday markets in the city. Making chocolate was still a hobby for Nat, so it didn't factor into his decision to leave NYC and move to Hawaii to pursue post-doctoral work. Hawaii, however, proved to be transformational. Nat met up with his business partner, Dave Elliot, and they founded Madre Chocolate.

Madre doesn't own a farm or cacao trees. It purchases cacao from other Hawaiian cacao farmers, and Central American countries. Why purchase cacao from another country when you have it growing on your doorstep? Growing cacao in Hawaii is an expensive and challenging prospect. Nat and Dave save the Hawaiian cacao for special single-origin bars and use the delicious, but more cost-effective Dominican Republic cacao for most of their inclusion bars.

While cost is one significant issue in working with Hawaiian cacao, climate is another.

Considered the "North Pole" of the cacao-growing region, Hawaii offers some interesting challenges for cacao farmers and chocolate makers. It's either too hot or too cold, depending upon what you're doing.

While Hawaii may seem downright tropical to those of us living on the mainland, it's relatively cool compared to most cacao-growing countries. Properly fermenting cacao is the most important step in developing good chocolate flavor, but fermentation relies on tropical heat and heat-loving bacteria. In most cacao-growing countries, cacao undergoes wild fermentation, building up heat and bacteria from its surrounding environment. Hawaii's relatively moderate climate means that the fermentation process needs to be helped along. In order to reach the temperatures of proper fermentation (115° to 120°), Madre innoculates the fermenting cacao with bacteria that can survive in higher temperatures. The bacteria they use are ones that cannot survive in the wild in Hawaii.

While too little heat is a problem for fermenting cacao, too much heat is a problem for making chocolate bars.

Processing chocolate requires a cool environment with low humidity. Temperatures in the 80°- 90° range coupled with high humidity make it tough to grind cacao and temper chocolate. This is true for chocolate makers in all cacao-growing countries, including craft makers such as Grenada Chocolate, Kallari, El Ceibo and Pacari. What makes it more difficult in Hawaii is the astronomical cost of electricity.

Hawaiian cacao is the most expensive cacao in the world. It's currently selling for $9-$10/lb. Compare that with the rate for commodity cacao from other parts of the world, which currently costs just over $3.00/lb. That's quite a gap.

What accounts for these differences in price? The costs of growing and processing cacao in the US are much higher than they are in the tropical countries that sell the majority of the world's cacao.

Inputs are "crazy" expensive, as Nat put it.

High electricity costs come into play in a number of ways. Grinding cacao is an electricity-intensive activity. Air conditioning needed for tempering and molding chocolate in a cool, moisture-free environment add to the electricity-intensive activity of a chocolate factory.

Labor costs in the US are significantly higher than other cacao-growing countries. US laborers are paid by the hour instead of by the sack of cacao, and their hourly pay rate is significantly higher. While it would certainly be better for cacao farmers everywhere if they were being paid by the hour, that's not how the market works at this time. The consumer is paying very little for a mass market bar of chocolate, keeping most cacao farmers at a subsistence income.

Madre uses a lot of fantastic, local Hawaiian ingredients such as passion fruit, hibiscus and ginger in their inclusion chocolate bars. Just like the Hawaiian cacao, these local ingredients are significantly more expensive than the same ingredients would be if they were sourced from a developing country.

There are a few things Madre is doing to try to mitigate some of its disadvantages. The Hawaiian chocolate community is a close one, meaning that many of the small-batch chocolate makers are working together to try to put their chocolate in a more competitive position. Madre shares resources with Lonohana and Manoa Chocolate, both craft chocolate makers carried at Chocolopolis. Madre currently roasts and winnows at Lonohana, and at one point they shared a roaster with Manoa.

Unlike some of the other craft chocolate makers in Hawaii, Madre doesn't farm its own cacao. While this means that Madre is at the mercy of local cacao growers for a very limited supply of beans at a very high price, it also means Madre has the advantage of being able to explore different farms and produce chocolate bars that highlight the terroir of different farms on the island.

While making chocolate in Hawaii is challenging, it's wonderful to see the continued growth of the burgeoning craft chocolate community. Stop by Tuesday evening to meet Nat and to taste some of America's own chocolate, from bean to bar.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How to Make Mayan Drinking Chocolate

Eladio Pop's Daughter (l) and Wife (r): Our Drinking Chocolate Guides
One of my favorite parts of my trip to Belize with Taza Chocolate Week was an in-depth tutorial on how to make Mayan drinking chocolate. Drinking chocolate has been an important part of Maya life for centuries, long before the Europeans expropriated chocolate for themselves.

After touring the cacao farm of Eladio Pop, we sat down under his family's open-air, thatched-roof kitchen to watch his daughter make drinking chocolate.

Made with water, drinking chocolate takes advantage of a few, simple ingredients grown on the family farm. While this recipe is authentic, it's light on measurements. Everything our guide did was by instinct and eyeball.

Step 1: Gather your ingredients

The Mayans use just a few ingredients in their drinking chocolate.
  • Cacao (lightly fermented - 10-20%)
  • theobroma bicolor -  a relative of cacao, theobroma bicolor grows in pods on trees and looks extremely similar to cacao. It has a very mild taste that's similar to raw peanuts, and it's difficult to find, even in Belize. The farmers refer to it as "white cacao", not to be confused with the criollo phenotype of cacao.
  • Allspice
  • Boiling water
  • Black pepper (ONLY for pregnant women about to give birth)
Step 2: Roast the cacao with allspice & theobroma bicolor, turning the beans so they roast evenly

Step 3: Separate the cacao from its skins by lightly crushing

Step 4: Winnow by tossing the nibs and skins and letting the air blow the skins away

Step 5: Grind cacao nibs into a paste on a metate. Use a heat gun to warm the metate if you're not in a hot, tropical climate.
Me (Lauren) grinding cacao on a metate. Notice Pete licking his fingers.

Step 6: Put a handful of cacao paste into a preserved calabash gourd and add a small amount of boiling water. Mix vigorously with a fork until a paste forms.

Step 7: Put the cacao paste into a pitcher and add about 1 liter of boiling water. Stir vigorously.

Step 8: Pour the drinking chocolate into a calabash gourd and drink as-is or add sugar. Enjoy!