coffee + a spontaneous chocolate shopping spree

Café y cacao: two incredible beans that are grown in the place I would most love to live—Central America. But I won’t get into that right now.

These pictures are a few snapshots of this past summer– one morning when the steam was beautifully swirling off my morning coffee, and later Mom and I found ourselves confronted with a wall of quality chocolate bars. Nothing exciting really, I just like the photos. (And that I got to sample several gourmet chocolate bars ;]

We were at MOM’s Market, a place I’ve seldom been to but has a nice selection of organic and health foods. And seriously, I have never seen such an impressive collection of unique, gourmet chocolate! There were a number of chocolatiers I had never heard of (and I’ve tried a lot of chocolates), bars containing every kind of filling and add-in you can imagine, all percentages of cacao, and a good selection of locally-crafted bars.

We found ourselves standing there reading all the unique labels and ooh-ing and ahh-ing at all the crazy combinations. Who knows what we came to the market for, but we left with four kinds of chocolate, and let me tell you it was way hard to pick just 4. We ended up with a 70% Scharffen Berger bar (a good quality chocolate for me to bake with), a Berkshire Bark chocolate bar with almonds, espresso toffee, coffee beans and cacao nibs, my favorite Taza Chocolate Mexicano vanilla, and Mom got some Newman’s Own organic peppermint cups for the ride home. The Taza chocolate round is by far my favorite, and if you’ve ever had Mexican chocolate you know about its very different, crumbly texture. It consists simply of cacao beans, vanilla beans and cane sugar all stone ground together. Quite different than your typical creamy bar.

So I’m well on my way to being a chocolate connoisseur and professional taster.

…Oh how I wish! Tasting chocolates is fascinating to me the way wine is to wine enthusiasts. The tastes are so complex and unique depending on where the beans are grown, how they are processed and what is added to them to enhance or complement their distinct flavors. Some of my favorite parts of my time in Ecuador were the unexpected visits we made to small-scale chocolate factories in teeny tiny towns and exploring their unique chocolate-making processes. And of course sampling the goods, which ranged from bitter cacao paste, to the BEST [seriously] brownie I’ve ever had and I’m not even a brownie fan, to rich rich rich hot milky cocoa, to dark chocolate with chunks of sea salt mined from the same town!

On our last night before leaving from the airport in Quito, we walked around the “new town” and wandered in to a supposedly famous chocolate shop (I forget the name!) which supposedly has “the best cup of cocoa in the world” and was supposedly out of it when I ordered. BUT, scattered about the shop were samples of their many bars, which each contained beans grown in different regions. It blew my mind how different each of these chocolates tasted! They contain essentially the same ingredients but depending on where the beans are grown, each gives off a distinctly different—possibly earthy, fruity, bitter, or spicy—complex flavor. Hmm, maybe if I knew more about wine I’d be just as fascinated! ;]

….So I just rambled on for way too long about chocolate, my apologies. I really just meant to post the photos but then all my chocolate-tasting experiences started flowing through my mind. It’s what happens when I sit here and start typing.

Hope I didn’t bore you too much!


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