Here’s something I learned about chocolate yesterday: Never bite it, chew it and swallow it. Instead, let it melt on your tongue, then press it against the roof of your mouth. In a few seconds you’ll experience a wave of flavor – spices, herbs, whatever the chocolatiers have seen fit to include in their recipe. It’s like a special treat for people willing to take the extra moment savoring requires.
Judy Logback of the Kallari Association taught us that yesterday during her talk at the Northampton Library, sponsored by Slow Foods Bucks County. The Kallari Association is an 850-family agricultural cooperative in Ecuador that specializes in organically grown, high-end chocolate. Between describing the world of chocolate farming and artisan production, she led us through a blind tasting of nine chocolates that ranged from several of Kallari’s offerings to tidbits of Lindt and Ghirardelli. Going into her talk, I’d have waxed on about Lindt and Ghirardelli, and though I still wouldn’t turn them away I’ve come to appreciate the difference between a good chocolate and an exceptional chocolate.
Here’s another thing I learned about chocolate. The politics surrounding it are as complex as its taste. It won’t come as a surprise that large companies sell most of the chocolate in the world, and their recipes, production and storage methods often have more to do with economies of scale than outstanding quality or subtle quality. What Judy has done is point the Ecuadorian farmers toward carving out their niche as producers of exceptional chocolate. Though the event was billed as a tasting, it was quickly obvious she’s as business-smart as any executive from Hershey’s (and I’ve met some of them – they’re pretty smart), and is more interested in developing something that’s good for the environment, good for her colleagues in Ecuador, and good for people who love chocolate. Kallari’s growth argues against the notion you have to sacrifice quality in order to succeed.