Notes from the Northwest Chocolate Festival
Couldn’t make it to Seattle this year? Here are five things I loved.
Last weekend I went to the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle, Washington, and because I couldn’t pack you in my pocket and take you with me, I’m going to tell you some of my favorite parts.
I’ve been going since 2016, and in the past, I helped sell chocolate with Solstice Chocolate. This was my first time participating as an attendee, and it was just as good a time, plus I still had my voice by the end of the day!
Five things I love about chocolate festivals
- Trying new chocolate. This is an obvious one, but craft chocolate can be expensive! The opportunity to try new makers and new origins without shelling out for a whole bar that you might not love is a huge perk. You can be a little more adventuresome and try things like a collaboration that uses fish roe. (For the record, it was quite the experience, but maybe not the best snacking chocolate. Maybe you could use it in an appetizer? I don’t know that I have the culinary know-how to figure that one out.)
- Catching up with old favorites. Some of my favorites are brands that I can only get at when I visit the festival. Green Bean to Bar (Japan) and Dandelion Chocolate (San Francisco) are two brands that are less accessible where I live. I love to hear what’s new with them — there hasn’t been a Northwest Chocolate Festival since 2019, so there was a lot to catch up on! Our friends from Green Bean to Bar recognized us, which was so nice, and we enjoyed fresh cacao and chocolate that was conching at the Dandelion booth. (If you ever get the chance to try either, do it! Cacao pulp is used in the fermentation process, but when it’s fresh, it is like a combination of all your favorite tropical fruits. During the conching process, chocolate is liquid and coats your mouth in the most delicious way.)
- Trying makers you’ve been wanting to try. Years ago, I got a very small square from NearyNógs, an Irish brand, in an advent calendar. I have some Irish ancestry (a couple generations back,) so I’ve been curious to try their chocolate more extensively. They were the first booth when we walked in to the festival, and I was excited to see them. Of their chocolates I was able to try, I liked their Nicaragua origin the most, but they had a lot of unique inclusions, including a seaweed bar — we talked with the woman who gathered the seaweed used, and I learned a lot about seaweed that I didn’t know about before!
- Discovering brands that haven’t been on your radar. There are over 100 exhibitors at the Northwest Chocolate Festival and almost all of them make chocolate, so it’s impossible to try everything in one day (or two, if you have a pass for both days.) But if you’re lucky, you’ll find some that you like! I bought some bars from 20/20 Chocolate from Venezuela and Spinnaker Chocolate from Seattle. I tried samples from both of them, and I’m excited to taste them on their own.
- Learning something new. There are classes and talks from chocolate makers throughout the festival, but I haven’t been able to watch them before. This year, we took time to watch Tateyuki Adachi, the founder of Green Bean to Bar. It was so interesting to learn more about the bean to bar movement in Japan — the growth is quite remarkable. We also got to try a bar they had already sold out of (the green yuzu) and a piece of a very tasty black sesame truffle. (I noticed other presenters had special samples, like the Dandelion drinking chocolate.) In his newsletter, Adachi talked about how he made a goal four years ago to do a presentation in English, and he did a great job. Someday I hope I make it to one of his cafes to try some of the amazing-looking pastries.
- Being around other passionate chocolate people. Like any conference or festival, there is a special energy when you’re around “your people.” Every chocolate seller I talked to was excited about their products. I learned a lot about harvesting chocolate in the Amazon when I visited Brazilian maker Luisa Abram’s booth. I enjoyed hearing about the strategy around Hawaiian maker Manoa’s two different product lines when we had a moment to chat and try chocolate at their booth.
Chocolate bar(s) of the week
Even though Solstice Chocolate wasn’t at the Northwest Chocolate Festival, we brought some for our friends who we stay with every time we visit Seattle.
I LOVE a chocolate comparison, so it was exciting to see that Green Bean to Bar had a Bolivia 50% Milk that we could compare to Solstice’s Bolivia 56% Dark Milk that we had brought with us by special request. The two bars were very different, which is always such a pleasure. Green Bean to Bar has a thicker mold, and it took a little longer for the chocolate to melt. There was a subtle smokiness. The Solstice bar was smoother and had a strong honey flavor. Both were delicious if you’re looking for a mellow dark milk chocolate.
Chocolate in the news
It was fun to see this write up about craft chocolate in Utah in Afar Magazine this last week. I loved this quote in particular.
“If you have really good beans and you make it the right way, cacao can have this full flavor profile where you taste the fruitiness, the nuttiness, and all these amazing nuances. That’s what got me excited and that’s what I wanted to share with people.”
Thanks for joining me in my chocolate passion! Hope to see you at the next chocolate festival.
I’d love to hear your feedback! Reply back or DM me on Twitter (@GinnyRomney). (Yes, I’m still there … for now.)