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Sniffing and Sipping Cocoa Powder

Submitted by: moopseemort on July 12, 2010
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Sniffing and Sipping Cocoa Powder

The year 2002 changed my life. I was nursing twins and preparing to go back to college. My other three children were busy as ever with church and school, and my husband taught computer classes for a university as well as had a full time job (having twins isn’t cheap) …

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The year 2002 changed my life. I was nursing twins and preparing to go back to college. My other three children were busy as ever with church and school, and my husband taught computer classes for a university as well as had a full time job (having twins isn’t cheap) and was doing grad school. Life was absolutely crazy in our home. To find peace I found myself one day reading online, and I came across a couple of New York Times articles written that year on baking cocoa. I thought, “I don’t drink coffee, alcohol, or tea, but I REALLY enjoy hot chocolate–heck, chocolate anything (just about).” I realized that I was an extreme cocoa novice. I only knew of a couple brands: Hershey, Saco, and Nestle. I focused more deeply on the author’s words.


When we think of cocoa, we think of this….


….and this.


Thoughts flashed in my head about some of the shows I had seen on TV while on pregnancy bed rest. I recalled wine connoisseurs, knowing what different wines taste like and different distinct nuances. Specialists in many foods exist. I had never heard of a cocoa specialist or of such variation in cocoas. I was intrigued.
I read the articles over and over. “I, too, could do this,” I decided excitedly. I could try different types of cocoa and see what on earth this article was talking about and see what I was missing. Was there really that much difference in the various types? I was about to find out.


There were 15 brands of cocoa that the author had described and those descriptions were heavy-laden with “smooth flavor,” “intense chocolate flavor,” and “coffee-like flavor.” The colors were also discussed, being anything from “light color” to “beautiful dark color.” I felt rather stupid. I’d never imagined such. Cocoa was cocoa was cocoa. From the article, I felt a hidden lust and started a search on the internet to find these different ones and see what they tasted like for myself.


The hunting was more like a needle in a haystack than the haystack itself. What degree of cocoa butter was in it? 10/12? 22/24? Was this a “breakfast cocoa?” Was it Dutch processed? Was it natural? After reading up more and learning how these things all fit in, I finally purchased several (after finding the least expensive version–they really vary store to store big time on price!). Droste, Bensdorp, Schokinag, Scharffen Berger, Nestle, Ghirardelli, Saco, Valrhona, Guittard, and Hershey’s made it to my kitchen counter. I can’t even describe how amazed and overwhelmed I felt! There I was standing in my kitchen, amazed, saying to myself, “Where to start, Melanee?” (Yes, I do talk to myself quite often, thank you.)


I went back to the basic idea that I had at the beginning–hot cocoa. Gratefully, it was an awesome journey to taste and savor and really mindfully focus on each and every sip. Heaven was in my fingertips and blissfully gliding across my tongue. I talked my husband’s ear off that week. He also was forced to taste these as I’d excitedly point out, “Now, see how this one is….” I even called my girlfriends and tried ever so desperately to get them to see the significance of what I was doing and how amazing it was!


I keep at least five varieties of cocoa in my home now. My eyes were sooo opened. Now if I see a bulk bin of cocoa for sale, I find out what kind–not satisfied with the mere basic title of “cocoa” or “baking cocoa” for I know there is so much more under that simple description. The name tells a great deal.

Bulk cocoa.


Bulk cocoa storage.


The biggest “Aha Moment” that evolved from all of this: Try new varieties of lots of things as there could be something hiding that I had never tried and never would have noticed. The routine and everyday don’t fit for me as the immediate choice after this experience. I have to try things and research things before I pick favorites and standards for my home. By the way, this is when my desire to try different types of tomatoes began, and I started my passion for tomatoes!

(Oh, and just for the note, I don’t share my favorites. I let others enjoy the journey and find THEIR favorites.)

For further reading: This article by Regina Schrambling.

You can also find Moopsee at Yahoo’s Canning2.

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Comments

7 comments | RSS feed for comments of this post

  1. 7-12
    6:39
    am

    Interesting post. I have often wondered myself what all the whoop was about on cocoa. My variety has just been Bakers, Ghirardelli, Nestles and a generic store brand. I don’t think I have ever even see dutch processed in the stores I shop.

    I will now be on a mission to find various chocolates.

    Thank you for calling this to my attention again.
    It should be a good winter project.

    Can you tell a difference in baking with it?

  2. 7-12
    10:47
    am

    Very interesting post! Your tomato post from before has me wanting to grow heirlooms next year. I’ve already started drawing off garden plans for tying a few different varieties! And now cocoa! Sounds like a delicious winter hobby to try!

  3. 7-12
    11:03
    am

    Ummm. Well. This most likely will become more than a hobby. For baking, I “taste” the food more so, yes, I sit and enjoy and taste the difference. I’ve gotta a bit chubby, so sweets are not often part of my life. Thus, when I have them, I eat them slowly and enjoy what I have. If I were snarfing down food like my kids, then it probably wouldn’t be noticed.

  4. 7-12
    1:03
    pm

    Moopsee, there’s a great reference book out there, just waiting for you: The New Taste of Chocolate, A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes, Maricel Presilla, 2001, Ten Speed Press.
    In addition to cocoa, there are delights to be found in learning about and tasting various kinds of tea from anji duet to white monkey (green teas) and assam melody to yunnan jig (black teas). Its great fun to learn about the history of tea, both world wide and local, while taste testing a freshly brewed cuppa.

  5. 7-12
    1:16
    pm

    Bonita,
    That does look like a great book indeed! I will have to hunt it down. I read a lot back then, but refreshing the memory is always a great thing.

    As to teas, I’m sure your comment will be very helpful for others. I’m sure that there are tea drinkers out there. As for me, I have religious commitments that forbid tea, coffee, and alcohol. Thus, I just LOVE my hot chocolate!! ūüėČ

  6. 7-12
    5:39
    pm

    Mmmmm! Sounds like a fabulous journey! I love dark, semi sweet chocolate with a very high percentage of cocoa!

  7. 7-13
    2:10
    am

    I like Cadbury drinking chocolate. It’s yummy.

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