A visit to the ChocXO chocolate factory

My friend Tiffany arranged a tour of the nearby ChocXO factory in Irvine yesterday, so Robert and I met her and a couple of friends there Saturday afternoon.

This was a serious tour, and we had to wear protective gear.

1 Dr Chocolate

We got to see how chocolate is made, from bean to bar. It all starts with a cacao tree.

2 Cacao Tree

This is a fake cacao tree, but it’s the right size and appearance, and those cacao pods are real. Of course, unprocessed pods are not edible…for most people. Nothing stops me from trying chocolate in all of its forms.

3 Eating Cacao

Just kidding. But we did drink the juice of the pod pulp, which is sweet and tangy and not unpleasant at all. But the pulp is left intact on most pods so that they ferment the beans, which are then dried, resulting in these cacao beans.

4 Cacao Nibs

We each cracked open a bean (it’s called “winnowing”) to extract and eat the nib inside. It tastes just like chocolate, unsweetened of course. If you have ever eaten unsweetened baking chocolate, a nib is like that.

We saw how nibs are ground in a conching device to make them smooth and silky, resulting in chocolate liquor, which we also tasted. Again, it was exactly like melted unsweetened chocolate. I liked it!

Finally, we saw how sugar is added to make chocolate flakes, which are sent through rollers to break up the sugar particles so the final chocolate is super smooth. We then tasted a 70% chocolate, both a single origin from Ecuador and a blend. Of course, I liked the single origin better, with its bright notes and distinct flavor, but the blend was good too.

As the tour progressed, we got to enter the actual factory floor, so we had to wear jackets and hair nets. They were going to give Robert and me “beard nets” too, but they couldn’t find them.

5 Dressed

Robert was VERY enthusiastic, as you can see.

I didn’t take a lot of photos inside the factory, but I did get a good photo of the separator machine, which accepted piles of fermented beans straight from burlap sacks and separated out twigs and rocks and anything else that might have been scooped up after the beans had been dried.

6 Seperator

You can see some beans on the bottom left, ready to be made into chocolate!

And of course, when the tour was over, they served us some samples, like these.

7 Treats

The top two were both caramels, while the bottom one was a lemon meringue truffle. They were all delicious.

I couldn’t leave without buying several dark chocolate bars, ranging from 68% to 80% cacao. I will be eating those this week, so expect reviews on this site soon.

Thanks for arranging this tour, Tiff!

Site Stats

With today’s 1000th post, I thought I would share some of the sites stats with you.

  • The site was started on January 28, 2012, almost three years ago.
  • As of today, 1000 posts have been made.
  • Over 1100 photos of chocolate and labels have been posted, for a total of 482 Mb.
  • I have been collecting labels since 1993. Of all of the years since then, 2010 was the most active, with 228 labels added that year. I blame chocolate eating meetings at work.
  • The site has over 22,000 views and over 300 comments.
  • The site averages 26 views per day, but on October 25, 2012, there were 953 views, most going to this page of horrible chocolate.
  • The most active day for comments was July 28, 2012, where five comments were made about this chocolate bar.
  • Most entries (over 73%) are about dark chocolate.
  • Despite my dislike for it, white chocolate has 24 entries.
  • Most of the entries (480) are about U.S. chocolate but Japan is #2 with 83 entries.

I hope you enjoy the next 1000 posts! There is a lot more chocolate out there to try!

Tim.

Last daily post

Today is the last daily post for my chocolate blog, because as of today, I have posted every label in my collection. From now on, posts to the blog will occur as I get new chocolate.

Some stats: I posted 906 entries with 1093 images, spanning 22 years and 56 countries. The most frequently appearing country was the United States with 427 entries, but Japan was second with 80 entries. The vast majority (675) of the entries were dark chocolate, but there were 17 white chocolate ones. And the year of the most chocolate? 2010, with 228 unique chocolates eaten.

Hershey Special Dark Cologne

Occasionally I like to post about chocolate-related products, even if they aren’t chocolate bars per se. So, of course, when I bought this product, I had to post it here.

HersheyCologne.jph

This cologne is amazing! It smells exactly like dark chocolate. It’s strong when you put it on, but it fades quickly until there is just a lingering scent, reminiscent of someone baking with chocolate. I think I have found my scent.

You can check out other scents at the Demeter home page (no this isn’t an ad, I just like the company). They have lots of cool colognes, like Brownie or Chocolate Chip Cookie, and not a single white chocolate fragrance in the bunch.

Chocolate Skulls

My co-worker Brian M. sent me a link to a place selling life-sized chocolate skulls! Apparently the sale is over in two days, so here’s a photo of one of the skulls.

ChocolateSkull

It looks realistic because it is made using a mold cast from a real human skull! Now, I like chocolate as much as the next addict…or maybe more…but this seems a little excessive. Wait, it costs $320?! It is excessive! And it’s not like you could keep it, since being chocolate, it’s going to bloom over time and eventually melt.

Still, part of me thinks this is really cool.

 

My favorite chocolate – A Valentine’s Day special post

People frequently ask me what my favorite chocolate is. While my answer used to vary in the past, recently I have settled on two chocolate brands as my favorite. One is very easy to find, but the other is more of a challenge (but worth it). Let’s start with that one.

I’d be willing to bet that most of you have never heard of Royce chocolate. It’s a Japanese brand that is not shipped outside of the country, although they have recently opened stores in other countries, including one in New York City. I had my first taste of Royce from a friend in Texas (thanks Scott!), who in turn had a friend in Japan send them to him. Royce chocolates are creamy squares that are incredibly rich in chocolate flavor. They are so creamy that they must be kept refrigerated (and they are shipped in cold packs), but when you eat one, they literally melt in your mouth. And I mean literally. Their melting point is below body temperature, so when you eat it, it quickly liquefies and the taste just explodes in your mouth. Eating a Royce square has been one of the most intense chocolate experiences I have ever had. And I have had a lot of chocolate experiences.

I’ll be doing a post on Royce chocolates here on this blog in a few weeks, but as I indicated earlier, they are really hard to get here in the States. You might try the New York City store, but I have not tried that yet. I recommend their Nama chocolates (those are the creamy squares I mentioned) if you can get them, and see if you can get the Bitter flavor. It’s amazing.

However, you can get a brand here in the State that is almost as good as Royce, and that brand is Lindt. Lindt chocolate is very smooth and rich tasting, and I have never tasted a bad flavor from them. I have been enjoying their bars for some time, but it’s their truffles where they really shine. I like their Extra Dark flavor, but the regular Dark is good too. They have a hard chocolate shell surrounding a soft creamy interior, and like the Royce chocolates, the interior melts in your mouth. And you can get these anywhere: grocery stores, drug stores, candy shops. You can even order them from Amazon, in big boxes of 120 count. Not that I have done that…much. Hey, don’t judge me!

Anyway, I hope this helps you find a good chocolate for Valentine’s Day or for any day. Because you should be eating some dark chocolate every day. It’s good for you!