When it comes to chocolate I am always alerted. A while ago, I’ve found a Cacao Festival in Amsterdam and when I went through the event description I saw that there would be 80 different cacao/chocolate stands there. Of course I’ve wasted no time thinking whether I’m going or not.
Together with my friend Claudia, we went to an old Catholic church of Amsterdam where the event was taking place. It’s pretty common in Netherlands to use old church interiors to host any kind of event. I’m not sure if there is an official reason behind this. I only guess that it has to do with the fact that Dutch people are practical and positive with no deep religious thinking and with an enormous lack of space!
In every stand there was either a producer/merchant/business man (or woman) with products somehow related to cacao: raw cacao beans, pure non processed cacao powder, cacao butter, every kind of chocolate bars, chocolate desserts, cacao drinks (liqueurs, champagne, tea, coffee), cacao/chocolate ‘amouse buche ‘like the French would name the small food treats that ‘amuse your mouth’! Best part? You could try all of these! I keep smiling when this day comes into mind.
It was great to see for the very first time a whole cacao fruit Claudia was explaining the harvesting and processing steps. She comes from Suriname where cacao trees are growing. She told me that she was going with her grand father for cacao harvesting. The cacao fruit looks on the outside as a small oval melon. In the inside, the cacao beans are found and they are hold tight together in a white, soft ‘skin’. It resembles a lot the inside of a pomegranate but in a larger scale. After gathering the cacao fruit, they take the cacao beans out, remove a thin protective layer they had and then dry them. They remove a thin shel that the beans have and after various ways of processing the bean becomes either cacao powder or cacao butter which is further used to make other products.
Another beautiful moment of the festival was the discovery of CHOVE and Laura in particular. Together with Claudin we were in front of a stand with desserts covered in chocolate. The samples for the visitors were cut in small pieces so you couldn’t instantly tell what was the original dessert like. Having a taste we already knew: baklava, ‘anomala’ (a Greek treat) and more Greek desserts… Laura is a Greek, young entrepreneur, raised in Crete and living now in Netherlands, who decided to make her love for chocolate (CHO-VE=CHOcolate+loVE) her own business. ‘I’m still in the beginning. I make all of the deserts by myself. In order to take part in this festival I cooked for 6 days in a row with only a few hours of sleep in total. But I’m very happy, I love it!’ It was true, you could tell by the look in her eyes! She reminded me of someone… The desserts she made were delicious, I’m sure something really beautiful will come out of this effort! www.chove.com
Among the regular stands there was a special corner made for kids. A complete pleasure highlight: small bowls filled with liquid chocolate, drawing brushes and pieces of paper. Chocolate, ‘smiling’ drawings were all over the place!
In the end, a stand with various small jars, each filled with a different ingredient/product, having the name of it on the top of the jar. ‘What are these?’ I asked the man behind the stand. ‘It’s all the different flavors that one can recognize when tasting cacao in any form.’ This last stand was a bit strange I thought.. but then again, you never know…
If you feel like cooking something with cacao or chocolate after reading this, find below some recipes!