Monthly Challenge 4.3: Chocolate Heaven

Hey friends! I had THE BEST adventure this last weekend. Even better than the dog cafe. I know, crazy. But my adventure was centered around one of my favorite things in life: chocolate. There’s people who like chocolate, and then there’s me. Chocolate is the way to my soul. Ask any one who semi-knows me.

Side story: A perfect example of my chocoholism is from two years ago when I went on a weekend trip to Brussels when I was studying abroad in London. My friends made the mistake great decision of letting me plan our itinerary for our second day, so I decided that of course, it would be chocolate-themed. We started off the day taking a tour at a chocolate museum/factory, then visited famous chocolatier Pierre Marcolini, had some hot chocolate at Ghirardelli’s, and stopped at Leonida’s for, you guessed it, more chocolate. My new friends quickly realized I don’t kid when it comes to chocolate. It was one of the best days of my life. But as far as chocolate consumption goes, this was a close second.

ChocXO Bean to Bar Factory

This past Friday, my coworker Deannah and I were fortunate enough to leave work early and take a tour at ChocXO in Irvine. It’s a bean to bar factory, so all the chocolate is made there. The tour was about 45 minutes, and surprisingly I learned so much about chocolate, even with the 3 tours I had taken in Europe! Here are a few highlights:

  • First, we learned that all cacao trees grow near the equator, even though Europe is known for its chocolate. The first use of cacao was by the Mayans and Azteces, who ground up the nibs into powder and mixed it with spices and water to make it into a drink. It was extremely bitter, but when the spanish conquistadors brought the beans  back to Europe and mixed it with sugar, it became much more widespread.
  • Cacao pods are actually fruit, and are orange or even purple. We got to try some of the fruit, and it actually didn’t taste too bad! While it may be a bit strange on its own, we both agreed it would taste great in a smoothie.
  • Next we got to try cocoa nibs, which are inside the fermented, roasted cocoa bean. They are pretty bitter and actually taste really nutty! And they are very good for you, apparently!
  • Cocoa liquor is the result of ground of cocoa nibs and is extremely bitter and acidic! The nibs have about 50% fat in them, similar to nuts, so when they are ground up they turn into a paste – cocoa liquor. Although it smells like chocolate, it definitely doesn’t taste like it!
  • After trying that, we learned that the “percentage” on chocolate bars represents the percentage of pure cocoa liquor. So a 70% dark chocolate bar has 70% cocoa liquor and the other 30% is pretty much all sugar! A 30% “milk” chocolate bar is about 70% sugar, so the “milk” part of it is really clever marketing to make it seem healthier, even if there is no milk in the bar at all. Dark chocolate is where it’s at!
  • The best part of the tour was getting to sample their amazing truffles at the end! They were beautiful. We got to split 6, so we tried raspberry, smoked sea salt caramel, grand mariner, creme brulee, and spicy pb&j. They were all. so. good. I was totally in heaven.

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After our tasting, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get some more amazing chocolate, so I got a box of truffles (I made them last until writing this – I know, impressive) and a little bar. Thankfully Deannah got some cocoa nibs to snack on at the office. My text to Matt afterwards said: “I spent less than $12 on chocolate, aren’t you proud of me?”

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I hope you enjoyed reading about my chocolate adventure at ChocXO! If you’re in the LA area, I highly recommend taking a tour! Then you can be in chocolate heaven, too. Stay tuned for my last adventure next week!

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