Central American Chocolate Tour – Part 1: ChocoTalk

ChocoTalkBanner4Central America Chocolate Tour – Part 1
By Bernhard Mueller, Master Chocolatier at Christy’s Gourmet Gifts

Do you follow us on Facebook? If so, you probably would have noticed the posts about my chocolate adventure to Central America; Costa Rica to be specific.

Well, I’m back, and I’m ready to share my new-found chocolate knowledge with you wonderful ChocoTalk blog readers!

I arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica on a Thursday.  It was 25 degrees C and breezy.  I had a lovely visit with my brother Gerhard who travels to Costa Rica often.  He showed me the sights of San Jose including the markets and local chocolate shops.

ChocoTalk | South America Chocolate Tour | Part 1 | Christy's gourmet Gifts in Burlington Ontario

I must say I was most impressed with all the food and not just the chocolate.  Fresh fruit, veggies and eggs the colour of sunshine…Wow! I could get used to that.  I loved walking the farmers market. I wanted to buy everything! I was most interested in a fruit called soursop.  The locals claim this fruit has cancer curing properties. I am not sure if this is true, but I really did enjoy its sour yet subtly sweet flavour…a must try for anyone planning on visiting this region.

ChocoTalk | South America Chocolate Tour | Part 1 | Christy's Gourmet Gifts in Burlington Ontario

After my brief visit with my brother I headed out on a long venture to the other side of Costa Rica on the Carribean Coast just north of the Panama border.  I was told I must rent a 4×4 in order to successfully arrive where I was headed and wow were they right!  I arrived at approximately 2:30 in Puerto Viejo at my beautiful destination the Mango Walk cacao farm.

The beautiful sounds of exotic birds greeted me as I walked the path to start my chocolate tour with the chocolate maker from Caribeans, Paul Johnson.  This is Paul on the right. He is originally from Minnesota and moved to Costa Rica 12 years ago where he learned the art of chocolate making from bean to bar.  I can’t wait to tell you more about this guy…. But that will come soon.

ChocoTalk | South America Chocolate Tour | Part 1

As part of my introduction to the Caribeans chocolate farm we enjoyed a chocolate tasting experience  perched on top of a hill overlooking the jungle canopy with the Caribbean coast off in the distance.  This view was by far one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen in my life!  The sounds of jungle birds, howler monkeys and crashing waves contributed the overall experience.

ChocoTalk | South America Chocolate Tour | Part 1 | Christy's gourmet Gifts in Burlington Ontario

It was here in the tasting lounge I felt my chocolate  journey truly began.  I paired delicious single plantation chocolate with spices like cayenne pepper, rosemary, mint, garlic, anise, sea salt and more.   The chocolate was dark, bold and had fruit undertones.  My personal favourite was the cayenne pepper with sea salt combination.

Tasting Pairing Evening

After my tasting experience, I checked into my cabin.  I felt like I was entering the movie Jurassic Park!  My cabin was nestled in the jungle forest….It was beautiful.  All that beauty did come at a cost though…… because when you stay in the jungle, you get the jungle!  I am not going to lie, I was glad there was a cage around my cabin most nights.  Enjoy these pictures of my cabin and the critters that lived with me for 7 days.

ChocoTalk | South America Chocolate Tour | Part 1 | Christy's Gourmet Gifts in Burlington Ontario

Some photos courtesy of www.themangowalk.com

ChocoTalk | South America Chocolate Tour | Part 1 | Christy's Gourmet Gifts in Burlington Ontario

Some photos courtesy of www.themangowalk.com

Well that’s all for now.  My cup of Costa Rica coffee and delicious dark chocolate awaits.

In my next blog I will tell you all about the bean to bar experience.  Please stay tuned for more chocolate adventures.

ChocoTalk | South America Chocolate Tour | Part 1 | Christy's gourmet Gifts in Burlington Ontario

You can meet the Chocolatier face-to-face at our Tasting Day on Saturday April 9thth from 2pm to 4pm. Bernhard will be offering free samples of Costa Rican bean-to-bar chocolate. Come by 3530 Mainway in Burlington to try it! Taste the difference quality makes!

Meet Bernhard, the Chocolatier: ChocoTalk

ChocoTalkBanner4Meet Bernhard, the Chocolatier

We are very excited to announce that Bernhard Mueller, the Master Chocolatier and Baker at Christy’s Gourmet Gifts, will be starting his own segment on the blog called ChocoTalk!

In this segment, Bernhard will discuss everything from chocolate tips and tricks, recipes, behind the scenes at Christy’s and more.

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Want to get to know the expert? Check out our interview with Bernhard the Chocolatier below!

Bernhard the Chocolatier | Christy's Gourmet Gifts | Burlington, Ontario

What inspired you to become a chocolatier?

With a European background, I grew up tasting chocolate. Chocolate was a central part of all our family traditions. This fueled my passion and love for fine, high-end chocolate. As a teen, I worked in the German club and was involved in helping to make European dishes and traditional baked goods. I was always intrigued by the artisanal nature of European chocolatiers. Their passion for hand crafting chocolate using only quality ingredients inspired me. Later in life, I was blessed to meet my wife Christy, who was a talented baker with an entrepreneurial spirit. Together we started Christy’s Gourmet Gifts and with her encouragement I persued my dream of becoming a chocolatier. It has been a sweet life adventure and I look forward to all that the future brings.

Are you working with any noteworthy ingredients lately?

Right now I’m experimenting with pairing 70% French Dark Chocolate and health foods – such as chia seeds, hemp hearts, buckwheat sproats and goldenberries. Our customers have been raving about it so far! A perfect way to start the New Year, antioxidants and chocolate!

Chia Seed French Dark Chocolate Bar | Christy's Gourmet Gifts | Burlington, Ontario

Do you have a favourite chocolate?

I know as a true chocolatier I should prefer dark chocolate, but I have a sweet tooth and to me there is nothing better than a piece of creamy milk chocolate.

What is your favourite part about being a chocolatier?

I love experimenting with new products, and being creative with chocolate pairings. Trying and bringing in interesting single origin chocolate is also my favourite part about being a chocolatier. For instance, I just brought Amedei Porcelana bars from Italy into the Christy’s Gourmet Gifts shop. These are created with one of the rarest cocoa beans in the world. How amazing is that?!

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Bernhard the Chocolatier at Christy's Gourmet Gifts

You can meet the Chocolatier face-to-face at our Tasting Day on Saturday February 6th from 2pm to 4pm. Bernhard will be offering free samples of a new favourite single origin chocolate. Come by 3530 Mainway in Burlington to try it! Taste the difference quality makes!

If you’d like a more in-depth introduction to chocolate, join Bernhard at one of our Chocolate Making Workshops on Thursday, February 11th, Friday February 12th or Saturday February 13th. More information can be found at our website: http://www.christysgourmetgifts.com/store/item/?id=162