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Is there any real danger of the much-feared worldwide “chocolate shortage”? 'Cacao beans can be stored for years. So, even if all the cacao trees disappeared today, we’d still have enough cocoa to make the next few years' supply of chocolate, at the current consumption', says Jennifer Earle. An explorer in the world of cacao, she is also a writer and co-author of the World Chocolate Guide, the person behind Chocolate Ecstasy Tours in London and across England.
Fine Dining Lovers met up with her to find out more about new booming markets and emerging trends in the industry. 'But while the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO) says there is no impending shortage, the chocolate manufacturers disagree', adds J.Earle. 'India and China currently consume less than 100g of chocolate per capita per year, compared to the UK’s 10kg per person per year: if we see an upwards movement in consumption from these highly populated countries, then we may see a shortage. I can imagine that the manufacturers know better than the ICCO how heavily they plan to market in these regions.'
What are the main trends in the chocolate industry currently?
Artisanal chocolate is definitely on the rise. We’ll start to see more details on chocolate bars – farm names, roast level, conching time etc. Dark milk and alternative milks and sugars (almond, lucuma, etc.) will also become more prominent as the health focus continues.
What is 'dark milk'?
'Dark milk' is a bar made with the quantity (percentage) of cocoa found in a dark chocolate but instead of just sugar as the remaining ingredient it’s a mix of sugar and milk, making it lower in sugar overall but having some of the creaminess of milk chocolate. Or sometimes it tastes more like a milk chocolate with a better cocoa hit.
What is the 'bean-to bar' movement?
This refers to the rise in the number of 'small-batch' makers who are carefully sourcing cocoa beans, roasting them and grinding them in small grinders, a few kilos at a time and making bars of chocolate.
Which are the main innovations in the industry?
Using the cocoa shell (from the bean) to make tea and the cocoa pod to make recycled paper. There’s also a lot of genetics work happening to ensure heritage varieties don’t get bred out.
Which are the most popular types of chocolate and ingredients at the moment? Are we going more natural?
Yes, but also more adventurous. People want to try new things so chocolatiers are experimenting with everything from the savoury kitchen: seaweed, strange alcohols, flowers…
What about curious new entries, e.g. chocolate to sniff or chocolate to eat with tongues?
Novelties that won’t last.
Could you share some of your favourite stories and tastes in the chocolate world?
Zotter in Austria is an incredible experience, like Disneyland for chocolate, exploring chocolate from the bean to filled bars with some very whacky flavours. Obviously I love things in all of the shops on our tours and I love that many of them are always launching new products! London is truly the most innovative place to be in terms of chocolate because of the sheer variety of influences that are experimented with and the calibre of the chocolatiers.
How to savour chocolate at his best?
When you’re eating any chocolate take a moment to breathe in the aroma first. It’ll smell different before you put it in your mouth to the smelling it once you have some in your mouth. Then try not to chew the piece too much, let it melt and linger on your palette as long as possible. It completely changes the taste of chocolate.