By Landen Zernickow, 2015-04-14
A few weekends ago, we invited over a few friends for an evening for fun, for education, and for a delicious sensory experience. After months of requests to learn more about our chocolate hobby, particularly after our friends spent hours listening to us gush about all the nerdy parts involved, we agreed to put on a chocolate-making class for a few of them!
Richard is particularly good at explaining very complicated engineering and scientific concepts to laypeople like me, so he was excited to show off his gear and teach our friends about the complexities of the process. I love to train people and get them to buy into a process, so I was excited to make our chocolate-making relevant and interesting to our friends with such diverse interests. The challenge was on and we were pumped!
Read more about how it went!http://rootchocolate.com/2015/04/14/chocolate-making-classes/
By Landen Zernickow, 2015-03-16
One of our favorite moments on Oahu took place in a traditional Hawaiian establishment in Kailua called Hale Kealoha, with slack key players on stage, hula dancers called up from the crowd, many bowls of delicious and traditional Hawaiian food on the table, and surrounded on all sides by locals. Two of those locals, Dylan and Tammy, sat across from us and shared both a piece of birthday cake and a lot of knowledge. Dylan is the chocolate-maker and founder of Manoa Chocolate Hawaii, and Tammy, his fiance, manages the front of the house, the wholesale accounts, and much in between!
By Landen Zernickow, 2015-03-12
While on Oahu, Richard and I visited two and a half farms growing cacao. Why the half? Let me explain…
The first farm we visited was Kahuku Farms, on the North Shore. Dr. Nat of Madre recommended we stop by here. Kahuku provides farm tours or, as they call them, smoothie tours. We rode around on a wheeled bench, pulled by a trailer through the rows of beautiful crops in the demonstration portion of the farm and received a delicious homemade smoothie made from the ingredients we had seen just moments before. Our tour guide is married to Kylie, a fourth generation Kahuku farmer and has taken on the education part of the business. We learned a lot about the history of the farm and their attempts to share such fresh and delicious vegetables with the local population. Hawaiian food traditionally includes a lot of meat, but the Kahuku food truck serves only vegetarian foods made from their farm’s produce. Surprisingly to the farming family (but not to us Californian hippies), it’s a huge hit!
Read more about Kahuku Farms and our visits to Lonohana and Waialua Estates, here:http://rootchocolate.com/2015/03/12/cacao-farming-on-oahu/
By Landen Zernickow, 2015-03-09
One of our most decadent evenings on Oahu was spent at Madre Chocolate in Kailua. We were the last ones to arrive for a whiskey & chocolate tasting, taking place in their tiny retail storefront. We squeezed into our chairs at one of the two tables of 8 people each. In front of each person was a placemat with two sets of flavor wheels on one side and a colorful list of all the available chocolates and whiskeys on the other. We also each had a line of whiskeys in shot glasses and the table was laid with about 15 different cocoa pod-shaped dishes, piled with small tastes of various chocolate bars made by Madre.
Read more here: http://rootchocolate.com/2015/03/09/learning-from-dr-nat/
By Landen Zernickow, 2015-02-11
We’ve been enjoying all the chocolate we made in the past few months and are now jumping back on the horse to try out new beans, recipes, and tools!
Our current experiment is working with our Behmor 1600 Plus to figure out what exactly the temperature range is for a kilo of cocoa beans at each of its pre-programmed roast profiles. We’ve now tested three of the five programs and plotted the temperatures (in degrees Fahrenheit) at 10 second intervals for each of them. We’ve overlayed the three temperature takes with Chocolate Alchemy’s power output charts to show how that affects the temperature as well.
Read more here:http://rootchocolate.com/2015/02/11/behmor-roast-tests/
By Landen Zernickow, 2015-02-08
How do we know the quality of cocoa beans when they show up in one of those giant burlap bags? How can we tell they'll be tasty once we've put them through the intensive processes that result in a chocolate bar?
We did some research and asked some friends, but we're always learning, so don't take this post as the be all end all of cocoa bean evaluation. The best way to learn to evaluate beans is to travel to cacao-producing countries and learn from the makers and farmers themselves.
In a nutshell, here's what we've learned so far: it takes all the senses and some background research to determine high quality cocoa beans.
Read more here: http://rootchocolate.com/2015/02/02/cocoa-bean-quality/
By Landen Zernickow, 2015-01-29
How do we transform our experience with chocolate from a hobby to a business without losing the fun, collaborative, part-time nature of it all?
Honestly, this is a very difficult question and we don't assume that there is an answer. This question goes much deeper than the surface question of how to start a business - it asks how we want to spend our free time, how we want to spend our working hours, how much financial risk we are willing to take on, how confident we are that our chocolate is actually any good, if chocolate bars are our ultimate product, what the future of our family looks like, and how permanent we are in our current living location.
All that said, we are trying to follow the practices of The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, in order to keep the potential business light and flexible. Some of the recommendations in the book are difficult to apply to a brick and mortal chocolate shop, since it's mostly geared toward tech startups. However, we're doing our best!
Let's take a look at the different business model options for starting a bean-to-bar chocolate business (at least to our knowledge in California):