Magic Beans or the Northwest Chocolate Festival 2016

My Sunday a few weeks ago was sweet in a very literal sense of the word. I attended the second day of a two-day chocolate festival in the Northwest. It was so much fun, guys!

At first, I was a little skeptical because I do not eat dairy. I thought, “Okay, how many vegan chocolates are out there? Definitely not that many.” Oh, how wrong I was! Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

The first floor of the pavilion had check-in desks, lunch options, different varieties of coffee, separate individual spaces for classes and workshops, and some sweet goodies to start with. We mingled for fifteen minutes before deciding to hit the party upstairs. Have you seen the eyes of a five-year-old child when he visits Disneyland for the first time? That’s how my husband’s eyes looked. I am pretty sure mine looked the same way!

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The second floor was divided into three long, double-sided rows to provide the space for chocolate and vendors to share their products. Despite the fact that most of the exhibitors were presenting sweets made out of chocolate, some were offering cocoa body products such as lotion, lip balm, chocolate flavored tea, and spice rubs by a Seattle-founded Indi Chocolate.

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There was jewelry created with beans.

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There was a unique educational set of chocolate aromatic kits by Project Chocolate for those who wanted to learn more about chocolate. The Project even has its own Chocolate Sommelier School! Ah, the sweetest education ever!

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One vendor called Cotton Tree Lodge offered a unique experience at an eco-friendly Belize resort that teaches sustainability to help ease the carbon footprint being left by mankind. There is no doubt that I would spend my vacation there if I had the chance.

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Next, let’s move on to the yummiest part of the festival, which motivated hundreds of attendees to buy a ticket in the first place. Out of 110 vendors, the most exciting were those who brought their experience in chocolate making as well as their sweet creations to the festival. Unfortunately, it is impossible to familiarize you with each and every one of them in this post, so I’ve divided them into categories and have chosen a few representatives for each.

I would like to start with local Washington state-based companies to congratulate our wonderful state on having a great number of dedicated chocolate makers!

  • Hot cakes (molten chocolate cakery) has been serving organic desserts since 2008. They presented their hot cakes in jars of caramel and chocolate sauces. When I browsed their Web site, I was super excited to see a vegan option for their hot cakes. Now I know what I have to buy to survive the upcoming winter months.

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  • There is no way I could not point out Fran’s Chocolate as one of the most beautiful and sophisticated chocolate creators. Fran’s has four stores in the Seattle area and is known not only for its delicious sweets but also its very elegant presentation. The stand featured a large chocolate turkey representing the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

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  • Even though the next two exhibitors are technically not from Washington state, I feel a familial connection with Oregon and all it has to offer. Thus, Ranger Chocolate is a company I could not leave out of this category. What drew my attention is that the company is focused on organic cacao, and its bars consist of two ingredients: organic cacao and organic sugar. Fewer ingredients means cleaner products! Also, just look at Ranger’s presentation stand. Isn’t it cute?

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  • Last, but not least, is Lillie Belle Farms, another Oregon-based company that produces award-winning handmade artisan chocolate. The stand was colorful and one of the most difficult to step away from.

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The next category is chocolate-making, which includes ingredient providers as well as chocolate-making instructors.

  • Chocolate Man is a business known not only for its sweet treats but also chocolate-making tools, supplies, and master classes for home chefs. They help with business and product development, manufacturing, and problem solving.

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  • Manoa, a Hawaiian company, offered its chocolate tea along with cacao nibs to enjoy.

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There were a number of vendors that were easily noticeable for their chocolate bars’ appearance (packaging design and stand presentation).

  • Forte Artisan Chocolates and their incredible Gusto line featured Rosemary & Sea Salt in White Chocolate as well as Fireweed Honey in Dark Chocolate surprised with unexpected flavor combinations.

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  • Dolcetta’s beautiful handcrafted creations were difficult to stay away from.

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  • Seattle Chocolates absolutely warmed the hearts of the locals with their Beast Mode Chocolate collection.

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  • French Broad Chocolates‘ bars were presented in light blue and golden colors and gathered a considerable number of photography lovers.

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Our next category, which is very dear to my heart, includes vegan, raw, and all kinds of healthy chocolate creations. I’ve mentioned already that when I bought tickets to the festival, I was expecting to see one or two vegan chocolate makers at most. To my huge relief and my husband’s excitement (because he tried literally almost every chocolate vegan option presented that day. Almost every!), there were tons of options to enjoy, and a lot of people seized this opportunity.

  • The very first dairy-free chocolate we tried was Raaka virgin chocolate. There are two reasons I want to mention it in this list. First, Raaka makes chocolate from scratch without roasting cacao beans, which means there is less processing. Second, Raaka’s coconut milk chocolate bar was the first dairy-free milk chocolate bar I’ve ever tried! And I really liked it!

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  • Cacoco is another company that, among other products, has non-dairy hot chocolate and offered it during the festival. The company also uses unroasted cacao beans, and it gathered quite a large crowd around its products.

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  • A company called Labooko has around fifty vegan items available for sale online. Another noticeable thing about Labooko is definitely its product packaging.

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  • The Chocolate Conspiracy‘s stand first attracted my attention due to the name. It reminded me of the Cowspiracy movie, and I decided that this could not be a coincidence. The second reason it drew my attention was the company’s list of ingredients, which was posted nearby. While its chocolate bars are not vegan, because they contain honey instead of sugar, they are made of the clean set of ingredients and are non-GMO, non-hybridized, 100 percent raw, and certified organic.

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I wish I could mention and appreciate each and every company present over the weekend during the Northwest Chocolate Festival.

However, there was a learning aspect to the event that I also would like to say a few words about. The classes included hands-on cooking experience, historical aspects of chocolate making, testing and evaluation of products, and nutritional information. Numerous classes featured information on the procedures for cacao growing, harvesting, and processing. To be honest, that day, I saw a cacao bean for the very first time in my life, both its outer form and inside. I learned some exciting facts and even fell even more in love with this magical creation. I’ve provided a link for you to explore to familiarize yourself with the processes mentioned below, as well as a few more pictures from the hangouts I picked up at the festival. img_2627img_1998

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While you browse through those, be sure that I will wait for your comments while sipping a cup of spicy and creamy hot chocolate and making some homemade chocolate goodies myself due to continued inspiration from the festival. Cheers!

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