It took a visit to DV chocolates to realize that chocolate has become a commodity. Chocolate is of course made from Cocoa Beans. These beans come from many different regions and their flavour profile not only changes from region to region – but will also be affected each year by things such as climate – eg a dry year. As such chocolate can have an estimated 600 different flavour compounds!!
So how do the big chocolate guys make their chocolate taste uniform? The answer is that they have to use additives to try and balance the flavours – these additives can be natural – like adding vanilla – but still ……….it seems like such a shame to not be able to actually taste the proper flavours of the beans. The de Villiers were fed up with not being able to get artisan chocolate that tasted as it should in South Africa and as such started a small chocolate factory in their garage in Hermanus. There were however obstacles in selling to retailers when they told them they were using a garage! As such they have recently moved premises to the gorgeous Cape Dutch Manor House at Spice Route Winery (the old Seidelberg Estate, which is next door to Fairview).
Visiting them is an absolute treat and a complete education in artisenal chocolate making. They are one of only about 6 manufacturers in the world who take only the pure single origin cocoa beans, roast them and then add some sugar. All of their chocolate is 70% cocoa. As such they can make the boast “from bean to bar”.
It is an absolute delight to do a tasting with Cornell de Villiers. She is seriously passionate about their venture. She takes you on a journey. You get to taste raw cocoa beans and then the toasted beans (actually quite yummy and could be quite “moreish”).
Then you move onto the “Round the World” chocolate tasting – which is the reason you came. Who knew there would be so much more to the tasting then simply coming to munch one of our favourite items in the world!
This tasting is a fantastic way to show the differences that the use of specially sourced cocoa beans from specific origins has on the outcome of the final product. You will be able to easily discern the different flavour notes on each chocolate that you taste. Note that the flavours of the beans from the same plantation can change each year due to factors such as weather. As such you will see that they have a sticker on each bar – they could not print the flavour notes onto the bars packaging as each year they can change!
The discriptions that they have chosen are perfect!
It is also interesting to look at their rating on each chocolate based on items such as acidity, fruity, bitter & acidity.
Overall assessment: A great experience!! I loved it! I love Cornell’s passion and will be back to visit them a lot on my tours. I can’t wait to try out their other experiences.
Other tasting options that can be done by prior arrangement:
- Chocolate and Wine pairing with Spice Route Wines (60 min)
- A 1.5 hour chocolate workshop with the chocolate maker Pieter De Villiers. He will take you on a tour of his factory and explain the process in detail! Sounds fabulous to me and perfect to take curious kids who like to know how things are made!! Who does not want to know how chocolate is made?
They are planning to open a brandy lounge – apparently chocolate goes well with spirits! It sounds like a lovely idea!
Address: Spice Route Winery (next door to Fairview), Suid-agter Paarl Rd, Paarl. Tel no: +27 (0)21 863 0854. e-mail address for Cornell de Villiers: firstname.lastname@example.org
Postscript for chocoloholics! COCOAFAIR
I recently discovered another artisanal chocolate from Bean to Bar shop at the Biscuit Mill in Woodstock in Cape Town. It is called Cocoafair and is a joint venture between a Danish guy and an Italian Chocolate maker. Here Antonino has a slightly different philosophy – he combines beans from different regions and sees what makes for the best taste in the end product. As such the range and variety are huge – the end result is delicious! I missed the novelty of being able to taste single origin beans – however I did love his chocolate! If you are serious about chocolate visit them during the week rather then on the crazy Saturday market day as they won’t have much time to chat. It did not however stop me from asking him lots of questions between customers! Antonino advised me that they had met up with DV chocolates recently and all saw each other as allies in setting up a market segment for artisenal chocolate that never existed in our country before! I love it! Note that Cocoafair offers extremely well priced chocolate! It is definitely worth a visit!