How to Become a Chocolate Maker: LetterPress Chocolate

What happens when your wife doesn’t like chocolate? You make a chocolate she will love.  Throw in discovering wine (thanks to some enthusiastic friends) while living near Napa Valley (where you learn about terroir, climate, and finish) at the same time a friend in Guatemala turns you on to bean-to bar chocolate, and you have the story behind LetterPress Chocolates. Based in Los Angeles, David began his chocolate journey like so many before him: he started a blog called Little Brown Squares, where he reviewed the taste of bean to bar chocolates. Through the blog David developed a relationship with Madre Chocolate, who held a cacao boot camp in Hawaii. David signs up—the rest is history.

David:  I took the Madre course, where I got to harvest cacao pods. We fermented, roasted, winnowed. We learned about origin of the beans. It was the first time I made chocolate from the bean to the bar. Very challenging, especially since it was so humid in Hawaii.  Once home I tried to do it myself. The finished product wasn’t very good.

Chocolate Clinic:  I’d have given up after that.

David:  I was determined. So I held chocolate tastings at work, using well known bean to bar chocolates so I could understand how people experienced them. Soon I began to sneak in my own, handmade chocolate. I was curious to hear what they thought.  It was great to get completely honest reactions to my chocolate. Mostly they thought it was horrible.

Chocolate Clinic:  How long did it taken you to make a descent tasting chocolate bar?

David: About a year.

Chocolate Clinic: How do you pick the cacao beans you will use for your bars?

David:  My wife Corey and I spend a lot of time tasting cacao beans. She may not like chocolate bars but she loves the taste of beans and nibs.  She’ll ask, “what does this bean want to be?”

Chocolate Clinic: that sounds like magic.

David: [laughs] Yeah, we love this part.  We wonder what kind of roast we should do, then taste the roasted beans to see if we nailed it.

Chocolate Clinic: Tell me, what’s the most frustrating part of chocolate making?

David: Tempering. Kind of science, kind of intuition.  I focus less on the temperature and more on the  look and feel of the chocolate.

Chocolate Clinic: I hear that’s the way to go.  The temperature-method alone can drive a person nuts.

David:  You know, just like making a really good Gumbo takes time, so does making chocolate. Chocolate is a process. It starts with sourcing the beans, which can take up to six months to get into the country.  Then we age our beans for about a month.  My goal is to master chocolate.

Chocolate Clinic: well, I’m just one set of taste buds. But I’d say you’ve become a master.

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