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Cuna de Piedra Chocolate Uses Local Ingredients To Elevate Public Perception of Mexico

Cuna de Piedra, a chocolate maker based in Mexico, is using local ingredients to elevate the public perception of Mexican cuisine. The company was started by two young professionals, Enrique Perez and Vicky Gonzalez, who share a commitment to raising the profile of heirloom ingredients indigenous to Mexico, as well as the role of cacao in the history of their culture.

From Big Dreams to Dream Team

Vicky and Enrique dared to dream big and ask “What if we create a brand with a humane sense that seeks to create a change in society and reposition the perception of Mexico?” They represent the next generation of fine chocolate entrepreneurs forming partnerships to strengthen the value chain and preserving heirloom foods with a modern approach. Fortunately, Enrique had been working with Chocosoulutions founder and master chocolatier Jorge Llanderal who also realized a “chocolate dream” of his own. Together with Executive Chef Mariana Garza, whose resume includes working in the kitchen of celebrity chef Richard Sandoval (commonly referred to as the Father of Modern Mexican Cuisine)  at La Hacienda, they had assembled their dream team.

Preserving Mexico’s Culinary Heritage

Their limited-edition Smoked Heirloom Chili Bar exemplifies a sense of place through its ingredients. According to the description for this bar on Caputo’s website: “The native Mexican chiles, as these are progressively being displaced by other higher-yield and genetically engineered varieties.”

When this happens we limit our options to just a few varieties that can be found anywhere, losing the unique flavors and culinary traditions that define a particular place. During a time of pandemic-led isolation and travel restrictions, the longing to visit different places and experience  unique local flavors is at an all time high. A sense of place  is one of the key trends fine chocolate wholesaler/retailer  Matt Caputo discussed in FCIA webinar on  October 11,  2021 which The Chocolate Professor also wrote about in a recent blog.

In an exclusive video on Instagram, Cuna de Piedra’s Enrique Perez speaks to Gabino Aquino, who farms and harvests the chilis used in the chocolate. He shares the importance of preserving the unique flavors and culture of Mexican gastronomy. Click here to view the video.

Preserving culinary traditions, however, takes work and dedication by small farmers and commitment from culinary professionals and organizations like Slow Food to raise  public awareness of heirloom ingredients.

The next video clip by Lalo Plascencia, Mexican chef and consultant, founder of CIG Mexico actually shows the labor-intesive process of deseeding and smoking the chilis, which Gabino described to Enrique. Click here to watch the video. (NOTE: Video’s music track could be loud, turn the volume down or mute, as needed.)

During the recent FCIA webinar hosted by Dr. Lee Theisen, a.k.a. @chocolate_guru, Cuna de Piedra chef, Mariana Garza explained adjustments to recipes are required working with ingredients such as this smoked heirloom chili.

Ironically, the chocolate most Mexicans find in their local markets or malls is not from their own country. It’s imported from the United States or Europe.

So, Cuna de Piedra needs to educate and expose the local palates to what authentic Mexican chocolate tastes like through tastings.

The U.S. market however, poses a different challenge for this Mexican craft chocolate company. Like most bean to bar chocolate makers, Cuna de Piedra lists the origin of the beans used in their chocolate bar on the wrapper.  Unfortunately, most Americans are not aware that Tabasco is the place where the beans are harvested.

 

Click here to learn more about Tabasco from History.com. It’s definitely a place you will want to visit!

The mental association Americans have to Tabasco is the hot  sauce and it’s so strong that attendees at the Northwest Chocolate Festival  simply couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that the chocolate itself was not spicy.

Enjoy Cuna de Piedra & Share Your Thoughts

Are you curious how smoked chili chocolate tastes or would like to try chocolate from Tabasco, Mexico? Order a few bars from Caputo’s and be sure to share your thoughts with us in the comment section here, or on social media. They offer full size and mini bars, which are perfect for someone who can’t decide which ones to try first.

About: The Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA) is the only organization focused 100% on supporting fine chocolate professionals. We promote the artistry and craftsmanship of the chocolate professional focused on producing superior products made from premium chocolate and natural ingredients. We believe in using best practices in cacao processing and chocolate production; and transparent labeling and marketing practices.

Our marketplace website, MakeMineFine.com, is your one-stop-shop for fine chocolate, chocolate events and experiences, chocolate making equipment, books, and everything chocolate.

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General News

Guittard Chocolate, Bringing Their Best Approach to Fine Chocolate

Since winter is the perfect season for chocolate beverages, we are focusing on two chefs who have a special talent for all things chocolate. Chef Donald Wressel and Chef Josh Johnson of Guittard Chocolate have shared some chocolate beverage recipes that provide a unique spin on something traditional to showcase their expertise. Check out their distinctive takes on hot cocoa on our Instagram feed, @makeminefine

Chef Donald Wressel found passion for cooking at a very young age, and grew his life around it. He began his journey at Washington State in the Chef Culinary Program, and worked in multiple locations on both the east and west coast before settling down with Four Seasons Restaurants for almost twenty years. In 1986, he began working for the Four Seasons in Philadelphia, quickly making his way up to executive pastry chef at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills location. He remembers these times as his noteworthy learning years. 

Chef Wressel’s commitment to excellence led him to participating in worldwide pastry competitions resulting in multiple awards and medals for his talent. Donald joined Guittard Chocolate in 2006 as their corporate pastry chef, and to this day continues to create new and stunning recipes that are incomparable. He continues to master his craft while teaching others as well with his “Guest Chef Series” classes at the Guittard Chocolate Studio in Los Angeles. 

Another chef we’d like to highlight is Chef Josh Johnson. Chef Johnson’s love for chocolate began as a teenager working at his uncle’s pastry shop. He moved on to working at the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago, where he gained more experience alongside world-renowned pastry chefs. Josh ventured into many different pastry positions before opening Cocoa Bean Fine Desserts, his own shop in Geneva, Illinois. He soon became a teacher as a pastry chef instructor at The French Pastry School of Chicago. He was thrilled to be given the opportunity to teach others his craft, the way he was taught by so many chefs throughout his life as well. He now works as a pastry chef for the Guittard Chocolate Company, where he combines all of his knowledge and skill to bring new ideas and creations to the table.

Guittard Chocolate chef, creating a masterpiece.

We invite you to learn more about chefs and chocolatiers like these on our website, finechocolateindustry.org.  The Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA) is the only organization focused 100% on supporting fine chocolate professionals. We promote the artistry and craftsmanship of the chocolate professional, focused on producing superior products made from premium chocolate and natural ingredients. We believe in using best practices in cacao processing and chocolate production; as well as transparent labeling and marketing practices.

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General News Sustainability

My Journey from an African Classroom to Fine Chocolate

It’s hard to believe that next year marks my third anniversary as Executive Director of the Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA). My career path is different from most of the nearly 300 members of our organization. I don’t have a background in culinary arts or chocolate making, nor as a pastry chef. I do, however, have a deep respect for those who make quality chocolate products and the passion and artistry they bring to their businesses. I also am a self-proclaimed “chocoholic.”

My professional career began in 1984 when I joined the US Peace Corps, serving for two years in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mompono is a small village situated south of the Congo river, deep in the rainforest. There, I taught tropical agriculture and biology to 150 high school students at a Catholic Mission. The challenges were many. Residents of Mompono lacked running water, electricity, healthcare services, stores, and any regular communication with the outside world. Despite the hardships, I was amazed at the resiliency of the community and the eagerness of students to learn and excel in school. This experience helped shape my interest and career path in international agriculture.

After receiving my masters’ degree in agricultural economics from Michigan State University in 1990, I returned to the Democratic Republic of the Congo for another two years, this time based at an agricultural research station in the Katanga Region. The USAID-funded project provided thousands of farmers with improved maize and peanut seeds, as well as training on farming and marketing. Covered loading docks and bridges were constructed to help store and transport products from rural areas to food deficit areas within the region.

For the eight years that followed, I worked on a number of agricultural development projects. In the Philippines, I joined teams to establish electronic marketing and price information systems among retail and wholesale markets, systems which still operate today. In Sri Lanka, I helped design improved wholesale and retail food distribution in Colombo, for the Ministry of Planning. In Jordan, I worked within the Ministry of Agriculture to improve efficiency and planning of agricultural investments.

My career took another turn in 1998 when I joined the US Grains Council. As their Director of Business Development, I identified new markets for US corn, barley, and sorghum. This involved extensive travel to Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia to support and promote feed grains for livestock development.

In 2000, I was asked by major branded chocolate and cocoa processors to lead their cocoa sustainability efforts. At the time, there was very limited knowledge of cocoa farming systems, deforestation threats, child labor or certification.

The World Cocoa Foundation was formed shortly afterwards. I served as WCF president for nearly 16 years, improving understanding and building alliances.

Chocolate sampling tables at an FCIA event

My journey then led me to FCIA, where I am proud to represent a truly extraordinary group of companies and staff who are dedicated to making quality chocolate products and sourcing cocoa in an ethical and responsible manner.

Despite the challenges of the COVID pandemic in 2020, I see some of the same resiliency that I first noticed in communities during my Peace Corps experience. FCIA and our members are adapting to a challenging business environment and will continue to promote and grow this wonderful segment of the chocolate industry. We could not have made this kind of progress without the many partners inside and outside our community.

Thank you.

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General News

Fine Chocolate Gift Ideas for a Safe Halloween 2020: Part 2

My October 6 blog post about Fine Chocolate Gift Ideas for Halloween received so much positive feedback that I wanted to share a “Part 2” listing of gift ideas for a safe Halloween 2020.  Fine chocolate is a truly great alternative to supermarket candy.  There is still time to make purchases online so you will be ready for October 31!  Ordering from Make Mine Fine helps to support artisan chocolate makers and farming communities who grow cocoa responsibly in the tropics. 

Here is my second list of gift ideas for Halloween: 


Bite Size Chocolates

As you look through Make Mine Fine company websites, notice that many offer bite size chocolate which are perfect for Halloween. Prices are comparable, in many cases, to the mass market candy and chocolate sold in convenience stores. This is the perfect trick-or-treat alternative!


Trick or Treat Bars

Chocolate bars are great gifts for any holiday.  Here is a list of five FCIA companies offering online chocolate bars.  Order soon! 


Delicious Bonbons and Truffles 

Maybe your preference is bonbons or truffles.  Make Mine Fine listings have many company products with unique flavors that are perfect to enjoy on Halloween.  


Chocolate Assortments and Specialty Retail

Are you seeking even more varieties and combinations?  Here are two companies offering a wide range of chocolate products from different chocolate makers and chocolatiers.


 Bake It Yourself!

Why not make chocolate from your own home? FCIA members make this easy for you to do with online classes and chocolate baking essentials. You can also purchase chocolate making equipment to help you make from home.  

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General News

Fine Chocolate in the Era of COVID19

Fine chocolate companies, like other business sectors, have been negatively impacted by COVID19 in 2020.  Prior to the pandemic, craft chocolate makers such as Dandelion Chocolate, Fruition Chocolate Works, French Broad Chocolates, and LetterPress Chocolates were seeing a strong growth in demand. Mark Hamstra, a regular contributor to the Speciality Food Association (SFA), wrote about this in a recent article: Specialty Chocolate Hits a Sweet Spot

Since the pandemic, companies are adapting to changes in the marketplace by offering curbside and online sales.  They continue to innovate by exploring new sourcing prospects, creating more origin-specific bars, and working together to tackle business obstacles.

By purchasing chocolate from these companies, you are not only rewarded with quality chocolate, but you are also helping support small businesses in your community as well as farmers in cocoa producing countries.

For true chocolate enthusiasts, this is an excellent time to try your own hand at making chocolate at home.  Our member companies sell specialized equipment to help you become a chocolate chef in your own home.

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General News

Welcome to Make Mine Fine


Two years ago, I was hired as Executive Director of the Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA), the only organization focused 100% on supporting fine chocolate professionals. The 300+ members include fine flavor cocoa growers, chocolate makers, chocolatiers, suppliers of ingredients, packaging and equipment, pastry chefs, educators, marketers, and specialty retailers. FCIA members are dedicated to improving quality cocoa and chocolate products, representing the top tier of the market. They tend to be innovative, creative, and passionate about their products. 

Bill Guyton
FCIA Executive Director Bill Guyton

So, what is fine chocolate? FCIA defines it in terms of flavor, texture and appearance, as well as how its limited ingredients, high cocoa and low sugar content, are sourced and processed. A more complete description and list of our corporate company members can be found on our the FCIA website. In simple terms, if the chocolate has superior flavor, is ethically sourced, and has cocoa listed as the primary ingredient, you are probably eating fine chocolate.  

As part of our COVID-19 response, our association launched Make Mine Fine to showcase our members who offer online sales of fine chocolate and chocolate-making equipment to consumers.  To date, nearly 100 companies are listed on the site and more are being added on a continual basis.

Where does fine cocoa grow? Cocoa quality depends on genetics, terroir, and post-harvest practices such as proper fermentation and drying. The majority of fine cocoa is farmed by small-scale producers in Latin America, 20 degrees north and south of the equator. It is important to note, however, that fine cocoa can also be found in Southeast Asia and parts of Africa. Cocoa farmers typically grow other tree crops and food crops on their landholdings.  We have added a section to Make Mine Fine — Learn About Cocoa — that highlights the unique flavor qualities and history of cocoa in a variety of producing countries.

How is fine cocoa sourced? Fine chocolate companies are committed to sourcing the best quality cocoa and pay premiums to farmers. They also support sustainable farming practices and seek more direct relationships with their supply chain providers.  

In future posts, we will introduce you to some of the farmer groups and companies who are helping to bring you some of the finest chocolate products in the world.