Pods, pralines and Panama

Collecting cacao in PanamaYesterday saw our final event of chocolate week, which was both a triumph and relief to have made it through the week and survived rather a lot of chocolate.

This event – all about the journey of cacao grown in small farms in Panama through to chocolate finished in the UK by Bill McCarrick of Sir Hans Sloane chocolate – was one of the highlights of the week for us, and we were rather proud to have helped put the whole project together.

Kate Malone making liquor in PanamaAfter some delays caused by stressful technical problems (why do computers always fail to deliver just when you need them?) Kate Malone was able to show us her photo journal of her recent trip to Panama, which gave us lots of insights into the detail of growing and harvesting cacao. No matter how much you think you know, there’s always something new to learn about chocolate.

During Kate’s talk we cut open and passed around a pod brought back from Panama, so it was great while Bill McCarrick was talking about his Sir Hans Sloane project to be sampling chocolate made from beans from the same source.

Things became even more exciting when Bill and his assistant Andreas let us samples dark and milk pralines made using the Panama chocolate, making this a unique experience in the world of chocolate sampling.

Bill McCarrick tempering chocolateI can’t think of another event where the audience has had the chance to sample every stage of the chocolate making process where there’s been such a direct connection with the cacao farms. (Grenada Chocolate might have done something similar, and I dare say Valrhona or Michel Cluizel could stage an event like this, but it would probably be more impersonal.)

Sir Hans Sloane Panama chocolate barThe chocolate Bill has conched from the Panama liquor has really come on since the first batch we tried and worked very well in the pralines, rounding off the event and creating a buzz around the room, and a great end to the week. (Except I didn’t manage to take any pralines home!)

Thanks go to staff at the Panama embassy for dressing the room with photos and info about Panama, to Bill and Kate for the presentation and to everyone who helped out during the week.

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