Chocolate. Most people think they love it. But is it really chocolate they love — or sugar?
That’s a question chocolate maker Steve DeVries might pose. Most chocolate is made industrially and is full of sugar. The normal ratio is two parts sugar to one part cocoa. This sweetness can obscure the delicate and complex flavors of the bean itself.
DeVries found this out firsthand years ago after he bought some cacao beans at a plantation in Mexico. With almost no direction, he brought them home, roasted them until they smelled like brownies, and ground them himself. What DeVries experienced was delicious, “a complexity of flavor I’d never tasted in chocolate before,” he said. “It was like crushing grapes and getting a fine burgundy.” The reason, he discovered, was that chocolate had been overindustrialized.
Now head of Denver-based DeVries Chocolate, he is a bean-to-bar chocolate maker. While most makers buy chocolate and form it into bars with various flavorings, he starts from scratch with the beans themselves.
Last night, DeVries explained the process of making chocolate at the National Geographic Live! event Chocolate: From Bean to Bar on April 14. In addition, Biagio Abbatiello of Biagio Fine Chocolate near Dupont Circle led a tasting of artisanal chocolates from around the world. The pair also sat down with me beforehand to answer extra questions, one of which was, “How is DC as a chocolate town?”