Beyond Twenty Degrees: Can Chocolate Be Local This Far from the Equator?
As I'm preparing to give a talk on responsible chocolate consumption (titled "Beyond Twenty Degrees: Can Chocolate Be Local This Far from the Equator?") at the new School of Sustainability at Chatham University, it occurs to me that it might be an interesting exercise to explain how a couple of handfuls of Guatemalan cacao beans have allowed me to weather a blizzard in Pittsburgh with an entire chocolate cream tart in my fridge. Here are the various stages of the transformative process:
1. Fernando (above left) of Fernando's Kaffee in Antigua Guatemala introduced me to a farmer named Don Genaro (center) with a plot of land in the Guatemalan department of Retalhuleu, bordering on the Mexican region classically known as Soconusco.
2. Fernando and I made the rainy-season from Antigua down to Rehu as the mild highland summer quickly transformed into sweltering lowland heat, and we picked up about a hundred pounds of dried and fermented beans, many of which came from trees cloned from the patented United Fruit Company cacao variety UF273.
3. I brought a pound of beans back to the States in my luggage.
4. Art Pollard of Amano Chocolate in Utah tested out the small batch of beans in a one-step Santha machine and mailed me about a pound of chocolate made from Don Genaro's cacao.
5. I walked through two feet of snow to my friend Amy's house. Amy, a far more disciplined cook and baker than I, was already at work on a pot of Pho (she recommends dry-roasting the bones and vegetables before adding them to the stock pot), and together we followed Heidi Swanson's Bittersweet Chocolate Tart recipe from 101 Cookbooks.