Emily Mantooth is co-founding the Craft Chocolate Experience with us March 6-8, 2020. Her years of experience with the Dallas Chocolate Festival made her the perfect partner with whom to embark on this adventure. She has been the engine pushing the festival forward and so we thought you’d enjoy hearing about it from her perspective. We look forward to seeing you in March!
Making chocolate is a lesson in patience. To start, it takes a cacao tree about five years to grow enough to bear fruit. And even then it can take another four to five months (or longer) for the tree to actually produce that fruit in the form of cacao pods.
From there, beans are harvested, fermented, bagged, and shipped all around the world. This can also take months. For the craft chocolate maker, only the finest beans will find the way to the factory, assuring that the chocolate that is produced can highlight the nuances of these magical beans. And while the farmer may be looking to the next harvest, the maker’s work is just beginning: sorting, roasting, winnowing, grinding, conching, tempering….so many calibrated steps that all have to go perfectly to produce a high-quality bar.
And that’s just to make the chocolate. For confectioners, they take it a step further to create truffles, bonbons, and pastries that both taste delicious and look amazing.
So much work has gone into getting the chocolate made, but even that is not the end of the process. Once craft chocolate makers and chocolatiers perfect their recipes, they must add to that production the challenge of selling what they make. Decisions about product and shape, packaging, marketing, pricing, and shipping. Do we open a shop or just sell through others? Do we update our labels this year? How much should I produce of each product? How many beans should I buy? The rabbit holes are many and deep. So, while addressing the business decisions is a key part of actually making chocolate as a business, it is rare that a chocolate maker got into the business because of this step. And yet, day after day, amazing artisans grapple with these choices to keep their passion going.
As we put the finishing touches on Craft Chocolate Experience: San Francisco, I think about all those things daily. From the farmers to the folks wrapping bars that have come off the production line, everyone has a part to play in getting a delicious and beautiful piece of chocolate into the hands of someone who can enjoy its flavor while also appreciating all the time and energy and perseverance that it took to get it there.
We are thrilled that we have over 90 exhibitors coming to the beautiful Palace of Fine Arts from March 6-8 to tell their unique stories and share their amazing work. This truly is a chance like no other to learn and taste and experience the literal fruits of these labors. For our guests, this means tasting bars and confections from around the world, learning from industry experts on a range of in-depth topics, and also having some fun while gaining a deeper appreciation of what it takes to bring craft chocolate to market. These makers and their commitment to excellence, to doing things the right way, and to caring about the impact that their businesses can have on the communities they touch continue to inspire our whole Craft Chocolate Experience team.
So, while we excitedly count down the days until we see old friends and try new treats, our hope is that everyone who attends Craft Chocolate Experience this March shares our enthusiasm. We are mindful of the dedication, creativity, and tireless effort it takes to make each bar of chocolate…and we cannot wait to see these talented makers share that with every guest who comes into the Palace of Fine Arts.
Just as each chocolate bar begins with a cacao tree planted years before, we, too hope that Craft Chocolate Experience is just the beginning of a chocolate journey. That the things that guests taste and learn are the beginning of their own chocolate adventure….and we can’t hardly wait!