Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Meet the American Branch President of Michel Cluizel Chocolate

Sisters and Brothers, please join me in welcoming our guest to The Chocolate Cult, the man/woman behind, a chocolate company whose creations you will discover here on this coming Saturday and for several Saturdays to come, Mr. Jacques Dahan.

Mr. Dahan, would you please tell us who you are and what your role is at Michel Cluizel?

​I am the President of the American Branch of Michel Cluizel ​called Noble Ingredients. I am also in charge of our New York Store  0n Fifth Avenue (between 47th and 48th street)

How did you get into the chocolate business?

​I always loved chocolate and pastries and one day, by pure luck, since the ad didn't mention the name of the company or what products were sold, I sent my resume for an interview, it was a chocolate company.

How many years has Michel Cluizel been crafting chocolate? How many years have you personally been in the chocolate business?

​La Manufacture Cluizel started in 1948  with Michel's parents, when he was 16 years old (1949) he joined the business as an apprentice . For three generations now, the business has remained a family business and it is not rare to find employees with over 30 years experience with the Cluizel's family.
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​​As for me, ​ it ​started in June 1983 as a representative for Cacao Barry in France. in 1994, so, a little over 30 years

Different nations have chocolate identities so that we something talk about chocolate, or chocolate.  What makes French chocolate unique in your opinion?

​Two main differences: The size (smaller)​ and the fact that French chocolate is mostly ganaches and pralinĂ©s. 

What is your favorite type of chocolate to create?   

​I like creating different kind of Bars, like the ones we have launched  under the Cluizel's advices. (Crystallized mint Leaf, Sanded almonds with Chili, etc...)
​Is it the same type of chocolate you prefer to eat? ​ 

Depending on the time of the day, my expectations changes, as long as I have some chocolate in my mouth.​

I think all of our readers can understand that perspective!

Michel Cluizel has a regular website but also one geared toward the American market.  What is the difference between the American market and the EU market in your experience?

​The American market has evolved very rapidly in the past few years. What was considered as bitter (55% for example) 10 years ago, is now considered as  too sweet. Americans are more opened to try new "flavors" , new "concepts" than their French counterpart who are more "traditionalists". However, sometimes this behavior pushes creators to do things that no longer taste chocolate but something else.​  ​We should always keep in mind, as Michel Cluizel's many times said to me that " the main flavor in a chocolate product MUST be chocolate​"

Michel Cluizel offers a Chocolatrium® in both the USA and in France.  Would you tell us more about the purpose of this program? ​ This is a big part of the Cluizel's family. Michel Cluizel and his family  have always felt that we have a responsibility to explain and "teach" to consumers more about planters, cacao and  chocolate process while, at the same time,  making it a unique experience.  In the USA, the Chocolatrium is slightly different than the one in France as we can only accommodate private tours for groups. Sometimes in French for some schools as well as sister cities with France. It is also a way to promote cultural understanding between our two countries. Our group age goes from 5 to 98 (so far) and we cater each tour to the group we are hosting

What are the most popular chocolates that Michel Cluizel creates?  ​

Hard to say, but if I had to pick 2 products, I would choose. The 99% bar, as everyone, including me at that time, thought it was crazy to do, yet one of the best sellers. In truffle, I would pick the Champignon Caramel, by describing it, we see lights in people's eyes .

You offer a wide range of chocolate products.  How do you come up with these ideas?

​Under Marc Cluizel​ (Michel's son) leadership, we have several meetings and brainstorm on what might me the trend in the future (always a bet) as long as we use our three trades : Caccaofevier (from beand to finish products) Chocolatier and Confiseur (for all sugars and fruits techniques). Then we taste and rework it until we think it can pass the Cluizel's family test.

Finally, is there anything else you'd like our readers to know about Michel Cluizel?

​From when Michel Cluizel started to manufacture chocolates, he decided that we will not use soy lecithin or vanilla extract but pure Bourbon Vanilla Beans. Few years ago it's was considered as foolish, today people try to copy us.​  

Thank you so much for your time, Jacques.  Sisters and Brothers, what do you think of our interview today?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Foursome of Chocolate Bars from Chocion

Today we have our first German chocolate feature for you all, Sisters and Brothers, and I hope you are as excited as I am.  The wonderful Andreas whose interview went live on Wednesday sent us a lot of Chocion's creations so they will be repeatedly on our calendar from now through May 2015!  To start this off we are going to look at four of their Schokolade bars that come in 50g, clear wrapped rectangular bars.  We're going to look at these in order of increasing cacao content.  Please note that I am keeping the names of the bars as printed on label but do not let the German worry you. Because the bar's labels differ slightly from the website please use the enclosed links for each product to check it out. Apologies to my German readers (7th largest readership is from Germany) for errors in the words themselves for lack of an appropriate font for some letter.

Each bar is made only from the most simple ingredients -- cocoa butter, chocolate mass, vanilla, sugar, an emulsifier, and then any additional components needed for the particular flavor such as whole milk or krispies or coffee.  Each bar is about 3X4 inches and 1/4 inch thick (7.5X10X7 centimeters) and has a very uniform basic look with nine etched off sections underneath a section with the brand name; I'll note any other visual differences below.  The bars were all a bit challenging to break off along the etched off sections in case you want to share -- remember Moderation is one of our guiding principles here on The Chocolate Cult.

We're going to start with what I think will be the simplest flavor of the white chocolate. Feinste Weisse Schokolade mit Knusper Crisp is 28% white chocolate with crispy something in them.  You can see the krispies on the back side of the bar only.  This has a strange creamy vanilla fragrance when I took a whiff of it.  This makes a very soft sound when I take a bite into only the chocolate part but the krispies do make a fairly loud crunch when I bite into or crew them because they are nice and firm as you would hope.  The krispies really add more texture than flavor but I only get a buttery creaminess with less of the vanilla kick than the scent suggested.  I'm not a big fan of white chocolate in general but I think white chocolate lovers would really enjoy this.

The second white chocolate bar from Chocionis the Peinste Weisse Schokolade mit Kaffee is also a 28% white chocolate but this time with coffee.  I didn't try this at all because, as regular readers know, your Chocolate Priestess dislikes even the scent of coffee.  This is what our volunteers reported about this particular bar.  The bar is a creamy color with flecks of black. All three testers felt the scent was waxy and creamy; one said it smelled like cheap coffee.  The white chocolate makes a soft snap when you take a bite and the coffee flecks crunch a bit.  Our three testers differed a bit on flavor and texture though all agreed it was a bit buttery, as we expect from German chocolate.  One felt it was waxy tasting and found little coffee.  Another agreed that the coffee was slight but found the the white chocolate to be primarily buttery in flavor.  The third found the coffee to be unevenly mixed with the white chocolate and thus he got bursts of coffee or creamy butteriness in different bites.  None of our testers thought the two flavors -- white chocolate and coffee -- worked very well together.

Our third bar from Chocion is the Feine PralinĂ© Schokolade is a 38% milk chocolate bar so it does have whole milk in it.  This bar also has a strong vanilla scent but oddly no really cocoa fragrance.  I create no noise when I take a bite and the immediate flavor I get is a saltiness that is very surprising followed by a cocoa and vanilla flavor with a buttery creaminess.  I let the second half of the section I'm testing melt in my mouth to see if that changes the flavors.  Yes, it does as it slowly melts into a creamy pool.  The saltiness is more a tanginess that fades into a light milk chocolate with a hint of vanilla that is the final flavor on my tongue.  This was less intense than I expected from a 38% bar and I wonder if that reflects the whole milk used.  It does match some other German milk chocolates I've received as gifts in the past so in that sense is it exactly what I thought it would taste like which is great.

We end this particular feature with Chocion's Edle Zartbitterschokolade, a 62% cacao bar that is quite dark compared to the previous three bars.  As you know, your Chocolate Priestess loves darker chocolates but I do try to be fair and just describe my experience.  This has a solid dark chocolate scent to it with an undercurrent of vanilla.  It makes a loud snap when I bite off a section and I get a hint of vanilla, a flood of dark cocoa that gets darker with each chew.  The cocoa rush up into my head begins almost immediately making my pupils dilate a bit so that the room seems brighter. Letting a piece melt takes some time, this melts slowly, and it dampens out the bitterness that I actually really like in darker chocolate by letting the sugar and vanilla out more strongly.  I can feel my blood vessels in my head opening up and the tension ease out of my shoulders; this is one of the reasons I love pure dark chocolate.  I really don't want to share this one but I'll be a good role model and share.... maybe.

There you go, Sisters and Brothers, our first feature on German chocolate submitted by a German company.  For the purity of ingredients and the quality of the chocolate these these are awesome bars but not all of them thrilled our testers; not uncommon really so please do read their thoughts and consider each bar.  There are a lot more varieties of the three basic schokolade -- white, milk, and dark chocolate -- that you can find on the Chocion website.  Of course I can't recommend any that we didn't try but you should definitely check out the ones we tested and revealed to you today.  If you have tried these four bars or any of the other varieties please leave us a comment and tell us what you thought.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Meet the Man behind Chocion

Sisters and brothers, please join me in welcoming our guest to the Chocolate Cult, the man behind Chocion, Mr. Andreas Mohrs. Chocion is a German chocolate company whose creations you will discover here on this coming Saturday and for several Saturdays to come from now until May 2015.

Mr. Mohrs, would you please tell us who you are and what your role is at Chocion?

Dear friends of chocolate, dear TammyJo.  I am very pleased to be invited to introduce myself.  Thank you.  My name is Andreas Mohrs.  I am 41 years old, and I am the founder and owner of the chocolate company, Chocion.  I live in the wonderful city of Munich in southern Germany, at the base of the Bavarian Alps.  My company is also situated there. For Chocion, I manage the entire company and I develop new products and creations continuously.  In addition to chocolate, I am very enthusiastic about flying and magic.

How did you get into the chocolate business?

For a number of years I have traveled the world as a pilot for the largest German airline, enabling me to explore many different cultures.  I have learned that in addition to many fascinating differences, there are also many interesting similarities among the peoples of the world.

One such similarity is the universal love of chocolate.  During my international travels I have discovered chocolate creations around the globe.  Approximately five years ago, I noticed a special drinking chocolate in Vienna, Austria.  I was served a glass of hot milk along with a piece of chocolate on a stick.  This piece of chocolate was immersed into the hot milk, and after a brief moment, I was able to enjoy a delicious hot chocolate beverage.  This experience served as the inspiration for the now famous Chocion hot chocolate spoon.

This is how it all began.  We combine a top quality collectible spoon with one of the very best chocolates to create an exciting package.  What initially was intended to be treat for myself and my friends very quickly became the launch of a small and thriving chocolate business.

The opportunity to express my passion for chocolate by managing my own company, paired with superb chocolate products and excellent packaging, guarantee the quality associated with the brand name Chocion.

How many years has Chocion been crafting chocolate?

The official start of the business was November, 2011.  Beforehand, it was merely a hobby.

Do you have a walk-in shop where customers can buy your creations or do you only do online sales and events?

As I am still a pilot, we don’t yet have our own shop but this is being planned and the concept is ready.  We sell our chocolate to a number of businesses -- for instance, for their marketing and advertising, and as products exclusively for special businesses, such as wine truffle chocolates and pralines.  We also sell our chocolate in fancy food stores in Germany and Austria, and we are present in regional shows and at Christmas markets.  And, last, but not least, we offer our online shop where our customers can order our products.  Starting several months ago, our Chocion hot chocolate spoons are now available in New York, which of course we are very proud of.

Different nations have chocolate identities so that we sometimes talk about French chocolate or Italian chocolate.  What makes German chocolate unique in your opinion?

Some readers might be surprised to learn that Germany is the largest exporter of chocolate worldwide, even surpassing Belgium and France.  This fact alone, of course, is not necessarily an indicator of quality.  Nevertheless, I believe that Germany’s rigorous legal standards for food products play a certain role; Germany’s standards are frequently the requested standard.

Chocion’s chocolate is produced from very special cocoa beans, in strict compliance with the high quality standards I refer to.  Our premium cocoa comes from a small region in Columbia known for its model farming practices.  This area insists on fair trade practices for their farmers, with a keen sense of social responsibility.  There is particular emphasis on training and development for the farmers, as well as education for the children.  Child labor is certainly not permitted.  Chocion makes every effort to conduct business in disadvantaged areas, promoting new opportunities and hope for the local people.

Chocion beans grow in a very fertile region, among bananas and fine carpentry-grade wood products; there is no monoculture.  The cocoa beans are readied for transport in burlap bags, and then swiftly make their way to Germany by ship and then across land by truck.

Once the chocolate beans arrive in Germany, they are processed according to Germany’s strict standards and then “conched”, which includes a special polishing process.  The additional ingredients come from local purveyors, such as luscious milk and cream from the Alps, ensuring the ideal Chocion flavor.

We noticed that a lot of your pralines have alcohol in them.  Is alcohol-filled or infused chocolate popular in Germany?

At Chocion, we do not use any artificial ingredients to preserve the chocolate.  Alcohol is present in some of the chocolates.  In addition to providing flavor, incorporating very small quantities of alcohol is a natural way to preserve the chocolate.

Whenever we use fresh cream from the Alps in our truffles, we add a dash of alcohol for preservation.  Naturally, we have a lot of chocolates for which this is unnecessary – for example, in our marzipan and nougat pralines.

Many European customers really enjoy pralines with alcohol.  We recently developed a new creation for a distillery – hazelnut schnapps in dark pralines and hazelnut crunch – true seductions!

Are there particular challenges when using alcohol when you are working with chocolate?

When working with chocolate and alcohol, is important to achieve a very subtle hint of alcohol flavor so that the chocolate flavor does not get lost.  In fact, to get drunk, one would need to consume at least 6 kilograms of chocolate!

What is your favorite type of chocolate to create?  Is it the same type of chocolate you prefer to eat?

I personally love our mocha nougat pralines – The finest nougat is covered with dark chocolate.  For decorative purposes, we sprinkle mocha powder on dark chocolate.  Of course my first product is also my favorite product – the Chocion hot chocolate spoon with whole milk and a vanilla flavor.

You have a wide range of very fun shaped and adorable products such as the gummi bears, money and car-shaped chocolates, as well as your chocolate spoons.  How do you come up with these ideas?

Many products are developed in response to customer requests.  We make every effort to satisfy even requests for relatively small custom orders.  For example, some time ago we created both a wine truffle chocolate and a beer truffle chocolate.  A winery in Portugal which produces very high-end port wine was looking for something very special.  This is how our port wine pralines were developed.  Our production facility is located in Bavaria, the region known all over the world for outstanding beer.  This was the inspiration for our combining beer and chocolate.

What may seem unbelievable for many readers actually tastes wonderful.  Even I was surprised!  We certainly are very curious and open-minded, and search the entire world for clever new ideas.  In virtually every city of the world you may find me in chocolate shops!

Chocion has an Organic Certificate Germany status. What exactly does that mean and how do you earn that?

As mentioned earlier, we at Chocion place a lot of emphasis on Fair Trade and organic growth, not only for the current generation of farmers but for future generations of farmers and their families.  We stand behind this principle; it is not empty talk.  Our practices are clearly documented and are essential to our corporate culture.  We would like for all of our customers to know that we are committed to this. A certificate is our official proof.

Sound business practices, quality and taste belong together.  We strive to make sure that everyone in the supply chain, from the farmer to the customer, benefits.

Finally, is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about Chocion?

There is a lot which I would like to share with you.  Chocolate is one of the oldest and most time-honored passions of the world.  There are, however, individuals who, for various reasons, are not able to indulge in the enjoyment of chocolate.  For these people we are hard at work developing some equally delightful products.  This is why Chocion developed, for example, a vegan chocolate with rice syrup (tastes like milk chocolate) for chocolate lovers who are lactose-intolerant.  We also offer dark chocolate vegan and lactose free.

New for fall 2014 are our chocolate telegram, chocolate postcard and our chocolate puzzle.  I would be delighted to introduce your readers to these products soon!

Please visit our new website pages starting in October of 2014, in addition to our Facebook page.  We send our passion worldwide!

Many sincere thanks for sharing your passion for chocolate with Chocion, and for the courtesy of this interview.

Thank you, Andreas, for letting our readers learn more about you and Chocion. Sisters and Brothers please do leave comments below to let us know what you think about this interview today.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Life Core Chocolate Recall

I have another chocolate related recall for our readers in the USA.  I've never heard of this company but perhaps you have and perhaps you have some of their supplements.

Ortho Molecular Products Issues Allergy Alert On Undeclared Milk In Lifecore Chocolate And Lifecore Complete Chocolate

Consumer Contact: 1-715-342-9881

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - August 1, 2014 - Ortho Molecular Products of Stevens Point, Wisconsin is recalling all lots of LifeCore Chocolate and LifeCore Complete Chocolate because the flavoring may contain undeclared milk. According to food safety standards, people who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product.

Products were distributed nationwide to health care practitioners who then distribute the products to their patients as warranted. Distribution of the product has been suspended until further notice.

All LifeCore Chocolate and LifeCore Complete Chocolate products distributed through August 1, 2014 are subject to the recall. Products subject to the recall contain lots numbers beginning with the following numbers:

73286, 73620, 74419, 75339, 73288, 73840, 74562, 75568, 73455, 73859, 74773, 75749, 73482, 73987, 74920, 75919, 73569, 74038, 75309

The lot number and expiration date can be located at the neck of the bottle just above the label.

No adverse events have been reported to date regarding the undeclared milk allergen.

The recall was initiated after it was discovered that the chocolate flavoring used in the products contains a milk allergen which was not disclosed on the packaging of the products.

Consumers who have LifeCore Chocolate or LifeCore Complete Chocolate are urged to contact their health care practitioner who distributed the product to discuss returning or replacing the product. Consumers with questions may contact the company directly at 1-(715) 342-9881.