RE – Christmas Lunch and Chocolate Extravaganza, 30 November 2016

A group of us made sure not to order a pudding or ice cream at the Christmas lunch, as we were going on to a chocolate making workshop at the Laderach/Poyet chocolate shop in Vevey town centre. Mr Blaise Poyet, of the famous chocolate family no less, introduced himself as our instructor. He began by warning us that chocolate tasting was similar to wine tasting, in that when presented with a glass of wine, or a piece of chocolate, you just took a sip, or in this case taste a tiny morsel, roll it around your tongue, and then throw the remainder in the bin, refreshing your mouth with water afterwards. He  reminded us that each piece of chocolate offered would be equal to 300 calories. With those warnings, and undaunted, the chocolate came thick and fast.

I have to confess that every piece provided was eaten by me to the full !-  Was there anyone in the party disciplined enough to obey instructions ?  We tasted chocolate made from cocoa beans grown in Ghana, Grenada, and East Java, areas where Poyet sources its beans. Could we taste the smokiness of the East Java chocolate, pervaded by the Mount Bromo volcano ?- Did we know that expert consensus opinion is that premier cru chocolate comes from cocoa beans grown in Ecuador.  Could we taste the difference from chocolate made from a bean grown on the Ivory Coast from that grown in Ghana.  Mr. Poyet could, but there was no time to test him or ourselves as more chocolate arrived: tastings of especially made Tom Yam bars in honour of the late King of Thailand, with a hint of coconut and spicy lime leaves; minted chocolate from Morocco; yuzu flavoured chocolate from Japan; chilli flavours embedded in Santa Domingo rich brown bars.

Now was the time to make our own creations. Toques, and aprons donned  ( which we were allowed to keep as souvenirs ) tasks were allocated. Someone to make the icing ( Liz Horman), accurate mixing of chocolate and caramel ( Rosy Andre); precise pouring of the finished product into chocolate egg cups. ( Di Robertson). Our national chairman, was given the task of smoothing out a block of marzipan with a rolling pin to a thickness of exactly 2 millimetres. It all added to the taste when he managed to drop the whole lot on the floor !!

We came away each with 4 self made, seasonally designed horse chestnut creations, a box of the best Laderach chocolate, our aprons and toques, (a useful outfit for the next fancy dress party ),  and the knowledge why chocolate is so expensive to buy. The UK is the fourth largest chocolate consumer in the world and after Brexit, the Ivory Coast government, the main supplier to British chocolate manufacturers, is keen to do a preferential trade deal with the UK. I doubt if it will result in chocolate becoming any cheaper.

      Andrew Konecki