Transforming the Town Forge Blacksmith shop into a WSDA licensed food production facility has been a long, interesting journey.....
What is "The Cocoa Forge"?
The Cocoa Forge is a local, craft, stone-ground, bean-to-bar chocolate maker specializing in Heirloom and Fine Flavor Cacao. Our adventure statement: to seek out the world's most extraordinary, rare and exquisite responsibly grown cacao, direct-sourced from small-holder farms around the equator; to reverently process this "food of the gods" into the purest form of chocolate possible; to present it respectfully and honestly without the smarmy bruhaha and trendy descriptions.
What do you mean by "local"?
These beans have traveled thousands of hard miles. It doesn't make sense to travel hundreds or thousands more. They are here to be appreciated and enjoyed by YOU. We believe in "local"; the butcher, baker and candlestick maker. If you want to know exactly where your food comes from, you should be able ask any question you have about the food/process/packaging/craft. Local = our neck of the woods. Can you easily walk/bike/paddle/sail/drive here?
What do you mean by "craft"? "Stone-ground"? Bean-to-Bar"?
Every single part of the process of creating chocolate from cacao seeds is done purposefully and methodically - each step babysat and fussed over. Each origin behaves differently. The art is to try to bring out and showcase the lovely characteristics and personality of the origin. They are all so unique. Genetics, terroir, weather, farming practices, post harvest practices - all of it matters - all has to be taken into consideration before and during each step of the chocolate making process here in Port Townsend; testing, sorting, roasting, cracking, winnowing, grinding, refining, conching, tempering, moulding, packaging. We do the grinding and refining the old fashioned way with granite rollers shearing against a granite plate but instead of human energy we use electricity to drive it. That particular process takes up to 3 days to get the particle size down to about 20 microns. (In case you were wondering why that part is not done by hand).
Why don't you have a retail shop here at The Cocoa Forge?
The way the building is set up in conjunction with the WSDA licensing, we literally had to choose between humans or cocoa beans being in here. Um. The cocoa beans won.
Do you do tours?
No. But we could do appointments for *custom-batch clients. You will need to go through the sanitation chamber to remove pet hair, lint or any other loose debris that could float off into space; then suit up in hairnet, labcoat, booties, gloves. Also, a mask if you don't look very hygienic and/or a beard net if you are hairy.
Why don't you have social media?
Don't know much about it and never learned to use it. It's on my list.
So then, how will you interface with your customers?
Ahhh so glad you asked! Face to face! Besides the online shopping, we are going to have "Saturday Samplings and General Chocolate Partying on the Patio"! Starting mid/late April, on Saturday afternoons from 2:00 to 6:00 (stay tuned for the date/announcement by joining our newsletter), we will host an open patio and chocolate tiki bar where you will be able to learn about all things cacao and chocolate, participate in a rustic traditional South American/Mesoamerican hands-on preparation of bean-to-beverage process AND taste the results of your labors. Throughout the afternoon we will sample and talk about the origin(s) that just came down the pike and discuss and anticipate what is going into the hopper for the next week. Fun! This is also the time to pick up your orders you purchased online and/or purchase your bars. As we get rolling into summer, we will add some fun chocolate foods and beverages (thinking churros dipped in warm liquid truffle or house made s'mores). ALSO, this is a good time to start your order for *your-own-custom-batch. Yep. You get to pick the beans, the roast, the sweetness, the refinement and the end result (bars, blocks, tempered, untempered etc).
What can be expected?
Expect the unexpected. We are not the company who makes 6 different bars, each the same forevermore. At The Cocoa Forge, we shake it up, do things the hard way. Each run is a limited edition and challenges a new learning experience. Because part of the fun is exploring the different flavors and characteristics of the genetics and origins. And part of sourcing is a never ending quest to find and bring back the holy grail(s) of cacao - a seriously complex and continuously moving target. Anti-industrial chocolate.
Susan Fitch is the Master Chocolate Maker and teller of stories at the Cocoa Forge. Besides making chocolate, Sue is a dog-lover, a sea breeze savor-er and an unconventional Virgo following the lead of Theobroma in the most unconventional and ever-changing second career one could imagine. Cheers!