Thousands of chocolate enthusiasts flooded to Seattle for the Northwest Chocolate Festival over the weekend. The event was packed with people of varied interests, whether learning how to perfect their own chocolate recipes or looking for a delicious holiday gift. This year, the festival was held in a semi-discrete location by the water at Pier 91. Over 100 exhibitors gave samples of their chocolate and educated guests on the process during the two-day festival.
Chocolate treats available for onlookers.
While at the festival, guests had the option to attend a variety of scheduled events led by professionals. These seminars focused on everything related to the cacao business—even a ladies only sex and chocolate workshop.
Exhibitors traveled to Seattle from all over the country for the festival. Although some of these out of town folks don’t have storefronts in Seattle, their products still are sold at places like Whole Foods and food co-ops. These vendors focus their work on creating very high quality and humane treats, and much of the cacao used for these businesses is sourced from specifically chosen regions from all around the world.
One company travelled all the way from Boston for the Northwest Chocolate Festival to spread their mission with others involved in the chocolate industry and interested guests. Equal Exchange is a fair trade coffee, tea and chocolate company, and focuses their work on a specific goal.
“Everything we do is about connecting small scale farmers to the market in a way that changes the terms of trade so making trade actually work better for small scale farmers,” said Dary Goodrich, a Chocolate Products Manager at Equal Exchange.
Coffee beans and white chocolate.
Other companies that are involved in the festival are familiar to local chocolate lovers- like Seattle Chocolates.
Seattle Chocolates is a regular at the local festival and was sampling their usual flavors, but was also promoting their new branch of culinary chocolate called jcoco.
According to Sandra Lopez, a store manager at the Bellevue Seattle Chocolates location, the owner of the company, Jean Thompson, decided to bring something to the Seattle Chocolate that represented who she is, thus jcoco was born. Jcoco involves a more intense group of flavors than the traditional chocolate bars found at Seattle Chocolates. So far, there are only eight flavors, including edamame and sea salt and agave quinoa with sesame seeds.
This is Lopez’s second year at the festival, and she thinks the interest about the chocolate has risen.
“In the past people were just taking their samples and leaving, now they’re more interacting and asking about your product and buying. There are a lot more introductions. It seems a lot busier, it is definitely a bigger venue, which is great,” Lopez said.
In the past, the Chocolate Festival had been held downtown at the Convention Center. Although many of the vendors enjoyed the larger space at Pier 91, the location was more inconvenient for guests.
Julia Kirk has gone to the festival for the past four years and feels like this year’s location was a mistake.
“The location was a big problem this year. It was very inconvenient to get to and to park and to try and get over,” Kirk said.
Other than those inconveniences, Kirk said her experience the festival this year was a success.
In addition to chocolate vendors and speakers, the festival hosts a number of other groups, like pastry artisans and food trucks. Leading up to the festival was NW Chocolate Week, which took place around the city and hosted a number of chefs and pastry artisans from around the Pacific Northwest that infused chocolate into both sweet and savory recipes.
Tickets for the festival range from $35 for a day pass to $55 for a weekend pass. Although the prices seem steep, chocolate lovers will be invited to completely explore every aspect of cacao.
If you’re a true chocolate enthusiast, mark your calendar for next year’s Northwest Chocolate Festival.
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