The process of making chocolate isn’t so much different from wine making – each bean has its own distinct notes, creating completely different nuances and tastes. Some of the most exquisite chocolate is right here in Atlanta, and they’re opening their doors (and a few bottles of champagne) to tell us all about it.
We were pretty sure life couldn’t get any sweeter when Cacao first opened up in Inman Park oh-so-long ago. The mission behind Cacao is about as pure as it gets: purity. Yup, Kristen Hard made it her mission to open up her shops to display what is arguably the purest, most stunning chocolate creations on the market. (And not just in Atlanta, mind you – but just about everywhere.) Now, if the term “chocolate factory” has you imagining Oompa Loompas and misbehaving children, you’re a little off; this is a whole new level of chocolate-making, all done right here in town. We ATLiens happen to have one of the few chocolate-makers in the world who travels to far-off farms to find the perfect cocoa beans, then brings them back here by the burlap sackful to roast, grind, and lovingly transform into bars of pure, unadulterated chocolatey bliss. Never heard of the “bean-to-bar” movement? It’s still pretty rare in the world of chocolate – meaning we are privileged to the luxury of having Kristen and her masterpiece confections right here in Atlanta whenever we’re in need of a chocolate fix. (All of the time.)
And now’s your chance to indulge and see what you've been missing with a tasty tour of fine chocolate. Nicole, one of Cacao's own chocolate makers, will be guiding you through an alternate universe where chocolate isn’t just a piece of candy, it’s an experience – a work of art. You may enter this adorable Highland shop believing yourself to have a bit of a sophisticated palate for expensive dark chocolates and indulgent truffles. Well, we hate to break it to you, eating one’s way through a box of Whitman’s Samplers does not an aficionado make. But after this tasting class at Cacao you’ll realize that before you were merely eating chocolate with training wheels. But it’s okay – things are only going to get sweeter from here.
With a glass of bubbly in hand, you’ll learn (by tasting, of course) about the various notes and flavors of chocolate that you won't have the pleasure of experiencing from that candy bar you picked up in the grocery store checkout line. You’ll hear all about the farms and the estates from which the cocoa beans are sourced and the unique flavors present in different types of beans. After biting into these confections and tasting not just the quality, but the love, thought and hard work that goes into each and every bar – all that over-processed, mass-produced hogwash just won’t cut it. Because you will have finally gotten a well-informed taste and understanding of what goes into pure, quality chocolate. Now that’s something we’ll clink our champagne floats and chocolate bars too.
All this confectionary magic happens in their Westside “laboratoire," where the cocoa beans are roasted, ground, and transformed into these exquisite chocolates, wrapped in equally beautiful packaging. It's then housed and enjoyed in their French-inspired, modern-glam cafe in Virginia-Highland. With the exception of maybe five other chocolate-makers in the country, simply no one
out there is making chocolate like this. Kristen says the whole “bean to bar” movement is still new; the history of chocolate-making as we know it has been one big over-processed, mass-produced machine since the Industrial Revolution. We’re so used to that manufactured chocolate taste, with all the added sweeteners, butters, and chemicals, no one really knows what true chocolate tastes like. Even if you buy a dark chocolate bar at, say, Whole Foods, it’s not even close to pure chocolate. At least, not like this.