This isn’t about the kind of conch (pronounced “konk”) we find all around The Bahamas. This is not about that staple of island life (and a staple that’s so popular—but not necessarily so prevalent these days—that it may well need some common sense seasonal protection to bring it back to a state of plentifulness, but that’s another story!). No, this is not about the beautiful pink-lipped mild conch that lives in the grassy sea banks of The Bahamas and tastes great in conch salad, fritters, or pounded thin, battered and fried into cracked conch (can you tell it’s around lunchtime as I type this?) …
This is about conch as a verb. Something I just discovered thanks to The Art of Eating Magazine.
This amazing independent print magazine (that celebrates all the best in food and wine with in-depth articles about the people, places, traditions, growers, and artisans who produce the freshest and most flavorful fare) introduced me to the term “conch” as it applies to the the fine art of making chocolate ….
Yes. Chocolate! And not just any chocolate. Some of the finest chocolate produced anywhere: Taza Chocolate (where a debate on whether to conch or not conch the chocolate is appropos and just a normal part of chocolate-making lingo!).
What I learned reading the Art of Eating article in Salon.com (click here) is that in chocolate-making “conching” refers to a process by which chocolate’s texture can be smoothed. The original conching machine (developed in 1874) was used to give creamy smoothness to the gritty raw chocolate beans, tempering it for taste and texture. The original chocolate conching machine was shaped like a seashell, and the name still refers to the chocolate mixture smoothing process that happens in the final stages of any chocolate making.
In the true artistry of chocolate purists who craft from bean to bar, Taza Chocolate is unique because they do not conch. They roast, winnow, grind, temper, and mold their chocolate by hand. And they use only authentic Oaxacan stone mills (instead of steel machine mills) to grind their organic cacao beans on a slightly imperfect surface, which allows small small particles of unrefined cacao to pop with intense uncompromised flavor in the finished chocolate, and to give their bars a distinct granular texture.
Chocolate. I love it all. Conched or not conched. And I’m so happy to know that Taza Chocolate exists, and to learn that something sea-inspired is a part of chocolate making history.
And as is the case with all the good things I blog about here, I’m not selling anything—I’m just having fun sharing some of the inspiring stuff that makes life a little more full of wonder and joy—and handcrafted all organic-ingredient chocolate is right up there near the top of that Sweet Life list.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go in search of my copy of one of my most favorite all-time movies: Chocolat! (I’m wondering if there’s a conching machine or grinder anywhere in the background that I didn’t notice before … and even if there isn’t, I just love Johnny Depp in this, don’t you?!)
Indulge! (And share a note about your favorite chocolate-lovin’ treats!)