Penticton-based pastry chef hosting specialty chocolate tasting workshops throughout February

Masterclass on chocolate

Whether you're an expert-level chocolate lover or someone just looking for a unique night out, a Penticton-based pastry chef is running chocolate tasting workshops all throughout February.

Liz Stevenson, previously the head pastry chef at Naramata Inn and a dessert menu consultant for Poplar Grove Winery, was originally from the East Coast and spent most of her career between London and Dubai.

Now in next phase of her career, Stevenson is focused in guiding both professional and amateur training sessions, workshops and classes.

She hopes in this event, people will not only get to have an idea of what good quality single origin chocolate is, but also learn about ethical cocoa farming.

"What we're doing is we're eating lots of chocolate for one, that's the most important part. But we're going through different samples and really kind of thinking and feeling them through with our taste buds and our nose and so on," Stevenson said.

"The commercial chocolate that we know is not really close to actual chocolate produced in correct ways. I think people are generally surprised at how these bars taste."

Attendees will be tasting through six chocolate samples from single origin bars. This includes three examples of dark chocolate, a dark 'milk' chocolate, and a milk chocolate, plus a sixth mystery sample.

"So what that means is the beans come from one single plantation or area. Very minimal intervention and the result is usually chocolate tastes very different to what we know."

The event, which lasts around 90 minutes, is aimed at being fun and educational.

"In order to really get to know cacao, you have to kind of dive into single origin, because you'll get a sense of terroir. For anyone who knows wine or coffee and is really into that kind of thing, terroir just refers to the case of the place essentially, where you can detect or denote certain flavours or character of chocolate just like you would from a Pinot Noir from Burgundy for example," Stevenson added.

Stevenson's passion for chocolate teachings stems from 15 years ago after conducting a research project on cocoa cultivation.

"I have worked a lot with chocolate during my career," she said. "What I found was that in the industry, there are a lot of abuses human rights abuses for the most part and it's not widely talked about.

"But when I found out that this was going on, and I researched the chocolates that I was using, I was very surprised to learn that I had no way of knowing whether these companies that I used—and these were high end companies—were treating workers fairly there."

While some companies have taken strides to address the issues, the problem persists.

Dr. Eric Li, associate professor of management at UBC Okanagan’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science and Faculty of Management, previously spoke to Castanet about supporting fair-trade chocolate.

The International Labor Organization estimates millions of child labourers are responsible for producing coffee and cocoa — this includes the almost 284,000 children between nine and 12 who say they have worked in hazardous conditions in West African cacao farms.

“These children are exploited by being forced to work long hours with little or no pay, and have little rights and limited education,” Li told Castanet. “Also, the ongoing deforestation due to the growing demand for chocolate will contribute to climate change-related issues.”

During the workshop, Stevenson will dive into how the chocolate is made and what to look out for in good quality chocolate.

The workshops run Feb. 14, 21 and 28, starting at 6 p.m. at One14 Coffee Co. in the Cannery Trade Centre building. Tickets are $35 and can be found online here.

Check out more on Stevenson here.

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