Here’s a well-kept secret. Even your favorite chocolate maker in the Baltimore metro region is most likely not making its own chocolate. What?! Say it isn’t so! Ah, well, it’s true. Nearly all candy makers get their chocolate base from some other maker, then add their own flavorings, fillings, and shape them the way they want. According to the owner of Raleigh artisan chocolate store Escazu, Hallot Parson, only about a couple dozen candy makers in the US are actually making their own chocolate.
What does that mean? Parson hand selects the beans from the cocoa pods, sourcing them internationally for the precise flavor profile he desires. As it turns out, the pods that are the rarest are the most flavorful. This is not simply the desire for the hard to attain; the pods transplanted to non-traditional cocoa growing regions — Hawaii, for example — were selected for heartiness, not complexity of flavor. We see that over and over again in produce, from tomatoes to apples!
Parson has acquired vintage roasting and grinding equipment. Oh, why not the latest, state of the art stuff? Very simply put, the newest models crush and grind at such a fervor, the heat of the chocolate rises. You can get a burnt flavor this way and damage the fragile cocoa.
Parson has researched ancient texts for cocoa recipes ranging from Montezuma’s time to the Sun King’s era and later. He’s starting a hot chocolate bar on the premises where you can order hot chocolate from different historic periods. You can buy dark chocolate bars of different cocoa percentages and even single origin bars. The chocolate candies are made by a Venuzuelan on site, many with spices common to the Hispanic history of flavoring.