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Ginger Elizabeth talks chocolate at Time Tested Books

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Local chocolatier Ginger Elizabeth shared the farm-to-storefront process of making chocolate
Sunday as a part of Time Tested Books’ Living Library series, at Time Tested Books, co-sponsored by Midtown Monthly.

“Chocolate is my life, and my mission is to educate the Sacramento region about chocolate,” Elizabeth said.

And educate she did.

According to Elizabeth, all the chocolate we consume comes from the cacao tree. The farmer grows the cacao tree, which has football-like cacao pod blossoms that grow from its trunk. Each pod yields about 40 beans, Elizabeth said.

When it’s time to harvest the beans, they are fermented. Without this process of fermentation, the beans wouldn’t taste like chocolate.

After the beans are fermented, they must be dried and then roasted. Just like coffee beans, the roasting is possibly the most important step, Elizabeth said.

After roasting, the beans must be crushed and winnowed, or separated into crushed bean shells and meaty insides, called nibs.

The nibs are then ground and made into a paste, sugar is added and the chocolate is ready to be consumed.

However, this version of chocolate is unrefined and only eaten in other countries, such as South America and Africa, where refined chocolate is unavailable.

The chocolate sold in the United States has gone through a concher – a machine invented by Rudolf Lindt, which removes any volatile acids from the chocolate and refines the particle size giving it a smoother feel on the tongue.

“After it’s conched you have beautiful chocolate,” Elizabeth said.

A member of the audience, Lisa Hansen, said she enjoyed learning about this process.

“I learned more about how chocolate was grown and about the pods,” Hansen said. “I had seen pictures of the pods and kind of knew how it was grown, but I didn’t know that much.”

Elizabeth is known as a “fonduer,” or a melter of chocolate, because she’s not a processor.

In addition to sharing the process of chocolate, Elizabeth shared a bit about where she gets her chocolate from different parts of the world, including Valrhona of France and a small chocolate distributor in Switzerland.

“I thought it was interesting how she sources her chocolate from many different places, and how she thinks that combining a diversity of flavors makes the chocolate more interesting,” said guest Ariana Salvo.

However, when asked about her most interesting chocolates, Elizabeth responded that she doesn’t care as much to be interesting as she does that her chocolate is delicious.

“You just need to eat what you like,” Elizabeth said.

Ginger Elizabeth is located at 1801 L St. suite 60.

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