To say that Eagranie Yuh knows a thing or two about chocolate would be an understatement. Her blog, The Well-Tempered Chocolatier, is a great resource for learning about the ever-expanding field of artisan chocolate makers. We recently caught up with her to learn more about her passion for chocolate and her newest creation, The Chocolate Tasting Kit.
Chococurb: How did you become a chocolate expert?
Eagranie: I think chocolate chose me. I was originally a chemist, but I was always interested in food. After grad school I just didn’t see myself working in a lab anymore or being an academic, so I went to culinary school. I had grand plans of being a pastry chef with this beautiful bakery, but as fate turns out, everywhere I worked, I ended up working with chocolate.
I worked specifically with chocolate for a couple of years, but ultimately kitchen life was not for me. I took a step back from that and started writing, which was something I had always been doing but hadn’t considered as a profession. This was about 2007 or 2008, around the time the bean to bar movement was picking up in the states. I remember going to these small festivals and meeting people like Alan [McClure] of Patric Chocolate, Colin [Gasko] of Rogue Chocolate, and Art [Pollard] of Amano, and them being like, “You want to talk to me? You know what I do and you want to talk about chocolate?!”
Chococurb: How did The Chocolate Tasting Kit come about?
Eagranie: Every time I came back to Vancouver, I would have all of this chocolate that you couldn’t get here and I’d have my friends over and we would do tastings. Eventually someone suggested I teach people how to taste chocolate, which seemed absurd at the time, but sometimes the craziest ideas are the ones that make the most sense in the end.
The Chocolate Tasting Kit came out last year, 2014, and it’s designed to help people appreciate chocolate in an unpretentious way. I really wanted to make the experience of tasting chocolate fun and approachable. There are flavor flash cards in the kit, because it’s way more fun to talk about something when you have the vocabulary to help you describe what you are tasting.
The Chocolate Tasting Kit by Eagranie Yuh.
Chococurb: In addition to using The Chocolate Tasting Kit, what else can people do to learn more about artisan chocolate?
Eagranie: Services like Chococurb are great if you are just starting out because it’s nice to have things that are curated for you. Even if you don’t like everything in the box, the chocolate has passed some sort of standards.
Also, a book that really helped me was Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light by Mort Rosenblum. It’s an easy read, really interesting, and he touches on all of the main topics.
Chococurb: What comes next for you now that The Chocolate Tasting Kit has been released?
Eagranie: I’m a freelance writer by profession, and lately I’ve been dipping more into travel than food. I recently wrote a story for the Washington Post on chocolate in London which was really fun to do and kind of a dream of mine. I also teach private classes by appointment for conferences and corporate events.
Chococurb: What would you say is your most memorable chocolate experience?
Eagranie: I’ll give you one bad and one good experience, though the bad one isn’t all that terrible.
I was on the grand jury of the International Chocolate Awards a couple of years ago. We had to taste all of the submissions (250 of them!) in eight hours. It sounds like an awesome job, but after tasting so much at some point you’re just like, that’s not offensive or moldy, so we’re going to leave it in the competition. I ended up having a salad for dinner that night because I couldn’t stomach the thought of eating anything else.
A good memory I have is when I worked for Thomas Haas making chocolates during the busy holiday season. During the blur of those 10 weeks in his kitchen, four of us made around 30,000 chocolates per week. The hours were long and insane, but it was really fun to push myself to the limit to see how fast and clean we could work. I learned a lot about chocolate during that time, and I had great people to work with which made all of the difference.