They say that money can't buy happiness. However, it can definitely buy chocolate, which will probably put a smile on your face! This week I visited Hummingbird Chocolate Maker, in Almonte, Ontario. The moment I stepped into their shop, I started smiling because it smelled sooo good - yes, like rich dark chocolate. I breathed in deeply and sighed. In fact, I was surrounded by dark chocolate, of several varieties. My goal was to pick up some Easter treats, plus maybe a little something extra...
Hummingbird is run by Erica and Drew, two former aid workers who earlier in their career, worked internationally directly with farmers in developing countries. Back in Canada, they started making chocolate as a hobby, which quickly became a passion and now, they're running a successful business with award-winning chocolate products. Their cacao is sourced fairly, ethically and sustainably. Their guiding principles are to connect directly with the farmer to ensure that:
1- farmer receives better than Fair Trade prices
2- cacao is grown sustainably
3- cacao is farmed ethically and humanely- no child labour
4- do the right thing
I learned that there are 10 steps to making chocolate, starting with hand-sorting the beans. Step #7, after the beans are crushed and a paste extracted, involves spinning this paste together with sugar in a machine called a conche for about 3 days, during which time it achieves its wonderful creamy texture. Mmmmm. I saw the conche through the factory window and then my fingers started twitching to pick out a few pieces to take home. They
have several flavours of bars, with samples to help you decide. hint- they're all delicious! I had previously tasted the Mayan bar, which is flavoured with chili, cinnamon and nutmeg; it's a winner. With a family dinner coming up, I focused on Chocolate Easter bunnies. Okay, we're actually all adults in the family, but I'm sure the bunnies will be a hit.
What did I choose? The Honey Bunnies, which are dark chocolate filled with creamy ganache, some small bunnies, both 60% milk chocolate and 70% dark, and a bar of dark chocolate with strawberries and red pepper. I hope there are no fights at the table over who gets what!
Though, come to think of it, this stash might not last until Easter...
Hummingbird Chocolate Maker is located at 9 Houston Dr., in Almonte. They will also have a table at the Ottawa Farmers Market on April 7th and 14th.
Jane Staples, Wine and Food Writer, Accredited Sommelier
Photos, Jane Staples