This festival focuses not just on the finished product but the ‘industry as a whole,’ and the organizers consider it an opportune time for people who simply enjoy chocolate to learn more about the intricacies of bringing such a complex food to market.
“We offer people a chance to see where chocolate comes from; how it’s made; how cocoa beans are grown; how to read labels; explore and taste hand-crafted, artisan chocolate – and see how unique and different it can be from what’s available on a mass scale,” said founder and festival producer Brian Cisneros.
The Fine Chocolate Industry Association's Bill Guyton told ConfectioneryNews that this festival, an affiliate member of FCIA, "plays an important role in raising the profile of the fine chocolate industry."
Humble beginnings for Seattle chocolate fest
Cisneros started the show in 2008 with just seven exhibitors and 12 workshops. As a 31-year-old, he told The Oregonian that “chocolate is a whole ecology,” and that consumers were reprobating ‘watered-down’ (with sugar and milk) commercial chocolate. He predicted a shift toward know-your-farmer sourcing methodology and darker, purer chocolate.
Based on the growth of the market in the decade since – it now hovers around 5% according to the Fine Chocolate Industry Association – it appears he was right.
Eleven years later, the number of attendees has skyrocketed from 600 to more than 10,000, he said in a release. This year’s show will feature 186 exhibitors and 76 workshops – on five different stages.
It purports to be the largest artisan chocolate festival worldwide.
Exhibitors include well-known names like Valrhona, Theo Chocolate, Dandelion Chocolate and Cacaosuyo, among dozens of other makers, equipment companies and even Topo Chico mineral water.
In addition to chocolate makers – many of whom will show off new products – attendees will hear from ‘professionals at every level of the supply chain,’ including experts in farming and sustainability. Celebrity chefs and cookbook authors will also offer demos and samples, and guests over the age of 21 can relax in a lounge area and learn from special workshops featuring various liquor brands. (To enter, guests must purchase an additional ticket for $35 per day.)
Single-day passes start at $25 (plus about $5 in service fees), with a youth option available for teens aged 12 to 17. Early bird VIP passes, which are still available, run for $95; a standard weekend pass costs $50.