Judging the International Chocolate Awards Canadian National Competition

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Taraneh Jerven

You don’t turn down an invitation to judge the International Chocolate Awards. The Canadian National Competition took place in Vancouver this week, and let’s just say after savouring over 40 truffles, ganaches, bars and pralines, I’m steering clear of Hershey’s “chocolate” for good. I also feel an urge to gargle pretzels and binge on charcuterie.

The International Chocolate Awards are a relatively new international competition, established in 2012 by Brits by Martin Christy of Seventy% and Kate Johns of Chocolate Week. In 2013, the competition has expanded to include the Americas and Europe with individual competitions in Italy and Israel. The World Final takes place in London Oct. 15-18.

Get a sneak peek inside the International Chocolate Awards and find out who won after the jump.

What’s the point of the International Chocolate Awards? I’m going to quote Eagranie Yuh, a chocolate expert, writer and educator based in Vancouver:

The point is that nearly every other industry has some gold standard: coffee, wine, and even the beer industry have developed a certification and tasting program to help the average consumer navigate an increasingly cluttered and complicated marketplace. But in chocolate, it seems like anyone can slap a sticker on their package, and consumers are none the wiser as to (a) what that sticker really means (if anything), and (b) whether that chocolate is any good. The International Chocolate Awards aim to change that, and to develop standards in consultation with the industry.” (Read more)

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Judging at the International Chocolate Awards takes place in three rounds. Round 1 weeds out the amateurs. Round 2, the main judging round, takes a look at the entries that make it through Round 1, ranking them once again. This is where I helped out. The job was unpaid, unless you count the sugar rush and the excellent conversation with fellow chocolate lovers. Tasting is blind, as in we didn’t know which chocolatier made what. We did have a description of each chocolate we tasted. We ranked based on looks, flavour and texture. You can read the fairly sophisitcated judging guidelines here. In Round 3, the grand jury makes the final call on Canada’s top chocolate makers.

Would I ever judge the International Chocolate Awards again? Heck yes. As a travel and food writer, it was an honour to rub shoulders with coffee roasters (Kitsilano’s 49th Parallel was there), distillers, patisserie chefs (Beaucoup Bakery‘s Jackie Ellis was there), more travel writers, sommeliers, and chocolate experts in the judging room at Vancouver Community College.

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Most fun moment of the whole event? When I discovered soupy polenta was our palate cleanser. Yes, a roomful of food snobs ate gruel after each tasting in order to sweep tannins and sugars from their delicate palates.

Stay tuned for the International Chocolate Awards Canadian National Competition results!

UPDATE:

Winners just announced here: http://www.internationalchocolateawards.com/2013/09/canadian-national-competition-2013-winners/

Last modified: September 27, 2013

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