The Chocolate Tour
We were on an Ecuador export tour in Quito, Ecuador.
We came, we saw, we ate.
I liked it.
One of our visits was to Kallari, Republic de Cacao a shop with many Chocolate products.
The menu at Kallari has a lot of chocolate.
There are people on the planet who don’t like chocolate. I’ve met them, but they’re rare. More commonly, there’s a shuffle, a queue, a line up, a wait because most of us love chocolate. It contains the “love drug” – the chemical released when we are in love – so it’s popular and elevates our mood.
What started out as an import/export tour in Ecuador grew – some days later into an Amazon tour – including chocolate. My mood was rising.
We rode the Napo River. We were in the Ecuadorian Amazon where cocoa is grown.
There are various percentages of cacao content in chocolate. Percentages varies from 10% cocoa up to 100% [usually 99%]. 85% is usually the greatest percentage used for eating. After 85% the bitterness of the chocolate is too great. Bitter chocolate may still be used for baking however – up to 100%.
Great Chocolate is Created, not Born.
What makes a great chocolate? Chocolate is made with two of the three magic ingredients – sugar and fat and of course chocolate. But where does the chocolate come from? From packages of course! One’s mind rarely delves beyond the package. But there is a life before the package that goes something like this:
Chocolate begins its life in a pod/husk full of seeds. These seeds become the beans. The raw seeds themselves are slimy although tasty (lemony sweet) but this alone doesn’t create chocolate. While the majority of the world’s seeds/beans originate in Africa, the quality product often originates in countries such as Ecuador (which in Spanish means Equator) and they then make their way worldwide. Cocoa beans grow only within 20 degrees north or south of the Equator.
The process of making Chocolate is something like this:
Cocoa is grown and the cocoa bean is harvested. It grows as a seed in pods/husks. The harvest occurs most of the year (often 11 of 12 months) making for a very long ‘season.’
The beans or seeds from inside the husk are fermented for 2-8 days. The husk is thrown away. Fermentation changes the sugars in the beans to an acid, activates the enzymes in them to improve the color and flavor and increases their temperature to around 125 degrees F/51-52 degrees C.
The fermented beans are dried to prevent molding.
The dried cocoa beans (they were seeds) are bagged, labelled and when needed, ground after roasting.
The ground cocoa may be used as a powder or further may be processed into cocoa liquor, cocoa butter or cocoa fat.
The powder and/or the cocoa liquor/fat is mixed with sugar and other ingredients (like vanilla or milk for milk chocolate) in the correct ratios.
The resulting liquid is molded into bars, Easter bunnies, Santa Claus et al, balls, truffles or other forms and is packaged accordingly.
Chocolate can be made into a butter or a fat/liquor (all similar). This liquor has no alcohol although you can also obtain Creme de Cacao which is a liqueur containing chocolate.
You purchase the package not realizing the cocoa has traversed the globe and many steps have finally resulted in your purchase. Cheaper quality chocolate companies often fill their product with inexpensive edible waxes and disguise their flavor with sugar/sweeteners and flavorings whereas expensive chocolate is often organic, its fermentation, drying, storage, shipping, roasting, grinding and mixing with other ingredients, remaining a closely guarded secret. Your final price is often determined by these factors.
The end result of of chocolate manufacturing can be this expression:
My tip is to pay a bit more and receive the better quality product.
Turn your passion into profit
There are many ways to turn your passion into profit… but always try to make your choice one that is unique and suited to you.
Take Chocolate for example. Don’t just import chocolate bars. There is way too much competition. Chocolate is a commodity and the only way to compete with a commodity is by lowering price. This destroys margins and the key to a financially successful micro business is a good margin. This means that a non unique commodity business is likely to be marginal.
If one plans to sell chocolate… make it unique in some way… so it attracts a premium.
Reader Craig McCarty sent a December 26, 2011 article at the Speculaist website (see a link to the entire article below) entitled ” In the Future Everything Will Be A Coffee Shop” by Stephen Gordon that says (bolds are mine): Universities Will Become Coffee Shops
We’re faced with an education bubble. Tuition and other costs associated with a college education have been outpacing inflation for decades. It’s a trend that simply cannot continue. It has continued, so far, because the demand for education has proven to be somewhat inelastic. If you want a good job (the thinking went) there really wasn’t much of a choice. You went and you paid whatever price they put in front of you.
But what’s the advantage of a good job if the salary difference between that job and a non-college-level job is lost servicing student debt? It’s a reasonable question that has become more pressing as the amount of student debt required to get an education has risen.
At the same time several universities with world renown branding have begun offering online courses for free. MIT has been the pioneering institution in this. They were first to make practically all classes available online. Now they are beginning to offer some level of credential for completion of online courses through a new program they’re calling MITx.
Imagine a personnel manager at a mid-sized industrial corporation in Kansas who’s looking for a candidate with a particular set of knowledge. There are two candidates: one from the local state school with an appropriate college degree, a second with relevant MITx certificates of completion.
Let’s say all other things between the candidates are equal. Which should be chosen? It’s true that an online education is not the same as the college experience. The candidate who went to college probably enjoyed his experience more, but how much is that experience worth to a potential employer? Unless he’s a member of the same fraternity, probably not as much as the college candidate would hope.
And here’s the reality: the student debt of the college candidate controls, to some extent, his salary requirements. Since the MITx candidate appears to have the knowledge required, and has no student debt, he probably can be hired cheaper. There is a tendency to go with the college candidate because: “that’s the way its always been done.” But cheaper ultimately wins. Repeat that story a million times over the next few years and you begin to see how the local colleges – which already are overcharging for their product – begin to suffer in favor of free programs like MITx.
Eventually you could have local campuses becoming places where MITx students seek tutoring, network, and socialize – reclaiming some of the college experience they’d otherwise have lost.
Phil thought this sounded like college as a giant coffee shop. I agree. Every education would be ad hoc. It would be student-directed toward the job market she’s aiming for.
This trend toward… coffeeshopification… is changing more than just colleges:
Book Stores Will Shrink to Coffee Shops
Ebooks are coming of age – for many reasons. You can keep your library in your pocket. You can annotate and share your thoughts within social networks. Writers can publish more directly to their audience. Once completed, the unit cost of each ebook sold is essentially $0. Those savings can (and sometimes are) passed on to the customer. Also, an ebook doesn’t have to be limited to the written word. An ebook can incorporate video, audio and other methods of presentation. Your book store is always with you and has every book ready to sell. Nothing ever goes out of print because there are no print runs.
Compare that with your local Barnes and Nobel. Those stores are huge but can accommodate only a small fraction of the titles available in the Kindle store. They require expensive real estate, buildings, and employees.
If you don’t like reading from an ereader, there are new on-demand printing options like the Espresso Book Machine that can print a book within minutes.
Between ebooks and print-on-demand, Barnes and Nobel sized stores shrink down to just their coffee shops – or maybe Starbucks takes over their business. Either way, customers keep the experience of reading with coffee and those big comfortable chairs.
The Coffee Shop Will Displace Most Retail Shops
My Christmas shopping this year was 90% through Amazon Prime. Not having to fight the crowds and having it delivered free of charge to my home is a big plus, but as with the Kindle store, the online retail selection is much better that even the largest retail outlet.
Which is more enjoyable: Starbucks or Walmart? For the sane: Starbucks. So if you can accomplish your Walmart shopping at Starbucks, why do it any other way?
Also, imagine the 3D print shop of the future. You put in your order, probably from your smart phone, and then go pick it up. What does the lobby of such a business look like? Again: a coffee shop.
Offices Become Coffee Shops… Again
We’re going back to the future: the modern office was birthed in 17th century coffee shops. Steven Johnson has argued that coffee fueled the enlightenment. It was certainly a more enlightening beverage than the previous choice of alcohol.
The need for offices grew as the equipment for mental work was developed starting in the late 19th centuries. That need appears to have peaked about 1980.
It was a rare person who could afford the computers, printers, fax machines, and mailing/shipping equipment of that time.
Now a single person with $500 can duplicate most of those functions with a single laptop computer. So the remaining function of the office is to be that place that clients know to find you… and that kids and the other distractions of home can’t.
I have long believed in this concept and wrote back in the early 2000s:
There is a Micro Business Magic in Trends
We can get clues about investing trends and business trends by watching what everyone reads. Best selling book lists are like a window into a nation’s soul. This is why two authors who have had special, phenomenal success in recent years can lead us to greater investing and business returns. In fact the clues you will read from these authors is so powerful you could say they are like magic.
See why we created out own mountain cafe atmosphere so we could get small groups of readers together to discuss writing, publishing and micro business philosophy.
One of the fundamental rules you can use to spot trends is that people always want what they have lost and no longer have.
Once the building trade had perfected clean, low cost efficient central heating, the trend that everyone wanted a fireplace began. Is it smoke and ashes and the labor involved in building a fire that mankind misses? Probably not. Perhaps instead they lost romance.
Once America created a smooth highway system so anyone can drive anywhere without hardship or bumps, four wheel drive off road SUVs became the most popular form of transportation. Did we long for the sweat of replacing blown out tires ruined by potholes?
I doubt it. But I’ll buy that we had lost the our sense of adventure.
Get the drift?
The growing trend is for the purchase of immaterial goods, such as sports, entertainment, health, communication and spirituality. Togetherness is a key motivator for emotional fulfillment. Many wealthy consumers have learned that just acquiring stuff is not enough. More and more things don’t satisfy much or for long. At some point our material excesses turn into junk, worthless burdens that cost us to store, clean and insure. Successful companies in the future will learn to attach symbols of love and togetherness to their products and services.
There will be a growing business in ties that bond people together.
Coffee houses and similar places of gathering will continue to boom. Clubs will grow. Restaurants which offer a place for people to be together will thrive.
Join us for our Writer’s Camp and deep woods cafe. We’ll even show how to use chocolate to write better.