The Chocolate Project; bean to bar

The Chocolate Project; bean to bar

David Mincey promotes sustainable small batch chocolate

  • Dec. 27, 2019 8:30 a.m.

– Story by Chelsea Foreman Photographs by Don Denton

Much like the yuletide season, chocolate has a special way of bringing people together.

One of the most beloved foods all over the world, it dates back some 5,000 years through Mesoamerican history. The journey of a single chocolate bar might begin with an ancient tree in a remote jungle, and then travel through the hands of the farmer who harvests the cacao fruit, and on to the chocolatier, who imagines its unique flavour profile.

When you first begin to examine chocolate, the process can be overwhelming, as David Mincey and Paige Robinson discovered in the late 1980s. At the time, the couple owned a fine dining restaurant named Camille’s in Victoria’s Bastion Square. In 1989, Camille’s was one of the originators of the farm-to-table movement in Victoria. David, a professional chef, and Paige had just one ingredient key that was next to impossible to source.

“At our restaurant, we wanted everything we cooked with to be traceable, but the one thing we couldn’t source was chocolate. In 1989, we could not buy a single piece of chocolate that didn’t come from a slave trade plantation in West Africa,” David explains.

The couple began to research chocolate and travel to where cacao was growing to meet with chocolate-makers.

“With a bit of time and persistence, we discovered this whole underground world of ethical chocolate that was developing called ‘bean to bar’ or ‘single-origin chocolate.’ And then I became obsessed,” says David with a smile.

David and Paige began offering after-hours chocolate lessons at Camille’s. These lessons covered everything from the history of the cacao fruit and the unethical side of the industry to tasting and exploring chocolate from around the world.

“People wanted to purchase the bars they tasted, and know that they were eating ethical chocolate. We brought bars in to sell at the restaurant and had satellite stores in local businesses all over Victoria. This slowly morphed into our permanent residence at the Victoria Public Market in 2012,” explains David.

Now known to the public as The Chocolate Project, David and Paige’s passion project has transformed into a major staple in the Victoria food scene.

“Chocolate is just now on the same trajectory as micro-breweries or fair-trade coffee. Fifteen years ago I couldn’t do this, but now there are hundreds of people out there making small-batch, sustainable bean-to-bar chocolate,” says David.

With the top 400 ethical chocolate bars in the world, The Chocolate Project has an endless selection that can be a bit daunting to the first-time shopper. Luckily, David, now a renowned international chocolate judge, is there to walk you through the selection process. As someone with an intimate knowledge of each bar in the shop, David can’t stress enough that this store is so much more than a place to buy great chocolate — it’s an educational facility.

“This is not just a store, this is a school, and we really want to focus on that. It’s a place for both chocolate lovers and people who are curious about chocolate and want to know what’s happening in the industry,” he says.

The Chocolate Project offers full chocolate-tasting parties, which can be self-guided or led by David at the shop or a private residence. Tasting packages are custom-created by David based on the customers’ requests and come with the same scoring sheet used in the international chocolate awards.

“This is a fun way for people to taste chocolate, rate it and review it, just like we do as judges. When people go through chocolate this way, they really start thinking about what they’re tasting. It’s amazing how much you can learn about chocolate when you pay attention to it,” says David.

The first step in any chocolate-tasting party is understanding just how to taste it.

“When you taste chocolate, you never chew it because your teeth destroy the flavour profile. You put a piece on your tongue and let it slowly melt with your body heat. Chocolate bars, like the ones we sell, are like a fine wine in a solid form and that’s how you should think of it. You need to make it into a liquid to really taste it,” David explains.

Whether ending a dinner party with a new dessert experience or simply showing guests a different kind of holiday celebration, a chocolate-tasting party offers people a new way to bond and spend time together this season. While every bar will offer a different flavour and story of origin, one thing promises to remain true: your appreciation for chocolate will be forever changed.

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

FoodFood and Wine

Just Posted

Police officers and their dogs undergo training at the RCMP Police Dog Services training centre in Innisfail, Alta., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Mounties say they are searching for an armed and dangerous man near a provincial park in northern Alberta who is believed to have shot and killed a service dog during a police chase. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
RCMP search for armed man in northern Alberta after police dog shot and killed

Cpl. Deanna Fontaine says a police service dog named Jago was shot during the pursuit

Alberta now has 2,336 active cases of COVID-19, with 237 people in hospital, including 58 in intensive care. (Black Press file photo)
Red Deer down to 73 active cases of COVID-19, lowest since early November

The Central zone has 253 active cases of the virus

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products in a bid to reduce their appeal to youth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Mitchelldyer
Health Canada proposes ban on most vaping flavours it says appeal to youth

If implemented, the regulations would restrict all e-cigarette flavours except tobacco, mint and menthol

The Montreal Police logo is seen in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Some Quebec politicians are calling for an investigation after a video was released that appears to show a Montreal police officer with his leg on a young Black man’s neck during an arrest. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Probe called for after video appearing to show Montreal officer’s knee on Black youth’s neck

Politicians call for investigation after clip evokes memories of George Floyd incident

Thousands of protesters make their way through the downtown core during a Black Lives Matter protest in Ottawa, Friday June 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
MPs’ study of systemic racism in policing concludes RCMP needs new model

Chair of the House public safety committee says it’s time for a reckoning on ‘quasi-military’ structure

A case filled with packages of boneless chicken breasts is shown in a grocery store Sunday, May 10, 2020, in southeast Denver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-David Zalubowski
One million chickens euthanized during labour dispute at Quebec slaughterhouse

Premier says waste amounts to 13 per cent of the province’s chicken production thrown in the garbage

A section of the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies is seen west of Cochrane, Alta., Thursday, June 17, 2021. A joint federal-provincial review has denied an application for an open-pit coal mine in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, saying its impacts on the environment and Indigenous rights aren’t worth the economic benefits it would bring. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Panel says Grassy Mountain coal mine in Alberta Rockies not in public interest

Public hearings on the project in southern Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass region were held last fall

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on Friday, February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
U.S. border restrictions to remain in place until at least July 21

Safety minister says Canada, U.S. extending restrictions on non-essential international travel

Most Read