cocoterra with nibs

BUILDING A NEW CHOCOLATE COMMUNITY

Last Updated on January 17, 2022 by Nick Baskett

Imagine if every chocolate lover could be a chocolate maker.  Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  But it doesn’t sound so crazy to say the same about bread, ice cream, coffee or even pasta.  People throughout the world can make all those foods at home with a single tabletop appliance.  So, why isn’t this true of chocolate?

Certainly, chocolate making is a bit more complicated.  But it’s not just that. In a strange way, consumers have been shielded from most of the inner workings of the chocolate industry. 

For example, most people don’t know the four basic ingredients needed to make dark, milk and white chocolate (answer: cocoa nibs, cocoa butter, sugar and milk powder).  And most people don’t know what steps are required to transform cocoa beans into a delicious chocolate bar (answer: roasting, winnowing, grinding, refining, conching, tempering, molding, cooling).  And most people don’t know that cocoa beans come from a tree (answer: theobroma cacao)!  Unlike making bread or ice cream, however, you can’t just purchase ingredients from your local grocery store to make a batch of your favorite chocolate at home.

From dark to milk to white, create your own recipes and enjoy fresh, custom chocolate in about two hours.

The mystery shrouding chocolate production may result in some blissful ignorance and maybe also accounts for the popularity of Roald Dahl’s story of Willy Wonka and his secretive chocolate factory.  Certainly, the secrecy behind chocolate making and the magical transformation that occurs, along with the lack of access to ingredients, has kept chocolate making in the realm of professionals. 

For many years, production was limited to the large industrial chocolate makers but has expanded more recently to include craft chocolate makers and even some ambitious homemakers.

Now imagine a new paradigm of chocolate making where anyone can create their own favorite chocolate in their own kitchen.  This could open up a whole new opportunity for chocolate consumers to engage in a way that they never have before. 

What may result is a transformation from isolated chocolate enthusiasts to a community of passionate chocolate makers who desire to share their craft with other homemakers.  It can also encourage greater innovations and experimentations along the way.  As an example, look at InstantPot and the community of home cooks who engaged around this appliance. 

This is the ambition of CocoTerra, a startup company that has developed the first fully-automated chocolate maker for the home.  Novice users are guided through the entire process, starting from cocoa nibs to solid chocolate, while those with expertise can customize the chocolate making parameters to their liking.

The CocoTerra machine makes dark, milk and white chocolate in one unified appliance in about two hours.  And the premium quality of the chocolate has been validated by top chefs and independent chocolate makers.

So how can CocoTerra help build a chocolate community?  Of course, there are already a variety of chocolate shows and events where people come together to taste and buy chocolate.

However, that isn’t community any more than a random assortment of shoppers who happen to visit a big box store on any given Sunday is a community.  In many ways, the consumer marketplace is composed of isolated chocolate enthusiasts who have communal, parallel experiences. 

What if we could bring these chocolate-lovers together to create a vibrant, robust and engaged community?  What if we can create intersections and shared experiences?  By turning chocolate consumers into chocolate makers, we can inspire the community and bring people together through recipes, shared chocolate memories and chocolate creations. 

Our app allows users to browse recipes, buy ingredients and explore the world of chocolate making.

The CocoTerra experience starts with various recipes that users can navigate until they find inspiration.  The recipes are loaded onto a simple appliance that guides users through the chocolate-making process.  Beyond the basic chocolate recipes, users can also navigate a larger collection of recipes to expand their chocolate palate while investigating the flavors of the world.  But the magic really happens when people start to create their own recipes. 

This is where the concept of “chocolate memory” comes into play.  Many people have vivid chocolate memories from when they were a kid or from various travels around the globe.  When you can create a custom batch of chocolate and relive your chocolate memory, there is also a community of others who may want to relive that same chocolate memory.  Sharing recipes, chocolate making tips and tricks, and expertise develops an engaged and interactive community. 

Chocolate can be customized with a variety of flavorings, inclusions and decorations.

And the community that develops doesn’t have to be isolated to home chocolate makers; it can push all the way back to origin and include farmers as well.   People want to know where their food comes from, and they want to know that the ingredients are ethically sourced.  Connecting consumers to the source of their ingredients creates a richer opportunity for both ends of the supply chain.

Those interested in chocolate making can learn and stay connected with the greater chocolate community through organizations such as the Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA) with over 350 corporate and professional members, including companies such as CocoTerra.  FCIA is a valuable resource for its members and the general public by funding research, hosting events and offering a variety of online educational webinars.  There are always new techniques to learn for the chocolate enthusiast!   

So why hasn’t this been done before?  The reality is that chocolate making is a complex, multi-step process that combines elements of chemistry, physics and culinary skill that all have to come together in just the right way to make delicious chocolate.

It’s not so simple to combine the mechanical systems from multiple, disparate transformational steps required for successful chocolate making into a single appliance the size of a coffee maker.

Without a doubt, there have been some technical innovations that have made it possible to construct a small form factor chocolate maker that would not have been possible a decade ago.  Smart software and expert hardware engineering have come together to make this concept a reality. 

CocoTerra founder, Nate Saal, surrounded by a collection of prototype chocolate-makers.

We believe that CocoTerra will be a catalyst for the chocolate community, and we hope you will join us on this journey.  #MakeChocolate

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