Thursday, December 01, 2005

Like a Kid in a Candy Store

You're probably wondering why I posted the photos (see below) of the Scharffen Berger Chocolate Factory. I was going to write text to go along with them. But my attention wandered, and before I knew it, hey, it's late Thursday afternoon!
E. and I went to the artisanal chocolate factory in Berkeley on Monday, the day before we returned to Washington, D.C., for a 1-hour seminar on the history of chocolate and how it's made, and a tour of the factory. Also, much dark chocolate (Scharffen Berger is known for its gourmet dark chocolate) was sampled.
There were about 25 of us, and for the tour, we all had to wear white hairnets, which were lovely. Also, noise-canceling ear muffs, akin to what air-traffic controllers wear. You will see no photos of me in that get-up. I look like a Muppet.
Some Scharffen Berger/chocolate factoids:
* Cacao pods - from which chocolate is made - smell like pears or pumpkins when ripe.
* A ripe cacao pod is the size of a football.
* The inside of a cacao pod is very pulpy, akin to a pumpkin. But it tastes like a lychee nut.
* After extracting the cacao seeds and pulp, leave them out to dry in the sun for 7-10 days. If they don't ferment correctly, they will get a hammy or fishy undertone (yech) instead of a fruity one.
* It takes four days to process chocolate from "bean to bar."
* After the chocolate is made, it needs to "age" for two weeks to acquire its full, mature flavor
* Scharffen Berger uses 62 to 82 percent cacao beans to make their chocolate, while many other chocolate manufacturers use as little as 10 percent.

Running Update: I ran for the first time since my sprain last Friday, the day after Turkey Day, on the Iron Horse Trail. I ran too far and fast (for me): 7.3 miles in 62 minutes, or an 8:29/mile pace. Towards the end, my right hip joint started to hurt. Afterwards, I couldn't walk without pain. I hobbled around for the rest of the night in a foul mood (though tried to be cheery, damn it).
The next afternoon, I took a Bikram yoga class (a.k.a. "hot yoga"). I almost didn't go because I thought it would exacerbate the pain. The temperature was cranked up to 110 degrees in the room, and by the end of the 1 1/2 hour class of stretching into increasingly difficult-to-hold poses, I was wrung out like a sponge. I was also a bit lightheaded from the heat.
But by the end of the class, the hip pain had vanished.
The next afternoon, I did a tentative, easy 5-mile run, and my hip felt dandy. Today's my first run since Monday (bad Bex!), as I've been traveling or too busy with work.


  1. Did they have an actual pod to smell or did they talk about it? I knew about the fermentation but had NO idea what happened when the fermentation goes bad. Yuck!!

    Sorry your hip went wacko, but I'm glad the sweaty yoga fixed it. Maybe just a strain or something?

  2. I have a photo of this, but didn't post it - it's of me smelling a small basket full of cacao seeds, as well as an actual cacao pod. The tour guide also passed around a basket of nibs, which were quite nutty. But I love the choc nibs better ....

  3. oh you know what we really want to see, why do you tease us so??? Bex in a hair net!! Eating chocolate!!

    I've always wanted to try the sweaty yoga. Glad it helped the hip.