The Chocolate Project; bean to bar

The Chocolate Project; bean to bar

David Mincey promotes sustainable small batch chocolate

  • Dec. 27, 2019 7:30 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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Russell Jonathon George Gurney was last seen in Chilliwack in mid-December. (RCMP photo)
RCMP ask for help to find missing Abbotsford man last seen in Chilliwack

Police and family are concerned for the well-being of Russell Jonathon George Gurney

Ottawa serial killer Camille Joseph Cleroux died of natural causes at Abbotsford’s Pacific Institution on Sunday.
Serial killer housed at Abbotsford’s Pacific Institution dies of natural causes

Camille Joseph Cleroux announced dead on Sunday, known as notorious Ottawa serial killer

Garry Blanchard of Hope won $77,000 correctly guessing the outcomes of all 13 games of NFL week 17. (Photo/BCLC)
Hope resident rakes in $77,000 in NFL Week 17 bet

Garry Blanchard won the record-breaking prize correctly guessing every outcome that week

This urn was found Jan. 4 at a Yale Road bus stop and has now been returned to its owner. (RCMP photo)
RCMP find custodian of urn that was left at Chilliwack bus stop

Police say the urn contained the remains of a family’s cat

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
1-in-5 COVID tests coming back positive in and around Fernie, sparking concern

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Ralliers gather in front of the Cityviews Village apartment building in Maple Ridge to protest attempts to evict low-income tenants by the building owner. (Ronan O’Doherty - The News)
Tenants protest pressure tactics by new landlord at Maple Ridge apartment building

Protest held in front of Cityviews Village on 223 St. Tuesday to rally against low-income evictions

Throughout December, RCMP conducted CounterAttack road checks as police worked to keep roads free of impaired drivers. (BLACK PRESS file photo)
‘You can’t make this stuff up’: Stories from the B.C. CounterAttack campaign

Amusing, yes, but a reminder impaired driving affects ability to drive and to make good decisions

Snow is forecasted to appear in parts of Metro Vancouver this weekend. (Black Press Media files)
Snow forecasted for parts of Lower Mainland this weekend

Environment Canada is predicting flurries and snow from Saturday to Monday evening

Most Read