A tour of Seattle Chocolate elicits a deep appreciation for cacao

October 23, 2019 by  
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In 1900 BCE, Mesoamericans used cacao beans to make a bitter, fermented drink. By 1400, Aztecs traded cacao as currency. Spaniards later thought to add sugar. Nowadays, we just go to the store when we want to buy chocolate, divorcing the exquisite substance from its historic origins. But a tour of the Seattle Chocolate factory helps visitors deepen their appreciation of one of the world’s favorite treats. This woman-owned, Rainforest Alliance-certified company has put decades of thought into how to make its treats both delicious and sustainable. A tasty tour Seattle Chocolate started in Seattle in 1991. But the Nisqually Earthquake of 2001 destroyed the original factory. One of Seattle Chocolate’s investors, entrepreneur Jean Thompson, took over as owner and CEO. The company found a new, 60,000-square-foot factory in Tukwila, a town just south of Seattle. Visitors go to this nondescript building for the tour. It is hard to believe that something so plain on the outside turns out more than 30,000 colorfully wrapped chocolate bars per day. Our tour starts in the chocolate classroom, where guide Chris Hardwick talks to us about the history of chocolate in general and Seattle Chocolate in particular. In class, we learn it takes three to five years to grow cacao. Nigeria, Ghana and the Ivory Coast produce 70 percent of cacao beans. Midges pollinate chocolate, answering that age-old question, what are midges good for? Related: Fueled by chocolate — Ghana’s newest biofuel Hardwick explained that Seattle Chocolate has two directions, the line with the original name, and Jcoco, more of a culinary experimental brand. “Seattle Chocolate is a fruit-forward, acidic chocolate,” he said in the assured language of a wine expert. Jcoco is more likely to include ingredients like edamame or cumin. Hardwick passes around jars of cacao beans and nibs, so we can smell the terroir of beans grown in different countries. Because every good factory tour requires a hairnet, we don blue netting before continuing on to the next part of the tour: the factory floor. As well as chocolate bars, Seattle Chocolate is known for its 20 truffle flavors in bright metallic wrapping. High on the catwalk, we look down at workers bent over enormous boxes of truffles, scooping armloads into smaller containers. It’s a chocolate-lover’s fantasy come to life. The tour ends with a chocolate tasting. We sit at placemats with six chunks of chocolate to compare. The regular tasting includes varieties of white, milk and dark chocolate. The vegan version offers several types of dark chocolate. Hardwick guides us through a more mindful tasting process, rather than a simple devouring. The experience changes how visitors interact with this sweet treat — it makes them more appreciative of it. Tours are offered year-round. But if you visit on certain days in October, you can experience an exciting bonus — a haunted factory . The company website explains, “A troublesome spirit has escaped and is creating havoc for the Seattle Chocolate Factory! Help repair the damage while gathering clues to speak with Ixcacao, the Goddess of Chocolate. With her help, you’ll brave the dark factory and cast the fell spirit out.” Hardwick assured me this family-friendly tour is fun, not gory. Sustainability measures Seattle Chocolate carefully addresses social responsibility throughout the entire chocolate life cycle. It uses Rainforest Alliance Certified cacao to ensure just labor practices and good environmental measures in the countries the cacao is grown. In the factory, workers compost 25,000 pounds of chocolate scraps annually. They use non-GMO ingredients in the bars and truffles. Wherever possible, Seattle Chocolate sources ingredients like fruits, spices, mint and honey from local partners. Packaging is especially problematic for environmentally conscious companies. Seattle Chocolate has recently developed cellulose truffle twist wraps made from sustainably harvested eucalyptus trees . This is significant, as it churns out 12.5 million truffles a year, wrapped in about 8,000 pounds of bright truffle twist wraps. By mid-2020, all truffle flavors will be wrapped in the new cellulose material. Customers can throw the truffle wraps into their home compost piles, where they should break down in six to eight weeks. Giving back While the ordinary chocolate fan might question the presence of edamame beans in a chocolate bar, the Jcoco line isn’t just for foodies. Thompson created the line in 2012 with an underlying goal of feeding hungry families. The company donates a fresh serving of food to those in need every time somebody buys a Jcoco bar. So far, Seattle Chocolate has donated nearly 4 million servings of food to food banks in Washington, California and New York. In addition to tours, Seattle Chocolate invites the public in for events like tastings of new seasonal chocolate flavors or classes on pairing beer with chocolate. It hosts the haunted chocolate factory in October, and a large holiday party in December. + Seattle Chocolate Images by Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat and Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority

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A tour of Seattle Chocolate elicits a deep appreciation for cacao

Designer invents self-testing HIV kit made out of recycled plastic

October 23, 2019 by  
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One of the largest obstacles in HIV prevention is the lack of clinics and resources in developing countries around the world. Now, British product designer Hans Ramzan has unveiled a solution that could potentially save thousands of lives. CATCH is a low-cost, self-testing HIV kit, partly made from recycled plastic, that is designed to help individuals check for HIV in their own homes, reducing the need to travel miles to the nearest clinic. As a leading cause of death around the world, HIV infected about 1.7 million individuals in 2018 alone , and nearly 40 million people are living with HIV globally. Despite these massive numbers, early detection is nearly impossible for many who live in rural areas that don’t have clinics nearby. Due to the lack of resources that would otherwise help patients detect HIV in its early stages, many people develop AIDS, which often leads to death. The situation is dire and has been for years, but CATCH might be able to change that. Related: New study claims climate change could be linked to heart defects in newborns CATCH is a low-cost testing kit that allows individuals to face fewer long trips to the nearest clinic. The innovative finger kit is extremely intuitive and can be used by anyone. In just three simple steps, people can check their status. The first step is to slide the disinfectant sleeve over the finger. Then, push down on the pipette/needle-top. and finally press the button to see the result. Made partly out of recycled plastic , the design is eco-friendly and affordable. The production price of one CATCH kit is £4 (approximately $5). According to Ramzan, the innovative design was inspired by his own experience of losing someone. “After witnessing my aunt pass away due to a life-threatening illness, it was heart-breaking,” Ramzan said. “If she had her illness caught earlier, perhaps her chances of survival would have been greater. That’s when something clicked — too many people are dying due to late diagnosis.” + Hans Ramzan Images via Hans Ramzan

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Designer invents self-testing HIV kit made out of recycled plastic

11 unique edible plants for your garden

June 14, 2019 by  
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Part of the joy of gardening is falling in love with the plants you choose to nurture, especially those with a tasty reward. While the traditional carrots and raspberries certainly have their place, you can create a yard full of unique, yummy and eye-catching produce when you select plants that are a little less traditional. The produce department at your local supermarket might have a few dozen choices, there are actually hundreds of fruits and vegetables that you may have never even heard of, let alone considered growing. While some require special adaptations, such as tropical weather, most are just as easy to grow than the mainstream selections. Here are some examples to get you started. Jujube If you’re in USDA zone 5-9, check out the jujube. This is not the beloved candy by the same name, but the candy was inspired by this small, apple-like gem. Jujubes offer a sweet and sour flavor and can be eaten raw, although the sugars intensify when dried. Jujubes like hot, dry environments and tolerate drought quite well. Related: Incredible edible landscape map shows you where to find free food Pawpaw Another heat lover is the pawpaw, similar to tropical fruits like the related cherimoya and custard apple. Happy in zones 5-9, the pawpaw doesn’t do well on a commercial scale, but is a great addition to a backyard garden . The plants itself is a small, uniform tree that produces pleasant foliage. Quince You may have heard of quince jam or seen it on a menu at a restaurant, but few people actually grow quince themselves. At one time, quince trees were as ubiquitous as pear and apples and rightfully so since it is related to both. Quince must be cooked for eating, but the reward is equivalent to apple pie in a single fruit with flavors of vanilla, cinnamon, and a hint of citrus. Quince grows well in zones 4-9. Cattail Did you know cattail is edible? If you have a pond area be sure to include this plant in your design. Young stems can be eaten raw and young flowers can be roasted. In midsummer, the pollen from the cattail can be used as a type of flour in pancakes and breads. It also works as a thickener for soups and sauces. Young shoots on the plant can be cooked like asparagus by roasting or grilling. They can also be added to stir-fry for a distinct flavor. Chocolate Vine Less tropical than other options, the chocolate vine can even tolerate substantial amounts of shade. Best in zones 4-9, it produces sweet-smelling flowers in the spring and long pods later in the summer . The pods can be cooked like a vegetable but should be avoided raw. Before you toss them in the oven though, pop open the pod and scrape out the pulp, which resembles a banana/passionfruit custard that can be eaten directly or mixed with other fruits. Edible Flowers In addition to those traditional and non-traditional fruits and vegetables , remember than many flowers are edible too. This makes for many exciting options for your yard, even outside the designated garden gate. Include nasturtiums, violas, pansies, borage, and calendula in your landscape and you will have a cornucopia of salad greens at your fingertips. Maypop If you love passion fruit, but don’t live in the tropics , try this American cousin instead. Happy in zones 6-10, this vine not only offers a delectable fruit, but also produces large colorful blooms in the form of purple and white blossoms. Haksap More commonly known by a variety of names in the honeysuckle family, haksap produces a delicious sweet-tart berry that tastes like a cross between a blueberry and a raspberry. Almost as great as the tasty treat it produces is the gift it provides with its delicate downward trumpet-shaped blooms. Make sure to plant at least two of the same type of haksap together for effective pollination . Medlar Medlar is an ancient fruit, even though you may have never heard of it. For thousands of years, dating back to at least the Roman era, this small deciduous tree has produced small edible fruits. Related to roses, the one to two-inch fruit resembles large rosehips. The color is a rosy brown. For a commercial product, the medlar is a bit finicky since they have a very small window of the perfect ripeness for consumption. For the backyard gardener, though, your challenge might be picking them at the right time before the animals pluck them for you. Medlars adapt well in climates with hot summers and wintry winters. Red Meat Watermelon Radish While the flavor is similar to the traditional radish, the look is anything but. It’s a bit of a mind game when picking the small radishes off the plant, which look nearly identical to a spotted watermelon at 1/1000 the size. Red meat radishes are a cool weather crop and will bolt if planted when it is too warm. Serviceberry Placed right up next to your garden, trees, or perennials, serviceberries add a lively texture to your landscape and produce a yummy, yet non-commercial, fruit for your backyard enjoyment. Serviceberry grows well in a variety of zones because there are different varietals of trees and shrubs. It is a versatile and durable plant, growing wild in many areas. Plant it right up next to the house or in soggy areas of the yard where other plants are unhappy. Watch for the berries to ripen, which resemble blueberries in size and shape. Images via Shutterstock

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11 unique edible plants for your garden

Colombia to produce free chocolate deforestation-free, that is…

July 25, 2018 by  
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You’ll soon be able to enjoy your chocolate guilt-free. Colombia has become the first Latin American country and the third country in the world to commit to deforestation-free cocoa production. The government signed a pledge with the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, a movement intent on achieving this goal throughout all cocoa-producing nations. The country hopes to achieve this monumental goal in just under two years. The Casa Luker company, a cornerstone brand in Colombian chocolate manufacturing, has joined the pledge along with the National Cocoa Federation, and the initiative is spearheaded by the World Cocoa Foundation. These organizations are committed to helping Colombia achieve deforestation-free chocolate production by the year 2020. Colombia will join other member-nations Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana , making it the third country to engage in the anti-deforestation effort. Related: Australia’s rampant deforestation is killing koalas In 2017, Colombia faced “one of the most drastic losses of tree cover in the world,” according to Mongabay . In total, tropical countries lost forest grounds approximately the size of Bangladesh, and Colombia experienced a 46 percent rise in deforestation from the previous calendar year, losing about 1,640 square miles (or 4,250 square kilometers) of greenery. Not wanting this degradation to continue, the Colombian government has agreed to a Framework for Action subsisting of “11 core commitments, which include preventing deforestation and forest degradation; promoting the conservation of protected areas; respecting the rights of cocoa farmers and minimizing adverse social and economic impacts monitoring and reporting on the progress on commitments; ensuring transparency and accountability; and providing support to sustainable markets for cocoa products.” Related: First newly-developed chocolate in 80 years is made from Ruby cocoa beans Enthusiastic about the progress, Eduard Baquero López, president of the National Cocoa Federation, said, “There are many inspiring examples of cocoa production leading to forest protection and restoration; we wish to gain greater global market access for Colombia’s cocoa, which has such a distinctive quality and which is rare in contributing both to forest protection and to the peace. We hope the global consumer will come to enjoy their chocolate even more when they learn it protects the forests and delivers the peace!” + World Cocoa Foundation Via Mongabay

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Cleverly layered compact dirt walls mimic ice cream cakes in this Tokyo patisserie

June 21, 2017 by  
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Dirt may seem an odd material choice for an upscale patisserie in Tokyo , but design studio nendo playfully pulls it off with style. The Japanese designers layered compacted soils of varying colors to mimic the layers of an ice cream cake. The earth walls lend the “à tes souhaits!” shop a sense of warmth and contrast beautifully with the glass-and-steel facade. Located in the trendy Kichijoji neighborhood in Tokyo, à tes souhaits! is a small and elegant shop specializing in ice cream and chocolates . The earth walls comprise stacked soils of varying shades arranged in a staggered pattern to look like cut slices of ice cream cake with different flavors. “The wall guides people into the shop by the soft curvature from the outer wall, and then creates a gentle all-enveloping effect, like melted ice cream, all the way into the back of the shop,” writes nendo. “This created a relaxing ambience, taking advantage of the compactness of the space.” Related: Ancient Japanese tombs inspire nendo’s first public space design Since the new patisserie is the second location of à tes souhaits!, Nendo wanted to differentiate the two shops. The flagship uses bright lighting with mostly white surfaces and hard materials like marble and metal. In contrast, the new location uses a subdued color palette and softer lighting to complement the dominant use of wood and soil . + Nendo Images by Takumi Ota

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Cleverly layered compact dirt walls mimic ice cream cakes in this Tokyo patisserie

5 Holiday Items Making Your Family Sick

December 2, 2016 by  
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‘Tis the season to be jolly. For many, this symbolizes an all-access hall pass to indulge one’s taste buds along the chocolate-, cake-, cocktail- and candy-lined corridors. While some choose to channel their inner Oompa Loompa between the…

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5 Holiday Items Making Your Family Sick

Can upscale chocolate uproot deforestation in Haiti?

October 19, 2016 by  
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Dandelion, Raaka Chocolate and Valrhona are among the chocolate makers eyeing ways to combat poverty and renew the land.

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It’s time to bid adieu to HFCs

October 19, 2016 by  
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New global deal to phase out hydrofluorocarbons found in refrigerators and HVAC systems delivers “huge win for the climate.”

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Zapping chocolate with electricity could lead to lower fat treats

June 22, 2016 by  
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Chocoholics, are you sitting down? Researchers have just found a way process chocolate so it doesn’t need as much fat added into the recipe. By adding an electrical charge, the melted treat flows smoothly enough to be processed and, according to taste testers, is just as decadent as the original, higher-fat version. Your guilty pleasure may soon be a bit less guilty. Researchers at Philadelphia’s Temple University recently published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , sharing how the use of electrorheology can make chocolate manufacturing run more smoothly. The chocolate company Mars partially funded the study. Related: Dig in! Study links eating chocolate with heart health Getting cocoa to the right consistency to flow easily during production is key, and usually requires a certain amount of added fat. By exposing liquid chocolate to an electric field , researchers found they could use 10 percent less added fat or oil and still produce the same results. They estimate they could even use up to 20 percent less in future studies. Taste testers could either tell no difference between the electrified chocolate and a regular old bar or they thought the experimental treat tasted better. Before we get too excited, research and development still needs to be done on how well the chocolate stores and if the taste and texture really does rival the real stuff. Until then, we can rely on our old, tried and true treats. Via Phys.org Images via  Pexels , Pixabay

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New pea-based milk uses 93 percent less water than dairy equivalent

June 14, 2016 by  
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A new dairy-free milk is blowing people away with its minimal eco-footprint , and a calcium content that puts cow’s milk to shame. Ripple Foods is rolling out a plant-based milk made from peas with the mission to educate the public on the health and environmental impacts of the stuff you usually pour over your cereal. The Silicon Valley start-up has created a recipe for milk made from peas that has the same mouthfeel and taste as cow’s milk, but with improved nutritional value. Ripple Foods claims their product provides 50 percent more calcium (and half the sugar) than its dairy-based counterpart and eight times the protein of almond milk. Peas are easily and plentifully grown and also contain vitamins and minerals that dairy can lack, such as vitamins K, C, and B1, manganese, dietary fiber, copper, phosphorus, and folate. Related: Ben & Jerry’s launches vegan ice cream flavors Ripple takes on both the dairy and almond industries, slamming their heavy use of water in production and offering a healthier, more eco-friendly milk alternative. Compared to dairy’s 60 gallons of water per glass and almond milk’s 20 gallons, Ripple’s pea milk only uses 1/2 gallon per glass. Its Original, Unsweetened, Vanilla, and Chocolate flavors even come in 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic containers. Right now Ripple plant-based milk is only available in select Whole Foods stores, yet with $13.6 million invested so far we can be sure its reach will continue to grow. + Ripple Foods Via  Tech Crunch Images via Ripple Foods

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