Chocolate is a substance that’s stable at room temperature and starts to transform—melt—on human contact. That melt is a relationship, one reflected from cacao seed and cocoa bean to the final product, that holds a variety of meanings. That diversity of connection is the inspiration behind The Slow Melt, the first podcast dedicated to a deep exploration of chocolate.
The Slow Melt uses chocolate as the thick, delicious lens through which to explore the world—from flavor and physiology to chemistry and conservation, from global markets and gender to climate change, social justice and beyond—highlighting the people, places and processes behind this $100 billion industry. By better understanding chocolate, we can better appreciate it, more easily identify what we love, and support the makers and producers that create those kinds of bars. Guests include farmers, conservationists, manufacturers, tasting experts, scientists, social justice advocates, chocolate purveyors and, of course, award-winning chocolate makers.
The program is written and hosted by Simran Sethi, a journalist, former visiting scholar at the University of West Indies’ Cocoa Research Centre, and the author of Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love, named one of the best food books of 2016 by Smithsonian.
Following are a few select episodes:
Chocolate is Multiple
Chocolate, like love and truth, is multiple. This pilot episode gives an overview of the different people, places and processes involved in creating chocolate—and the steps involved in savoring it.
- Brigitte Laliberté, coordinator of the Global Network for Cacao Genetic Resources (CacaoNet) and the Cocoa of Excellence initiative designed to award farmers for growing quality cocoa, on the diversity of people, places and processes in chocolate.
- Peter Schieberle, food chemist at Munich Technical University and director of the German Research Center for Food Chemistry, on the 600 flavor compounds in chocolate and how a small percentage of them come together to actually create the aroma we adore.
- Eagranie Yuh, Vancouver-based chocolate educator and author of The Chocolate Tasting Kit, on dominant flavors in chocolate and how to best discover them.
We Eat the Seeds
Many of us have been eating chocolate since childhood, but few can recognize it in nature. In this episode, we start at the farm with the pod-shaped fruit and its bitter seeds. Those seeds start off bitter, but ultimately become sweet, gooey chocolate. In this show, we’ll explore what gives chocolate its flavor and how one of the top craft chocolate makers in the U.S. transformed that love of flavor into a career.
- Emily Stone, CEO of specialty cacao supplier Uncommon Cacao, on the factors that create and enhance flavors in chocolate.
- Todd Masonis, founder of San Francisco’s Dandelion Chocolate, on selling his tech company for over $150 million and using the money to open a chocolate factory.
- Vicente Norero, farm manager and supplier at Camino Verde, based in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on what he wishes chocolate lovers understood about farming cacao.
Save by Savoring
Disease, climate change and low wages are just a few of the reasons we are losing some of the most diverse, delicious varieties of cocoa. In this episode, we will explore some of the efforts to save the crop we love. (Hint: This includes eating even more chocolate.)
- Sam Maruta, chocolate maker and co-founder of Marou, Faiseurs de Chocolat, in Vietnam, on efforts to identify and preserve native varieties of cacao with farmer Pham Thanh Cong and the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund.
- Pathmanathan Umaharan, director of The University of the West Indies Cocoa Research Centre and International Cocoa Genebank, Trinidad (ICG,T), on the importance of preserving cocoa in stored collections.
- Charles Kerchner, co-founder of Reserva Zorzal, on growing cocoa as a way to preserve the Dominican Republic’s 1,019-acre bird sanctuary.
The Craft of Chocolate
The specialty chocolate industry has grown exponentially but is still in the process of defining itself. We will explore this evolving industry and some of the leaders who are helping shape it.
- Clay Gordon, author of Discover Chocolate, and creator and moderator of TheChocolateLife.com.
- Karen Bryant, executive director of the Fine Chocolate Industry Association.
- Sunita de Tourreil, founder of The Chocolate Garage.
- Carla Martin, founder and executive director of the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute.
- Art Pollard, founder and head chocolate maker at Amano Artisan Chocolate in Orem, UT.
The Deep Origin: Latin America
The cocoa and chocolate we know and love was born in the upper Amazon and domesticated (turned into chocolate) in Mesoamerica. In this episode, we will explore the history of the food of the gods and, as the leading producer of fine and flavor cocoa, the role Latin America plays in chocolate today.
- Maricel Presilla, chef, culinary historian, author of The New Taste of Chocolate and coordinator of the International Chocolate Awards, on the history of cacao and cocoa.
- Chloé Doutre-Roussel, consultant and author of The Chocolate Connoisseur, on how the economic crisis in Venezuela impacts cocoa farmers and the industry at large.
- Cristian Melo, professor at Universidad Tecnológica Equinoccial, on the development of prized indigenous cacao and one of the world’s most prolific hybrids in the country that leads in fine and flavor production.