Spilling the Beans on Chocolate’s Trek From Cacao to Kitchen

Laura Tornichio-Vidal, northeast territory sales manager for Guittard Chocolate Co., makes a return trip to Penn College to conduct an educational chocolate tasting.

Jahyah J. Barbour, a culinary arts technology student from Chambersburg, and Ashley R. Potrzebowski, a culinary arts technology student from Williamsport, show the star of the afternoon’s presentation …

… a tray of chocolates with such varieties as criollo, trinitario and forester.

Chef Charles R. Niedermyer, instructor of baking and pastry arts/culinary arts, helps to guide the tasting.

Katlyn J. Hackling, who is pursuing degrees in both culinary arts and systems and baking and pastry arts, initiates the first step in chocolate tasting by evaluating its color tone.

The Guittard Chocolate Co.’s Laura Tornichio-Vidal visited the college’s hospitality department on Friday, offering a lesson in chocolate production and tasting. During the hourlong presentation, Tornichio-Vidal – who is the northeast territory sales manager for Guittard – walked students through the complex journey of a cacao bean, from its pollination on a cacao tree by the tiny midge fly, to the care taken by farmers as they harvest, ferment and then sun-dry the beans before delivering them to port, often by mule or handcart. Each harvest is small, grown on farms of 10 acres or less, Tornichio-Vidal explained. She also guided the students through the technique of chocolate tasting – an evaluation that will help them determine what chocolate to employ in various uses. She advised the students to first consider a chocolate’s color, then its “snap” when broken or bitten into, then its aroma, and finally its taste. The students tasted chocolates from Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia and Madagascar. Guittard donates all of the chocolate used in Penn College’s hospitality majors.