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

Students from SD62 stepped up to help members in the community with the annual 10,000 Tonight food drive. This year’s organizers had to adapt during the campaign as COIVD-19 public health orders changed. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore students step up to make sure community members don’t go without

Students of SD62 are this year’s recipient of the Youth Volunteer Award

Millstream Village is welcoming a new Marshalls location March 9. (Photo courtesy GWL Realty Advisors)
New Marshalls store in Langford brings boost to women in need

Retailer will hold opening ceremony in Millstream Village March 9

A cat died in this house fire in Sidney afternoon. The fire started on the house’s deck and spread from that point. Sidney Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brett Mikkelsen said the permanent presence of crews at the Community Safety Building prevented worse damage. (Photo courtesy of Clayton Firth)
Sidney house fire kills cat, causes extensive damage

Official says fire started on deck and damage to the house could have been worse

Each recipient of a 2021 Local Hero Award will receive a hand-carved paddle created by Haida artist John Bellis.
Meet the man behind the awards

Haida artist John Bellis hand-carved this year’s Local Hero awards

Abstract Developments is donating $75,000 to support community programming at The Cridge Centre for the Family. (Courtesy of The Cridge Centre)
Victoria developer builds support for community programs

Abstract Developments donates $75,000 to The Cridge Centre for the Family

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

A boat caught fire in Ladysmith Harbour on Saturday morning. (Photo submitted)
Search underway for missing woman after boat catches fire in Ladysmith harbour

A large boat caught fire on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 27

Lone orca from a pod that made its way north from Georgia Strait and into Discovery Passage on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Photo by Ella Smiley/<a href="https://www.facebook.com/Comoxvalleywildlifesightings/?ref=page_internal" target="_blank">Comox Valley Wildlife Sightings </a>
Island wildlife viewers thrilled by close view of passing Orca pod

Group gives wildlife photographers a classic opportunity to view them off Campbell River shoreline

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Most Read