International Chocolate Festival features sweet samples, cooking demos, educational exhibits

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Cacao Art Chocolates displays their assortment of hand-crafted chocolates and truffles in the Garden House Saturday. Hallee Meltzer // Photo Editor

Cacao Art Chocolates displays their assortment of hand-crafted chocolates and truffles in the Garden House Saturday. Hallee Meltzer // Photo Editor

Tasty chocolate, scenic gardens and cold weather came together at the 10th Annual International Chocolate Festival at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden this weekend. At the event, students and other visitors enjoyed the beautiful gardens while sampling different variations of chocolates and listening to music.

Every year, Fairchild brings chocolate makers and connoisseurs together. Scholars gave lectures about cacao plants, plant breeding and chocolate production in different countries. The goal of the festival is to educate visitors about the different ways of making chocolate while giving them something sweet to munch on.

“For me, it’s amazing because I’m here to teach about chocolate production,” said William Navas, a visitor experience coordinator. “When you explain that to the people it’s amazing because they don’t know that from the trees – from the seeds – you’re going to have such a nice, delicious product like the chocolate.”

In addition to the lectures, garden visitors were also invited to watch cooking demonstrations and to receive free samples from vendors.

“The people want to taste chocolate,” Navas said.

One demonstration involved making a sculpture out of pure, solid chocolate. It consisted of multi-colored flowers sprouting from a brown stem, all carved out of chocolate.

Ryan Hauslinger, a student from Johnson and Wales University majoring in baking and pastries and a designer of the chocolate sculpture, explained the process of making something out of chocolate.

“We started last night and basically tempered chocolate, which is [when]you take chocolate up to a certain temperature and then bring it back down,” he said. “Then they had certain molds they could pour the chocolate into and let it set, and that’s what made it harden the right way. Now, they’re assembling the chocolate into a sculpture. The flowers are white chocolate, too.”

People were eventually able to taste the sculpture since every piece of it was edible.

“People can eat it after, but I’m not sure if they’ll want to eat it,” Hauslinger said.

While the festival began Friday, rain, clouds and cold weather held many visitors back. On Saturday, however, the festival was busier. Navas was impressed with the overall turnout.

“[Saturday] was amazing. We had 2,600 people in the butterfly conservatory alone. That means there could be probably around 5,000 people at the festival [Saturday],” he said.

Caroline Blake, a visitor and Miami native, described the blend of chocolate samples and gorgeous garden views that the festival offered.

“It’s a nice, different experience to get a little bit of the chocolate and the food pieced with the beautiful Fairchild Gardens here. You get to see what Miami can offer,” she said.

During a demonstration Saturday at the 10th Annual International Chocolate Festival, a Fairchild Tropical Gardens volunteer breaks open a cacao bean for attendees to view its composition. Hallee Meltzer // Photo Editor

During a demonstration Saturday at the 10th Annual International Chocolate Festival, a Fairchild Tropical Gardens volunteer breaks open a cacao bean for attendees to view its composition. Hallee Meltzer // Photo Editor

Wendy's Chocolates sells chocolate-covered Oreo cookies and graham crackers during Fairchild Tropical Garden's International Chocolate Festival. Hallee Meltzer // Photo Editor

Wendy’s Chocolates sells chocolate-covered Oreo cookies and graham crackers during Fairchild Tropical Garden’s International Chocolate Festival. Hallee Meltzer // Photo Editor

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