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Kings County chocolate makers clinch two international awards

Gabrielle Breault sorts and prepares cocoa beans that will eventually become chocolate at the workshop for Petite Patrie, near Canning. Two types of chocolate from Petite Patrie won international-level bronze awards from the Academy of Chocolate.
Gabrielle Breault sorts and prepares cocoa beans that will eventually become chocolate at the workshop for Petite Patrie, near Canning. Two types of chocolate from Petite Patrie won international-level bronze awards from the Academy of Chocolate. - Sam Macdonald
CANNING, N.S. —

Gabrielle Breault and Peter Austin-Smith just wanted a bit of feedback when they submitted chocolate bars to the UK-based Academy of Chocolate Awards.
The co-owners of Petite Patrie, a chocolate making business outside of Canning, wanted to know if they were on the right track.

It turned out they certainly were on the right track, earning two bronze medal awards for their Copán, Honduras 72 per cent dark chocolate, and single-origin Karkar Island, Papua New Guinea 80 per cent dark chocolate bars.

On top of those awards, Petite Patrie received commendations for their white chocolate and Mexican chocolate bars.

Those distinctions were not to be taken lightly, either. Competition was fierce, with a total of 1,600 entries

“We were absolutely stunned,” Breault said. “Both of us are chocolate tasters, trained at the International Institute of Chocolate and Cacao Tasting in London, England. So basically, we’re sommeliers for chocolate.
We knew there were some great flavours in our chocolate, and we got the customers’ feedback as well.”

Hearing customers tell them, ‘I’ve never tasted chocolate like this’ was enough to make Breault and Austin-Smith think they were onto something. Their participation in the awards was a confirmation of that.

It took some time before they were comfortable with the idea of taking their chocolate to the international level to be judged.
“I remember it was last November or December, and I had a lot of time on my hands, so it was an opportunity to just test some of our product, since I hadn’t tested it in a while, and never got a chance to really sit down and enjoy it,” Austin-Smith said. “When I did that, I thought, ‘Yeah, maybe we are on the right track.’ We wanted to make sure, so we sent the bars in February.”

Breault and Austin-Smith waited until June to hear the results, but finding they’d gotten the high acclaim they did for four of their bars made it worth the wait.

“We were only looking for ways on how we could make our bars better and that kind of thing, so we were totally shocked and thrilled when we won a couple of bonze awards,” Austin-Smith said.

Peter Austin-Smith and Gabrielle Breault, co-owners of Petite Patrie, recently won two bronze awards from the Academy of Chocolate. SAM MACDONALD
Peter Austin-Smith and Gabrielle Breault, co-owners of Petite Patrie, recently won two bronze awards from the Academy of Chocolate. SAM MACDONALD


CHOCOLATE MAKERS

When Breault describes Petite Patrie as unique in that it is a chocolate making business east of Quebec, she notes that doesn’t mean there aren’t chocolatiers on the East Coast.

“We’re chocolate makers, not chocolatiers. We actually make the chocolate,” Breault noted.
What distinguishes a chocolate maker from a chocolatier is the fact that chocolate makers, physically make the chocolate from cocoa beans, while chocolatiers purchase already-made chocolate and manufacture chocolate products from it.

“If you want to know if someone is a chocolate maker or a chocolatier, ask them where they get their beans,” Breault advised. “If they give you a blank look, they’re probably chocolatiers.”

As Breault provided a breakdown of how every component of the chocolate making process works, she demonstrated how nuanced and complex the art of making fine chocolate is.

Making high-quality chocolate means picking the best beans possible and putting them through a gauntlet of machines – a roaster, juicer winnower and grinder to be specific – to break through the shells, get to the nibs inside each bean, and grind those nibs into the dark, creamy elixir that is chocolate, releasing cocoa butter in the process.

It takes about a week from starting the process for the finished chocolate to be complete.

In the workshop for Petite Patrie at Breault and Austin-Smit’s home, three grinders (“mélangeurs”) are filled with chocolate, fresh from grinding. Breault noted that in the bowl of each mélangeur was enough chocolate to make 80 bars.

Tasting some of the award-winning chocolate with the author of this piece, Breault noted fine chocolate is similar to wine, with its complex, changing flavour components.
“When you taste wine, you get the barriers, the fruitiness and that kind of thing – it’s the same with chocolate,” Breault said. “When I taste the chocolate from Karkar Island, I taste bread, a bit of Cabernet. Then, in this one, from Copán, it tastes nuttier.”
Breault said the taste can also rely heavily on the weather conditions when they were harvested. She also stressed the importance of getting cocoa beans from a good, sustainable fair-trade source.


LEARNING THE CRAFT
Breault took an interest in chocolate making after retiring from the military in 2009, when she was given a medical release.

“It took me a while to get better, and when I did, I asked myself, ‘What am I going to do now?’”
After tasting the work of a Canadian chocolate maker, she found herself appreciating the work of Canadian chocolate makers, and that interest began to germinate in her mind.

Eventually, the bean-to-bar chocolate company she was ordering from stopped shipping chocolate orders as it was too hot during the summer months. That’s when she started to look for chocolate made locally and she found no chocolate made from cocoa beans east of Quebec. She saw a need, and she found the inspiration to become the very source of bean-to-bar chocolate she once sought.


WHAT’S NEXT?

The future of the chocolate making of Petite Patrie is looking sweet. The business’ success on the international stage is just the kind of momentum Breault and Austin-Smith need, as they prepare to expand their business.
“We’re building a facility, hopefully on our property,” Breault said. “I have to be close to the beans, so the facility can’t be too far.”
On top of the expansion, Petite Patrie will be participating in the next Academy of Chocolate Awards.
“We feel that’s a good one to participate in, because it represents many countries. There are people from all over the world who go to those awards,” Breault said. “We’re also going to continue to introduce single origin chocolates. We have four new ones from Venezuela and are going to have beans from Vietnam. I made a small test batch and it was absolutely phenomenal.”

Sam.Macdonald@kingscountynews.ca

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