October 9, 2012
There is so much to learn and admire from this pioneer of chocolate connoisseurship.
Martin Christy is that rare thing, a man of great wisdom and influence, who slips into the background and shines the light on all the many things of worth that he discovers. His knowledge of chocolate is unsurpassed, and yet he calls himself a ‘beginner’. In this he is referring to the fact that so little is really known about chocolate, about the different species of bean and the affect that details in growing and production methods have on the final result. This beginning is something that excites him tremendously. There is so much potential there, for knowledge, for diversity, for a growth in excellent chocolate that he has watched from its inception.
When Martin started his chocolate review site Seventy% he confesses there was precious little to review. With a background in computer programming, the site was an experiment, a showcase for a website and a happy chance to indulge what was then a serious hobby. Due to his love of the finest chocolate he wished to spread the word, and start a dialogue with makers, chocolatiers and fellow connoisseurs.
And start a dialogue he did! While the hobby grew into his full time work, the connections he made with, and between, those in the fine chocolate industry were worldwide. Born of a shared passion, these connections have come to influence the industry they were started to support.
Seventy% is a thriving and inspiring site, assessing and analysing chocolate with the attention to detail it deserves, demonstrating that while the serious tasting of chocolate is a very new thing compared to that of wine, it is no less valid or interesting.
The respect Martin commands, and the influence he exerts, comes through clearly whenever he is mentioned in conversation with the any of the chocolate makers and chocolatiers I meet. These people at the top of the game are ready with their professions of gratitude and appreciation. One such is Duffy Sheardown, ex-racing car engineer turned award winning chocolate maker:
“When I was planning to start making chocolate seventypercent.com was one of the places I looked for inspiration and advice. As soon as I had my first trial bars in self-printed wrappers he was very kind, polite and encouraging. Which he has always been ever since. He has a deep understanding and knowledge of many of the aspects of chocolate – from cacao varietals to fermentation methodologies, bean roasting to bar storage. He is aware of the basic instability of the cacao farming model and is trying to spread a deeper awareness of what will be needed to turn this around and make it viable for the farmers whilst increasing quality for the consumers. Faults? He knows nothing about Formula 1!”
This year Martin has taken things a big step further with The International Chocolate Awards, which he co-founded with Kate Johns, herself the founder of Chocolate Week (October 8-12th) and Chocolate Unwrapped (October 13th & 14th). (See below for a not to be missed special Chocolate Unwrapped ticket offer!!) With these awards, their transparent and comprehensive judging model, and international Grand Jury and scope, he is spearheading a new level of assessment for chocolate, and a worldwide campaign to increase knowledge and excellence.
With Direct Cacao, an initiative that aims to preserve and understand heritage cacaos, Martin is also trying to ensure that cocoa farming receives the understanding and support it needs to thrive, to ensure best practice and that the highest quality beans are grown.
His support of the industry from bean to bar, and how significant this is, is reflected in these words from top chocolatier Damian Allsop:
“Martin is both an inspiration and a font of information in the world of chocolate. He is valued not only in his work in analysing and understanding flavour, but also his passionate, genuine and unbiased support to all: from cacao growers to chocolatiers, from connoisseurs to the general public. His calm, humble, non-critical approach is changing the way we appreciate and enjoy this amazing cacao.”
Martin is an inspiring man to meet, and I feel privileged to have been invited to work alongside him in judging the awards. The good news is that you don’t have to be an established chocolate nerd to benefit from his wisdom. Seventy% arranges many events, from tours, to tasting workshops and informal evenings of discovery, some of which I have reviewed in earlier posts on this site. All are delivered in Martin’s softly spoken but insightful way, and there is always fabulous chocolate to sample! So whatever your budget or time constraints you will come away knowing more than you did. And I’d bet money on your wanting to know more.
THE WONDERFUL PEOPLE AT CHOCOLATE UNWRAPPED HAVE BEEN KIND ENOUGH TO OFFER MY READERS A SPECIAL HALF PRICE TICKET OFFER.
SO IF YOU WANT TO TASTE AND LEARN ABOUT SOME OF THE BEST CHOCOLATE AROUND, GET YOURSELF DOWN THERE THIS WEEKEND.
Half price tickets with the offer code: CHOCWK12
Chocolate Unwrapped – where visitors can immerse themselves in a decadent celebration of chocolate. Marvel at chocolate sculptures, watch chocolate demonstrations, taste a variety of new flavours from over 60 exhibitors from the UK and around the world. Hotel Chocolat, Rococo, Paul a Young, William Curley, Damian Allsop, Divine, Lindt, Valrhona, Thorntons and may more are all exhibiting. Experience unexpected pairings and classic favourites from the world’s top chocolatiers.
Dates: 13th & 14th October
Times: 10.30am-7pm Saturday 10.30am-5pm Sunday
Venue: LFM, 45 Wellington Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 7BN
Tickets £10 in advance, £12 on the door