A few weeks ago, I participated in the Name That Origin contest at Kerstin’s Chocolates, more to be able to sample different single origin chocolates for free than to actually attempt at securing a spot in the finals. As I was only able to correctly identify one out of four samples, my only chance at entering the finals would be as a wildcard. And wouldn’t you know it, they chose me.
As this was the first Name That Origin contest Kerstin’s has ever held, Cyrus was sure to explain the rules – the prize was a $400 gift certificate to Kerstin’s, after all. In the first round, all contestants would taste six single origin varieties, with the task of matching them to a supplied list of six possible countries of origin. Based on our responses, four would be selected to move on to the semi-finals, with “lighting round” taste-offs. Two pairs of contestants would square off, alternating their answers until the correct answer was given. The finals would see the last two contestants face off in a similar manner. To ensure no foul play, Jennifer Cockrall-King and Scott McKeen were on hand to monitor and observe the proceedings.
Cyrus introduces the monitors
Water and crackers were provided as palate cleansers, but regardless, I knew there was no hope for me – my single origin palate is not refined at all, as evidenced from my poor showing in the preliminary round. Still, I was happy to be included – it was nice to be among fellow chocolate lovers!
Readying our ballots
Possible countries of origin
The eight contestants were given about 15 minutes to taste samples of the six chocolates, and were allowed to try multiple pieces. I did my best to jot down notes on the distinct flavours of each piece, but with no real point of reference to match it to, it was a fruitless task for me.
Cyrus called time, and the ballots were collected and tallied. Though I wasn’t dead last, I was only able to correctly identify one chocolate (SaoTome & Principe, which had a smoky flavour and a grainy texture). Kristina, Erin, Jason and Jessica were onto the semi-finals.
Kristina and Erin were up first, and had to taste and identify one of the six varieties from the first round. Erin was the winner, correctly naming the origin on her first try.
Jason and Jessica were up next, with Jessica emerging as the winner.
Tasting chocolate is very serious business
Though the final was originally meant to include a previously untried chocolate, Cyrus said that the possible countries of origin would be too numerous and thus too difficult to identify. So, one of the remaining four chocolates from the first round was chosen for the last taste-off.
Erin vs. Jessica
The winner? <drumroll please> Erin, who was able to identify Papua New Guinea as the origin of the chocolate. She attributed her success to a website called All Chocolate, which has a guide of tasting notes by country, and she had also purchased several single-origin bars to try at home.
Erin collects her prize from Kerstin
The seven runners-up were each given a box of Ghost Chile Salted Caramels by Theo Chocolate – not a bad consolation prize at all (I had one afer I returned home – delish).
Delectable consolation prize
Cyrus said that they would be holding more Name That Origin contests in the future, and that the contest really helped them fulfill one of their original intentions of the shop – to help spread awareness and educate people about chocolate.
Thanks again to Kerstin’s for the invitation to participate, and I look forward to continuing to learn more about single origin chocolates!
You can check out my photoset here, and Jennifer Cockrall-King will be uploading a video of the finals soon to her website.