Ecole Chocolat Course Review: Chocolate Making

5/5 - (1 vote)

Have you ever considered giving it all up and going back to school? Me, too. But I just didn’t have the money for it. In addition to that, baking is my love, but pastry school is quite costly. In addition, it might be nerve-wracking to give up the financial security provided by a steady salary. Despite this, I was still interested in expanding my understanding of chocolate. After much deliberation over a period of years, I finally decided to enroll in the bean-to-bar chocolate production course offered by Ecole Chocolat, an online chocolate school based in Canada that serves students from all over the globe.

Chocolates found on a recent chocolate-sourcing trip to Taiwan.

Fulfilling a Need

The chocolate business is a dynamic one; it is always evolving, both in terms of its purpose and its meaning, as a direct result of its surroundings. However, things weren’t always like that. During the time of the Mayan kingdom, chocolate served as a renowned kind of money. In the 18th century, Europeans drank bitter chocolate as an elevated beverage. In the 20th century, chocolate was transformed into an inexpensive sweet. Chocolate that was produced with inexpensive fillers popularized an appreciation for the taste of cocoa among the general public and helped elevate cacao beans to an important position in the international commodity market. Whether you think chocolate is a good thing or a negative thing, the fact remains that it has irreparably changed the public’s perception of one of the world’s most well-known fruits: cacao.

In the last decade, the chocolate business has transitioned from producing a standard sweet to evolving into a craft delight. Around the globe, there have recently been the establishment of hundreds, if not thousands, of chocolate factories that produce chocolate with deep roots in its constituent parts. Bean-to-bar chocolate is made on a very modest scale, and the technology used to make it is often improvised or repurposed from other chocolate-making operations. However, someone has to step up and educate some of these would-be world-changers how to construct a company that had an effect on the globe. Enter Ecole Chocolat, which literally translates as “Chocolate School” in French.

Pam Williams established the school in 2003, and it has since become a resource for prospective chocolate makers, chocolatiers, and those who currently deal with chocolate. Despite having their headquarters in Canada, the teachers and the students they mentor hail from industries, workshops, studios, and studio flats located all over the globe. In my class, there were students from a variety of countries, including Japan, Nigeria, Colombia, Germany, and of course, North America. I am an American now living in South Korea.

Even while classes on producing chocolate from bean to bar are still rather uncommon, the fact that this exists surprised me nevertheless. A significant number of students were living outside of their countries of origin, and a number of them had already conceived of or were actively working on tree-to-bar companies in cacao-growing areas. The ability to access the lectures and the other students at any time of the day was, in my opinion, the most beneficial aspect of the course, even more so than the depth and breadth of the subject.

Forastero cacao from a plantation in Southern Taiwan.

About The Course

Who is It By & For?

Pam Williams, together with a staff of 10 other professors and personnel coming from a variety of different backgrounds, commits her time to ensuring that the school stays on schedule. Despite the fact that the majority of these educators also own their own chocolate companies, I had no trouble maintaining open lines of contact with both my professors and the other students, even throughout the intense storms that occurred this autumn.

After finishing the class on chocolate production, I have come to the conclusion that this is an excellent school for students who want to get a far more in-depth knowledge of the cacao and chocolate business in a significantly less amount of time than would ordinarily be required. Those who are interested in learning how to build or enhance their abilities in the process of creating chocolate from bean to bar are encouraged to enroll in this specific course. I had been working with chocolate as a pastime for the preceding five years, and during that time I had picked up maybe half of this broad knowledge and a scattering of the particular data.

But don’t let yourself be misled. You will not become an expert on chocolate after doing this for only two months. However, if you put in the necessary amount of effort, it may provide you with a stable foundation upon which to launch a chocolate company. This is a wonderful alternative for you if you are willing to make consistent use of their library and the other resources they provide in order to continue with your studies. You will have access to a sufficient number of articles to, if you so choose, concentrate on either the manufacturing of chocolate or its taste, or on the cultivation and procurement of cacao. Even after the course is over, you may continue to take advantage of these free chances to network with individuals all around the globe who are passionate about chocolate and learn from each other.

Amadei bar tasted in my second flight of chocolate, for my first assignment.

What is It?

Students learn the fundamentals of chocolate-making via case studies and hands-on assignments throughout the two-month, fully online chocolate-making course. The course prepares students to make chocolate at home or in a commercial kitchen. In addition, there are tasting tasks, during which you evaluate completed chocolates and get an understanding of how to correctly obtain components. Do not be misled by the fact that this is an accreditation program that has expectations and requirements; the platform itself is online. My first thought after checking in for the very first time was, “wow, it’s just like I was back at school.” The user interface is quite comparable to the one that was used at my school back then, and unfortunately, it is just as somewhat unpleasant to navigate.

Because the material provided in the pre-course is rather straightforward, it is not difficult to get caught up even if you start the course later than intended. However, once you have started, there is no turning back. The essence of the program may be summed up as the cultivation of sustainability across the board in the chocolate sector. There are not a lot of chocolate courses of any type available, unless you consider the ones that are designed specifically for pastry professionals. But taking this course will provide you with all you need to start carving out a niche for yourself in the competitive and quickly growing fine chocolate market.

Where is It?

Since the whole program takes place online, anyone may participate from any location with access to the internet; however, the creators of the program are headquartered in Canada.

How Do You Learn?

Students participate in the learning process by completing assignments, maintaining open lines of contact with their teachers, participating in forums with other students, and doing in-depth research on chocolate. The class is broken up into six different parts, and students have four different assignments and six different exercises to turn in over the course of two months. Welcome, Understanding the Chocolate Industry, Understanding Chocolate Flavor, Sourcing Cocoa Beans, The Chocolate Manufacturing Process, and Formulating Your Operations Plan are the modules that are included in this course. For those of you who are currently creating chocolate from the bean, there are three activities that you might choose to do.

I spent two months completing my readings and rigorously following the information that was supplied, and as a result, I learned far more about cacao production and where it comes from in those two months than I did in the seven months that I spent actually studying cacao in Latin America. The guidance and further reading that are supplied by the course content, as well as the opportunity to network with and crowd source knowledge from a community of chocolate enthusiasts who have similar interests, are both very beneficial.

The bars I tried for the first of 5 tastings.

When is It?

The specific dates of the class I took were September 15th through November 17th, 2017. You will continue to have access to the school’s online library and graduate center even after you have graduated. The chocolate manufacturing course that lasts for two months is given twice a year, in March and September, and there are only a few spaces available. Consider the fact that even though they state you will spend roughly 8 hours a week on the course, a more reasonable estimate, in my view, is 15 hours. This is something to take into consideration. It takes a rather significant time commitment to study the material in depth, make notes on it, and then do your weekly assignments, and this is coming from someone who has been immersed in the world of chocolate for the better part of five years. If English isn’t your first language, you’ll need even more time to get everything done.

Why Should I Do It?

This class is not appropriate for all students. However much cacao there is, the chocolate industry will eventually hit its capacity at some point in the distant future, but that time has not arrived just yet. If being an expert in chocolate is something you are interested in beginning down the path toward, or if you are interested in founding a company that focuses on chocolate, then you should take this course. The goal of this class is to educate students on the process of manufacturing chocolate from bean to bar, but you may get as much or as little out of it as you want to. I wanted to develop my abilities as a chocolate maker and get a more comprehensive and accurate understanding of the chocolate business, so I enrolled in this course. Students who are enthusiastic about chocolate and committed to devoting a few hours each day to furthering their knowledge of chocolate for the duration of the course are ideal.

Happy Halloween! For my students today, unsoaked in sweet american culture, it was only about the treats. They actually though that “trick-or-treat” means “give me candy.” . . .

Max Gandy | (@damecacao)님의 공유 게시물님, 2017 10월 31 오전 8:11 PDT

Practical Information

Potential Struggles

  • Time management may be challenging when first starting out. The quantity of readings as well as their length may at first seem to be excessive; nonetheless, you are REQUIRED to devote at least a couple of hours every day to reading, making notes, and viewing the videos. My one and only criticism of the class is that I just did not have enough time to do an in-depth analysis of the subject matter due to the fact that I was also continually working on this website while still maintaining a full-time job. My access to their resource collection, on the other hand, will continue indefinitely once the course has been completed, so I can consider myself really fortunate in that regard.
  • The structure of the assignments is not predetermined, which might be challenging for those who are used to having clear guidelines to follow. You simply need to answer the questions for your tasting assignments and modules; they do not need to fit into any little boxes. It’s not like university, where getting one failing mark too many will get you expelled out of school; instead, teachers will work with you to explain the content. You will be given a grade out of a possible 100, but the primary purpose of this evaluation is to establish whether or not you will graduate “with honors.” In spite of this, I wish they had offered some samples of how previous students constructed reviews or directed us in the direction of reviews written by professionals.
  • choose to focus just on reading the items that are pertinent to me. They make available, as I’ve already said, dozens of hours’ worth of content each and every week. You need to identify what your personal emphasis is in chocolate, and then you need to concentrate on the materials that fit that emphasis. There are many who are solely interested in making chocolate at home, others who want to create a chocolate shop, and yet others who simply want to improve their chocolate consumption. You may go in whatever direction you choose.
  • Students were occasionally tasked with the responsibility of locating resources for each and every location of cacao beans. The nations of Latin America were, for the most part, well covered; nevertheless, given the recent proliferation of cooperatives in their countries of origin, I had anticipated more in-depth treatment. Many of the articles that were used as sources were more than ten years old, and to tell you the truth, they were unnecessary and useless. Nevertheless, I was able to contribute some resources to their scant list for a couple of the nations, and I requested that current students have new articles investigated and put to the list. I am certain that this task will be completed successfully.
  • Obtaining the chocolate bars & cacao beans was a struggle for me, being based in rural South Korea.

Vietnamese cacao beans sourced in South Korea.

Potential Saviors

  • It is impossible for me to place enough emphasis on the depth and breadth of content that is covered in this class. However, this may be seen as both a gift and a burden. Readings are not sent to students until two weeks before the due date of their assignments. This is most likely done because the sheer amount of the material would be too much for pupils to handle if they saw it all at once.
  • From the very beginning of the class, students are presented with dozens of case studies of successful chocolate producers who provide a diversity of approaches to and points of view on chocolate.
  • There are three distinct venues available for you to ask questions of or engage in conversation with your fellow students. Some people in your cohort will talk more than others, but regrettably, mine was one of the more quiet ones. Nevertheless, I have emerged from this experience with a number of connections in the chocolate business all around the globe, including my professors.
  • Pam is encouraging to students by allowing them to offer input and develop the course based on their many different and unique fresh viewpoints. At the conclusion of the class, she had us all fill out evaluations so that she might make changes to the curriculum that would benefit students in subsequent classes.

Price of the Course

$455USD/$455CAD for Canadians (+$145 if you do the optional 1-month business module).

Materials Required

22 high-quality chocolate bars from a range of manufacturers (costs between $100 and $200; however, the teachers will work with you if you are unable to get this number of high-quality chocolate bars) and a computer with internet connection.

Chocolate is covered in this lesson for the first time. However, it also chronicles the lives of dozens of chocolate manufacturers, most of whom are from North America and Europe. Some of these chocolate makers may even be people you look up to as role models. One of our pieces consisted of an interview with a famous chocolate producer, in which we asked them about how they first became interested in the chocolate industry. The majority of individuals have a singular encounter with a particular chocolate bar that fundamentally alters their understanding of what chocolate is and what it may be. Back around the middle of the decade, I had mine at the Chocolate Garage.

So, what exactly has caused this shift in your perspective? Has it already taken place?

Please take into consideration that I was speaking from my own experience, which I paid for out of my own pocket. For writing this review, I have received no payment or other kind of compensation from the institution. When I joined up, I didn’t know what to anticipate, so I believed that others would be in the same position as I was.