The Seoul Salon Du Chocolat is an annual chocolate festival that takes place at Gangnam’s CoEx Mall on either the second or third weekend of each January in the South Korean capital city of Seoul. During the course of its four days, the exhibition will include a chocolate fashion show, as well as demonstrations by a number of local and foreign artisans who manufacture artisanal chocolate. It’s not often thought of as a destination for chocolate lovers, but these days, Korea ought to be on their list.
About The Salon
Since the 1990s, people all over the globe have been using the Salon du Chocolat brand to produce stunning chocolate festivals. These festivals have been held all around the world. The initial presentations were in France, but it didn’t take long for it to catch on in other areas of Europe, and then it spread to Asia and Latin America after that. The first edition of Seoul Salon Du Chocolat was held in 2014, and similar to the earlier incarnations, it featured chocolate items created locally as well as chocolate products imported from other countries, as well as tasting courses and a daily chocolate fashion show.
The festival continues to grow from year to year, both in terms of the number of people that attend as well as the number of speakers who specialize on chocolate. Not only do more chocolate producers participate in the Salon every year, but those who are interested in learning more about bean-to-bar chocolate may take advantage of the increased number of seminars and lectures that are held in the days preceding up to the exhibition. The ideal indoor activity to include in your itinerary during your time in South Korea is a visit to the Salon du Chocolat.
Seoul Salon Du Chocolat 2019
Even though the number of people who attended this year’s Salon du Chocolat was very comparable to the number of people who attended previous year’s event, the general patterns were considerably different. All of the Korean chocolate producers that made the journey to Gangnam sold their bars and other items created with their chocolate. The number of Korean chocolate makers who made the trip to Gangnam depends on your definitions.
The fact that some customers really understood the phrase “bean to bar” was maybe the most significant change that occurred in comparison to 2018. This year, instead of selling raw cacao like they did last year, the booths switched to selling cacao nibs and chocolate bars. Therefore, despite the fact that there was just one importer there selling raw cocoa beans and another importer offering a range of foreign handmade chocolates, this move is a significant step forward in the right direction.
The one chocolate importer who makes bean-to-bar chocolate and also sells his products online was at the top of his game. He demonstrated to the buyers what they may anticipate from worldwide artisan chocolate firms as well as how the Korean market compares to other international markets. He even had samples for a few dozen other bars, and he appeared ready for any and all inquiries that might be asked.
Although there were a few non-Korean bean-to-bar chocolate producers who were part of other booths or had their own, most notably KVMI and Marou, the majority of imported chocolates were sold at the booths of the embassies of the different nations that produced them. Up until this point, Ghana and the Ivory Coast have consistently been present, although at extremely modest tables in the midst of expansive areas.
This year, many Latin American nations made it to the event and displayed some of the chocolate that is created in their respective countries; however, none of the chocolate was really for sale. For the time being, it seems like I’ll only be able to visit Ecuador, but I anticipate expanding my travels around Latin America the following year.
There were many individuals selling a variety of sweets and delights, including chocolatiers from Seoul. In addition, there were other booths selling products that had nothing to do with chocolate, such as candles, wooden carvings, or liquor. I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
The Future Of Korean Chocolate
In comparison to the previous year, there was a much wider variety of items available this time around.
During the winter of 2016–2017, there were only a small number of manufacturers operating throughout the nation. A large number of these manufacturers had imported a single origin each and were selling their products to one another. During in 2018, there was a change in the origins that were available, and beginning that same year, lower quantities of numerous distinct beans began emerging.
When I took the opportunity to just study the crowds at some of the bean to bar booths, I saw that a good number of people genuinely looked to be acquainted with the notion of going from bean to bar, and the majority of people seemed to already know that chocolate is created from cocoa beans.
However, what this meant for the most part was that individuals seemed to have a significant interest in cocoa nibs. Although there is no doubt that some individuals began to comprehend specialized chocolate via the lens of specialty coffee, it seemed that the majority of individuals just saw it as a healthier alternative to the item that is mass-produced.
Earlier, as I was waiting for the concert to start, I had a conversation with the proprietor of the speciality chocolate retail business. He said that even while Koreans believe bean to bar chocolate to be healthier, they also anticipate it to be more bitter than traditional chocolate. They are really a little turned off or maybe untrusting of bars that have a cacao concentration that is lower than 70%. It is my sincere hope that this view will change as the industry continues to expand and as more information about specialized chocolate becomes accessible in Korean.
On the other side, there is a risk that low-quality chocolate made from beans to bars would flood the market, making it more difficult for local manufacturers to sell their more costly goods. However, within that same framework comes the opportunity for someone (or multiple someones) to seize the initiative and make it their personal goal to educate the general public via the formation of collaborative efforts.
This might be to the ingredients used, the promoting of one another’s content on social media, the hosting of food matching events, or simply the simple act of working together to secure space at an event to sell goods. It doesn’t matter how it’s accomplished; it’s a vital step that I hope people won’t pass over out of the worry that assisting someone else’s company would have a negative impact on their own.
The exhibition ultimately morphed into a combination of where the Korean chocolate industry is headed, and where it has been trapped for quite some time. This year, there was noticeably practically no coffee, or raw materials and equipment.
ere was a lot more diversity of products this year compared to last year.
For the 2016 to 2017 season, there were really only a handful of makers throughout the country, and many of them had imported a single origin each and were selling them to each other. Starting in 2018 there was a shift in what origins were available, and smaller amounts of several different beans started appearing.
When I took the time to just observe the crowds at some of the bean to bar booths, a fair number of people actually seemed to be familiar with the bean to bar concept, and most people seemed to already know that chocolate is made from cocoa beans.
However, for the most part this meant that people really seemed interested in cocoa nibs. While some people surely started to understand specialty chocolate through the specialty coffee perspective, many people just seemed to see it as a healthy alternative to the mass-produced stuff.
Before the show I was chatting with the owner of the specialty chocolate retail shop. He said that while Koreans perceive bean to bar chocolate as more healthy, they also in turn expect it to be bitter. They’re actually a bit put off by or even untrusting of bars with less than 70% cacao content. Hopefully as the market continues to grow, and more information on specialty chocolate is available in Korean, this perception could shift.
Though on the other hand there’s a danger of low quality “bean to bar” chocolate flooding the market and making it harder for local makers to sell their more expensive products. Within that same context, however, is the chance for someone (or several someones) to take the reins and make it their mission to educate the public through collaborations.
This could mean ingredient-wise, sharing each other’s stuff on social media, through food pairing parties, or even just through working together to purchase space to sell at an event. No matter how it’s done, it’s a necessary step that I hope people don’t skip over out of fear that helping someone else’s business would hurt your own.
There was notably almost no coffee this year, or raw ingredients & machinery, as the show finally morphs into a mix of where the Korean chocolate industry is going, and where it’s been stuck for a rather long time.
General Admission: ₩10000 per day, though the price is less for kids and free if you pre-register online way ahead of time. It’s an extra ₩6000 to do one of the chocolate events, held every hour or so.
Event Location: One of CoEx Mall’s Exhibition Halls, usually B or D
Next Salon Dates: January 2022
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