A historic first was recorded in The Dominican Republic, which recently held its debut National Chocolate Festival in Santo Domingo, celebrating some of the region’s finest artisan confectionery, reports Neill Barston.

For the inaugural Caribbean event, entrants could sign up for more than twenty online and in-person activities to learn about fourteen companies within the sector as part of its celebration of the industry.

The festival was topped off with an award ceremony for the first Dominican Chocolate Competition (pictured), in which participating chocolatiers entered a total of 40 chocolate samples in three categories: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and experimental chocolate. An official judging panel of domestic and international industry professionals and experts evaluated the chocolate.

There was also a public judging panel of 400 consumers, each of whom received five random chocolates to evaluate. The official panel awarded nine winning chocolates in the three categories according to physical appearance, mouthfeel, fragrance, flavour-aroma balance, global quality and global impression:

Milk chocolate

Gold: Milz Chocolat 50% cocoa with milk

Dark chocolate

Gold: ChocoPunto 70% cocoa

Silver: Milz Chocolat 70% cocoa

Bronze: ChocoPunto 78% cocoa

Experimental chocolate

Gold: Milz Chocolat 50% cocoa with milk and coffee

Silver: Definite Chocolate 57% cocoa with cashew milk and macadamia

Silver: KahKow Vestige 65% cocoa

Bronze: Choco Punto 78% unsweetened cocoa with cocoa nibs

The public panel highlighted the Dominican consumer’s palate. The People’s Choice award took the texture, flavours and overall impression of the sample into consideration and awarded the following:

Milk chocolate

Milz 50% cocoa

Dark chocolate

Milz 70% cocoa

Experimental chocolate

CONACADO 70% with dehydrated and candied tomato

As its organizers noted, the similarity between the public and professional panels’ evaluations showcased an impressive demand for artisan ranges within the region.

The Dominican Chocolate Festival and Dominican Chocolate Competition are initiatives of Exporting Quality, a USDA-funded program implemented in the Dominican Republic by IESC. The Dominican Republic is a global leader in the production and export of organic cocoa. Together, the festival and the competition promote the expression of the diversity of the aromas of Dominican fine cacao in chocolate and at the same time educate the domestic and international consumers about Dominican chocolate.

The Exporting Quality program created festival chocolate.do to organize the festival and now, serve as a reference portal for Dominican chocolate.

Visit festivalchocolate.do. for a complete list of winners