A story in the April 27 edition of Capital Press, my favorite Pacific Northwest agricultural newspaper (warning: story may disappear soon), profiled a guy who has developed a home chocolate-making process and is now selling equipment and cacao beans to other would-be choclomaniacs.
John Nanci, an Oakland, Calif., chemist who liked to brew his own beer and roast his own coffee, decided to figure out how make chocolate at home, tailoring some existing equipment and custom-manufacturing other products in order to do it.
If you've ever taken the tour at Theo Chocolate—it only costs $5, and you get to eat your weight in samples—you'll realize what a complicated process it is to make chocolate out of cacao beans. There aren't more than a handful of companies in the United States who tackle it, period, and even fewer (less than three, if I'm being generous) on an small, artisanal scale.
But as anyone who's walked through the markets of Oaxaca City and passed the tiny chocolate-milling stalls knows, it may be worth attempting the impossible just for the aromatherapeutic benefits. Nanci's company, Chocolate Alchemy, sells things like nibs, cacao butter, machines, thermometers, and instructions to anyone willing to try. Of course, his $45 novice package, in which he gives you a head start with roasted cacao nibs instead of raw beans, requires you to also purchase a $335 melangeur and a $265 juicer.
But I bet you anything Seattle is filled with insane gastronomes with the money and drive to do it. Just imagine the bragging rights. You could cast so much shade on those goat-cheese-culturers and pancetta-curers.
Of course, if you need a professional opinion (gratis) on your trial batches, samples may be sent here.