The chocolate made by Eric Comte, on the road to flavour
The chocolate of Eric Comte is first, and foremost, a gourmet adventure with its roots in 2020. It's also a story of changing career, a professional adventure that we at UzEssentiel are passionate about.
After more than 25 years in the wine business, Éric Comte decided to devote himself to the craft of chocolate-making, from bean to bar. His father, a fine cocoa planter in Ecuador and a number of decisive encounters led to his conversion.
The 200-hectare farm Hacienda Eleonor has 20 hectares planted
with cocoa trees of the very sough after Arriba Nacional variety,
which has been planted on former grazing land since 2015 by Pierre-Yves Comte (Comte chocolatier.fr)
Then came a training course at CIRAD in Montpellier, entitled "Become a Cocoa Expert", followed by a visit from Chloé Doutre-Roussel, a chocolate expert we mentioned in a previous chocolate article (read the article), "an international consultant living in Latin America who gives training courses on cocoa and chocolate with her partner Maria Fernanda Di Giacobbe", a Venezuelan chef and chocolatier.
Now on the market for almost 4 years
Comte chocolates promote the brand with an "Aime" (Love in French) (Comte chocolatier.fr).
The chocolate bars made in Eric Comte... An adventure to be tasted. Let's talk!
From wine to chocolate, we stay tuned to the world of aromas... Why did you decide this new professional adventure?
Tasting is crucial, whether you work in wine or chocolate. You have to know how to taste and appreciate grapes and cocoa beans.
My parents started growing cocoa trees in 2015, creating a plantation in Ecuador, and my father suggested that I market the cocoa beans from their Eleonor plantation in 2018, when the trees started producing.
I started visiting chocolate makers and quickly realised that the market was very small, because 95% of chocolate makers don't process the cocoa bean. They buy the chocolate coating.
After taking a few training courses, I created my own brand, COMTE with an 'Aime' (Love, in French), with the considerable support of Chloé Doutre-Roussel, who trained me in cocoa selection and the process of transforming beans into bars. I continue to seek her advice on a regular basis.
Camboa cocoa beans from Brazil, grown organically in the Mata Atlantica region near Bahia (source),
Ucayali from Peru, near the town of Pucallpa, where farmers are now favouring the planting of cocoa,
coffee, sugar and cocoa trees.
with the support of the Peruvian Cocoa Alliance, among others (source),
Quiñindé in Ecuador's Amazon where, since 2010, the owners of plantations
of this region known as the Golden Nugget,
are increasingly replacing the cultivation of oil palms with cocoa trees (source)
You mentioned Chloé Doutre-Roussel... What was her contribution to your project, and how did she completed the training you received at CIRAD?
Chloé Doutre-Roussel's expertise was not limited to the technical aspects of the cocoa bean processing stages (sorting the beans on arrival, roasting, breaking and winnowing the beans to obtain the cocoa nib, then refining and conching under the pressure of granite millstones and finally maturing, tempering and moulding). Chloé also taught me a lot about marketing and tasting both the beans and the chocolates.
What's more, joining the Bean to Bar France association put me in contact with other cocoa and chocolate enthusiasts. The exchanges between members are very enriching and help us to progress.
The cocoa trees at Hacienda Eleonor are grown according to organic farming.
(production is certified organic by the German
by the German certification body Kiwa BCS) (Comte chocolatier.fr).
Can you tell us about your cocoas choice?
In the beginning, of course, I worked with cocoa coming from Hacienda Eleonor, from the Fino de Aroma Arriba Nacional variety, an endemic Ecuadorian variety that has become rare because, since the 1980s, it has been replaced by varieties that are less qualitative but more productive.
Then came Chuao cocoa from Venezuela, another exceptional product. Its history is fascinating: Chuao has been grown for generations by the descendants of slaves who washed up on the coast. Settled in a remote village, they were the first to grow cocoa trees in South America. Today, it is still the women of this community who manage the plantations, armed with the secrets of this multisecular crop.
Over the years, other plantations and cooperatives have been added: the Ucayali cooperative in Peru, which only uses organic farming methods, and the Camboa plantation in Brazil, one of the oldest plantations to have obtained organic certification.
Chuao cocoa? Grown in a valley of the central cordillera of the Venezuelan coast,
Chuao cocoa is a blend of Criolllo and Forastero cocoa, whose fruits, with their pronounced aromas,
owe their chemical, physical and organic qualities to the altitude, temperature and humidity
of the Chuao climate (source).
How long did it take you to find the right proportions of ingredients for your chocolate bars? You talk about tempering, moulding, texture...
Processing chocolate is a patient and meticulous process. The right amount of sugar has to be added at the right time to the cocoa paste to fix the right aromas, the right temperature for conching, and we mustn't skimp on the refining and conching time either (3 days). You need to achieve the ideal texture while preserving the cocoa flavours.
It took me 3 months after the training course with Chloé to achieve a result that I was satisfied with, and before I could offer it for sale. It was a period during which we tasted a lot of chocolate in my family and I gave a lot to friends!
What was your very first chocolate bars?
My first bars were the 76% and 84%, created with Hacienda Eleonor cocoa beans. These are sure values that have now won the love of my customers.
You run your own micro chocolate factory. Who are your testers?
First of all my wife, who is also my partner. Her taste is reliable. I know straight away whether the chocolate meets with her approval... or not.
My customers also give me their opinions and ideas. I already make chocolate bars with raspberry, ginger, lemon zest, olive oil and fleur de sel. I'm allowing myself to be more and more imaginative as I become more confident... and the customers following me.
At the suggestion of several customers, I'm now thinking of combining chocolate with candied fruit.
Your chocolates come in collections. There are 6 powerful cult chocolate bars ranging from 70 to 84% cocoa (the best-sellers), and 7 bars for hedonists, ranging from 56 to 70% cocoa, with a touch of milk, fruit (raspberry, lemon), ginger and extra virgin olive oil. And then there's Certains l'aiment chaud (Some like it hot), a fitting name for a delicious hot chocolate preparation, made of 76% cocoa beans and with just a touch of cane sugar. Are you thinking about expanding your range?
At the moment, the production of these bars is more than enough for my micro chocolate factory, not to mention the fact that I've just added a little delicacy, my Praliné à l'ancienne à l'huile d'olive. I calculated that I needed to use around 60 hazelnuts, 60 almonds, 2 cocoa pods, a whole stalk of sugar cane, 25 olives and a touch of Fleur de sel for each 150g jar of this praliné! That's a lot of people around that little jar...
Good to know: For every jar of this Praliné sold, I donate €0.50 to the Red Cross, where I used to work as a volunteer.This partnership was very important to me.I was also lucky enough to receive a small batch of cocoa from Madagascar recently, which I used to make a milk chocolate with hazelnuts and a milk chocolate with roasted almonds, particularly addictive.In just a few weeks, all the bars were gone. I learnt from my previous job that good wine starts with good grapes. It's exactly the same for chocolate: the quality of the beans is crucial.
What else? I matured blocks of chocolate in a barrel of cognac emptied of its contents. For several months, they were impregnated with the aromas of the alcohol.Thanks to a partnership with a company that specialises in the sale and hire of oak barrels, I'll be able to repeat the experiment with casks that have contained other spirits, such as rum and whisky....
You work with Julien Lavandet of Maison Lavandet, the restaurant at Domaine de Privadière in Garrigues-Sainte-Eulalie, chef Julien Martin of Château de Collias and Anthony's Macarons in Uzès. In Nîmes, we can point out as well Olivier Douet of the restaurants Lou Mas Café, Le Lisita and L’Annexe and Francois-Xavier Durieu, chef of the restaurant Texture.
I really admire these chefs.I'm very proud to supply them with my chocolate for their pastries.These collaborations have grown stronger over time, with each chef contributing his own expertise, ideas and desires, enabling us to evolve in our work, in our search for the best product or to adapt to special requests. A real challenge. Other restaurateurs put their trust in me and, once again, it's all about sharing.
Where can I find your chocolates?
As I don't have my own shop, I encourage sales through my retailers, who are listed on my website (see end of article) or via my online shop.
Would you like to add a detail or comment?
When I worked in wine, my wife often helped me with the blind tasting of samples and the creation of blends. But when I switched to chocolate, I felt she was much more motivated!
Thanks to Eric Comte for his collaboration on this article and the visuals.
The right address: Comte chocolatier, Carré d'Art SARL, 5, Place de la Fontaine, à Cabrières. Tel: 06 22 20 12 51. Where to find Eric Comte chocolates.
Source: * Chloé Chocolat
Many thanks to Eric Comte for his collaboration with this article and the visuals.
Source: * Chloé Chocolat