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New Items Available, Including Immune Boosting Dark Chocolate Bar!

Posted by Kasey McCaslin on

 If you have been following our chocolate updates, you will have seen that we will be taking a small break from our usual farmers markets. We are so sad to miss all of our local customers each week but want to make sure we are doing our part for keeping each other healthy and safe. In the meantime you will still be able to get your chocolate fix via our website, www.stonegrindz.com. To keep things interesting though, we will be regularly updating the site with brand new flavors of chocolate, special offers, free shipping AND a new series of 'Wellness Chocolates', to be released every other week. Our new line of chocolates will include things like rich antioxidant foods that are boosting for the immune system, adaptogenic herbs that help the body cope with stress, spices, fruits and therapeutic uses and flavorings of essential oils. Our first introduction is for our brand new Immune Boosting Dark Chocolate! Packed with Red Reishi Mushroom (powerful immune system enhancer), Ashwanganda (used to fight anxiety and stress), orange essential oil (anti-inflammatory), organic pumpkin seeds (healthy fatty acids), cacao nibs (more antioxidants!) and Madagascar Vanilla (keeping your heart healthy) -  did we also mention that this bar tastes really, really good? 

 In addition to our new wellness bar, allow us to introduce an old favorite and a new. We brought back our Cinnamon Cayenne 68% Dark Chocolate! This is back by popular demand - a subtle blend of invigorating spices that we think you will absolutely love. The flavors in this bar play meticulously well, rich and fudgey finishing with a spicy tingle! Our 68% chocolate is a delicate blend of Peruvian and Ecuadorian cacao beans, floral and earthy notes. 

And last but not least, another brand new chocolate, Coconut Milk Jade Oolong Tea 55% dark chocolate. This bar is for all our tea lovers, intense floral flavors with hints of natural sweetness. Ground with fresh coconut flakes for a creamy, milky like consistency and a healthier, vegan option compared to traditional  milk chocolate bars. Just a touch of sea salt and vanilla to complete the bar. Don't miss out on this one! 

These bars will be available for the next couple weeks so get them while you can! And stay tuned as we keep pumping out new Stone Grindz Chocolate creations for you! Stay happy, healthy and full of chocolate :) 

 

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Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Posted by Kasey McCaslin on

If you needed another reason to eat dark chocolate, don't fret, there are many! Dark chocolate contains an array of nutritional benefits and feel-good components. Dark is usually considered to be at least 50% cacao solids, to 100% cacao. When chocolate is higher in cacao and lower in filler ingredients like sugar and milk, a variety of health benefits present themselves.  It's is rich in flavanols, antioxidants and contains unique compounds like theobromine. 

Flavanols are polyphenols that support and provide benefits for healthy blood flow and reduce our risk of heart problems. Antioxidants inhibit oxidation, aka free radical damage, which prevents cell damage within the body, keeping us young and healthy. And theobromine is slightly similar to caffeine, as it does act as a mild stimulant in the body and provides natural energy. In addition it has been shown theobromine can help lower blood pressure, increase good cholesterol, act as an anti-inflammatory and improve cognitive function.  Are you convinced yet?

Scottsdale Arizona Dark chocolate Stone Grindz

Some of the longest lived people on record, claim chocolate to be one of their best kept secrets of youth. Jeanne Clement, a french woman who passed at the age 122, said she ate nearly two pounds of very dark chocolate a week. The neuroscience Institute of San Diego discovered that chocolate contains the feel-good chemical, anandamide. This chemical is responsible for the "chocolate high" and results in a calming effect on the body and possibly even lowers stress hormones! Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine, a substance called the “love molecule” that simulates the feeling of being in love. All the feels. 

 As with anything, the quality of ingredients will always make a difference in the nutritional benefits received from our foods. It's important to select chocolate that has been grown in nutritionally dense soil, usually this means buying sustainable chocolate and avoiding bigger commercial that are using poorly grown, cheap bulk cacao. Lots of smaller farmers are working hard to get more involved with growing cacao more in harmony with nature, which in turn, produces more interesting flavors and you guessed it, more nutritional value! Choosing chocolate with minimal ingredients and higher percentages of cacao will also help to receive the above mentioned advantages. These are just a handful of reasons to eat a little more chocolate, so go on, crack that bar!

 

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International Chocolate Awards 2019

Posted by Kasey McCaslin on

For the past three years we have participated in something called the International Chocolate Awards, and you can probably already guess what it's all about. In this article though, I wanna take the time to explain how the process works and why this is so important for us. 

Each year hundreds of chocolate makers from all over the world send in multiples of their best chocolate creations to be judged by a panel of serious foodies. These creations are our most creative and most perfected chocolate endeavors. The chocolate is judged on just about everything, from the sourcing of beans & ingredients to how that tiny piece of cacao melts in your mouth. The judges will also critique the roast of your cacao beans, if there are any interesting developed flavors, bitterness levels, its aroma, color, melt, particle size, and overall how all these things come together in the bar. It also should be noted that the judging is a blind tasting, all of their responses are based on the tiny piece of chocolate in front of them, nothing else. So many chocolate makers enter this competition that it is broken into two main rounds. First you compete within your region and for us that means all the rest of the United States, Canada, and South America. The competition is also broken down into lots of categories like plain/origin bars, flavored bars, flavored bars with milk and so on (there's a lot!). Each category receives a Gold, multiple Silvers, and a few more Bronze. If you place, you move on to compete with the rest of the world. It's fair to say, it's a pretty exciting time!

In the last few years we have been fortunate enough to place within multiple categories, Americas and Worlds. We have been awarded a total of 12 International Chocolate Awards and we are greatly humbled by that. More than anything these awards and our participation in them is our confirmation that we are doing what we are meant to be doing. Our passion for making great chocolate is fueled by the positive and negative feedback that we receive. It gives us an objective evaluation of what is working and how to fix what isn't. All in all, we happy to participate and grateful to be rewarded for our efforts. 

To see the full list of winners from this years Americas competition, please click the link. 

Click Here For 2019 Winners

2019 Americas Competition: 

Silver - Coconut Milk Ginger 55%

Silver - Suntory Whiskey & Asian Pear Caramel

Bronze - Esmeraldas, Ecuador 70%

Bronze - Ucayali River, Peru 70%

Bronze - Wild Bolivia 70%

Bronze - Raspberries & Vanilla 68%

Special - Alternate Vegan Milk Chocolate (Coconut Milk Ginger 55%)

Special - Innovation (Suntory Whiskey & Asian Pear Caramel)

 

2018 Competition:

Gold - Coconut Milk Ginger 55%

Silver - Ucayali River, Peru 70%

Silver - Wild Bolivia 70%

Silver - Hacienda Victoria 85%

Bronze - Ucayali River 70% (World Final)

 

2017 Competition:

Bronze - Ecuador 70%

Bronze - Wild Bolivia 70%

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What is cacao?

Posted by Kasey McCaslin on

We are all very familiar with chocolate, but what in the world is cacao? For a lot of us chocolate is an experience, a favorite finish to the day or a maybe a reminder of sweeter times in our youth. It's delicious, nostalgic, reliable, sensual and comes in so many different shapes and forms. But where does it come from? What is it's history? And how did chocolate become well, chocolate?



The food we love so much is botanically considered a fruit and it's proper name is, Theobroma Cacao or just cacao. It originated through out the rain forests of the Amazon basin and parts of Mexico. Ancestral Mesoameican civilizations like the Olmecs domesticated Theobroma Cacao and were the first to turn this strange fruit into "chocolate". The fruit has a tough, leathery rind (think like a large gourd or squash) and contains two things inside. One is a sweet, wet, pulpy like white fruit (in South America they call this part baba de cacao "slime of cacao") and under that are 30-50 pale to dark purple seeds. These seeds are what eventually turn into our oh so precious, chocolate. For most of cacao's known use and history it has been consumed in the form of a drink. In the Mayan civilization cacao became a very vital part to their society, beans were roasted on a metate and mixed with achiote, chiles, corn and water. This liquid combination was poured from one jug to another but from a great height to create a frothy consistency as the poured liquid landed into the second jug. This delicious beverage was consumed often and was widely loved by everyone. These seeds were so valuable and precious to these civilizations that they were used as currency, and were an integral part of ritual and community. It was so highly revered by the Aztecs that they called cacao, "the food of the gods".

Stone Grindz Chocolate Dark Chocolate Scottsdale, Arizona

Almost a 1,000 years later, the first Europeans tried cacao and at first it wasn't well received, most said it was too bitter or too savory and it wasn't until the Europeans realized the value associated with these beans that their interest was really piqued. Columbus and Cortez both had encounters with cacao, and Cortez even brought some home to the Spanish king but nothing much came from it at the time. No one really knows for sure how chocolate crossed the Atlantic and became such a hit in Europe, but it's thought that somewhere around 1542 it was introduced to the people of Spain and the first sanctioned shipment of beans happened in 1585. The Spanish created a similar drink to the Mayans and Aztecs but served it hot instead of cold and added sugar to make it sweet. The drinking of cacao quickly spread throughout Europe and it became an integral part of coffee and tea houses. This love for cacao didn't come without without suspicion or fear though, as it was debated as being evil and sinful, cacaos dark color and strange allure also gave the food a reputation of an aphrodisiac. Sadly this great food also has many roots in slavery as Aristocrats brought enslaved Africans back to Central and South America to work cacao plantations. During this time cacao trees were also taken back to Africa to expand plantations and Africa remains the largest producer of cacao in the world (about 70% of chocolate beans are grown there). Farmers in this area are paid next to nothing for their time and work, while the cacao being bought is flipped for big money in places like the United States. Slavery within the cacao world still remains an huge issue today and a lot of chocolate directly or indirectly supports this unjust system. By only supporting chocolate that states it is fair trade you can help ensure the farmers are properly paid. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog to read more about this issue and how you can help to mend it.



Fast forward to 1772 and Americas first chocolate factory was opened. It was called Hannon's Best Chocolate and still exists today as Bakers Chocolate. In 1826 the first melanger was invented and allowed makers to grind cacao nibs into chocolate liquor. Not long after chocolate evolved from mostly a beverage into a solid bar, and eventually in 1879 Swiss chemist Henri Nestle and chocolate producer Daniel Peter created the worlds first milk chocolate bar. They went on the create the company Nestle, sound familiar? The chocolate making process was furthered enlightened when the first conch was invented. This machine aerates, stirs and heats the chocolate in a particular way to create a very smooth texture, one that we've all come to love and associate with our friend, chocolate. A little over a decade later Milton Hershey started mass producing chocolate in Hershey, PA and is still one of the biggest names known today with this beloved food. Hershey company controls about 44% of the American chocolate market.



In the last 100 years chocolate has evolved into a huge, huge industry. It has crept into every corner of our lives and can be tasted almost anywhere in the world. The term "bean to bar" was coined in the 1990's to reflect a chocolate maker not interested in mass-producing but rather focusing on direct sourcing and producing high quality chocolate with an intense making process. At Stone Grindz we try and do just that. Create chocolate that tastes exceptional but that also has integrity and tells you a story. Our process involves seven essential steps. Sourcing from ethical and sustainable farms and paying fair wages for those involved in the agriculture. Sorting cacao beans to ensure the quality and consistency of each one, roasting to enhance and balance flavors, winnowing the shell from the nib, melanging to refine the particles of cacao, conching to achieve buttery-like, smooth textures and finally tempering the finished product into a solid form with a shiny look and perfect texture. Chocolate is truly an amazing thing, rich in history, flavor and process. We hope you'll enjoy the journey with us. 

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Local Dark Chocolate - Arizona

Posted by Steven Shipler on

Can you find local craft chocolate in Arizona? Yes you can, we actually have some amazing local craft chocolate all over Arizona. This list will evolve, and if we left anyone off please let us know!

Stone Grindz Chocolate Dark Chocolate Arizona

Phoenix based chocolate:

Nutwhats: Nutwhats focuses on their incredibly sticky and yummy nut confections, and they craft single origin chocolate from bean to bar as well. They source Cacao beans from The Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Madagascar, and Bolivia. They also won Phoenix Magazine's best chocolate in Arizona award for 2013 (we were the runner up, and hope to claim this award for ourselves this year!) Congratulations to them!

Wei of Chocolate: Wei of Chocolate infuses flower essences into their chocolate. Organic, gluten-free, GMO free, soy free, dairy free, fair trade, and vegan. We used to know the lady from the Phoenix Public Market that made the flower essences for Wei of Chocolate. She is an amazing lady, and a great addition to their chocolate company.

Zaks Chocolate: Zak's chocolate is new in the chocolate scene. They have won a couple awards at the International Chocolate Awards as well. We are great friends with the owners!

bNaked: Sue has fire and creativity. She makes some amazing local craft chocolate truffles, macaroons, and dehydrated bars. Her truffles have raw chocolate and raw cashews in them. We actually are in love with her truffles specifically, we call her the truffle queen!

Julia Baker: Now if you are looking for boxed chocolates and confections this is the woman to see. She makes some of the best confectionary chocolate in Arizona.

Fountain Hills based chocolate:

Chocofin Chocolatier:  "have been providing the world class resorts in Scottsdale, Arizona, with their world class chocolates since 1998" sourced directly from their site. I have not personally tried their chocolate, but I am sure it is very special.

Sedona based chocolate:

LuLu’s Chocolate: All of Lulu's chocolate is crafted from bean to bar without going above the raw chocolate threshold of 115 degrees F. She certainly has the best raw bean to bar chocolate in Arizona. She is a wonderful woman, we email from time to time to talk chocolate!

Sedona Chocolate Superfoods: These guys stone grind their cacao just like LuLu does, and they also use all raw organic and fair trade ingredients in their chocolate. They can be found making and selling their chocolate at the Chocola Tree.

Tucson based chocolate:

Untamed Confections: They make these wonderfully delightful Honey Caramel treats, and fair trade chocolate confections.

Monsoon Chocolate: Local chocolate company that offers a wide variety of chocolate products including, chocolate confections. single origin dark chocolate, and more!

Chocolate Spirited Artisan Chocolate: Local chocolate company that offers a wide variety of chocolate products including, chocolate confections, chocolate bark, and artisan hot chocolate!

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