My first realization was that chocolate comes from trees. And the quality of the chocolate will never be any better than the quality of the beans. This is basic. Besides this, there are variations from the way the beans are fermented, dried, and roasted. These all determine the final taste of the chocolate. I was very lucky to work with top quality beans from Hacienda Concepcion in Venezuela from the very beginning.
My first experience with cacao trees came from the New York Botanical Gardens when I was nine years old.
I realized that the best way to get to know cacao trees was to grow my own. This took years to do because the weather in New Jersey is not ideal. The plants must be kept warm and humid - conditions that only occur in equatorial countries.