Hope your summer continues to blaze on well.
As climate change makes living on planet earth more challenging to survive, a lot of adaptation is required.
(Quick side note and obvious disclaimer: What would be great would be if the adaptation were a collective effort from humanity to live more consciously so as to not continue to hurdle ourselves and the rest of the planet into oblivion. But a collective effort would take a collective effort- I stopped holding my breath about a decade ago.)
I grew up predominantly in Vancouver, BC- and summers were comfortable. As in, the ecosystem was able to comfortably withstand temperatures and weather patterns for many years. Because- it was how it was supposed to be. Now, it is a blazing disaster- extremely late summer (felt almost fall-ish for a while) and we are just coming out of a heatwave- there were no heatwaves back in the day.
Everybody was happy.
Now, everybody, including chocolate, is much less happy. (And if you aren't, you should be- or at least aware and doing your part to not make things significantly worse.)
Case in point- I took a trip to a local vegan specialty store, Vegan Supply, last week during the heatwave. They don't have HVAC, so it was pretty toasty in there. I also noticed that the chocolate display was missing. That's because they had to store it in the walk in cooler- to prevent all the product from melting. (Absolutely none of this scene would have happened in the '90s. Or even 2000's. Up until a few years ago, that is.)
Not the greatest for sales, might I add! So many shops in more temperate climates never had to even think about AC- it just didn't get hot enough. That's certainly changed, and a lot of products, certainly including chocolate- need some special treatment.
So- here's a guide to storing your chocolate properly, and a plan B should things go awry.
How to store your chocolate in hot weather
The first question to ask is- how will you be getting your chocolate?
1) If in a grocery store or other physical location here's what you do:
- pack an insulated bag
- pack an ice pack
- don't plan on being out for more than 5 or so hours
- have a safety zone for your chocolate once you get home- I generally recommend against storing chocolate in the fridge- it's too moist and there are too many weird smells. But, if a fridge is the coolest/safest place in the house for chocolate, as it is for many of us, you can use an airtight container to store your chocolate- it may also be beneficial to put a clean cloth in there to line the container as well, to absorb any excess moisture.
2) If you order it online here's what to do:
- please, absolutely definitely have it delivered to where you can easily accept the parcel - otherwise, you run the risk of having it sit outside on a porch or something and melt
- sending it to your house may not be the best idea if you just go there after hours of regular delivery- have it go to a neighbour (you trust!) who works from home or to your place of work
- it is best to order during the cooler months- avoid ordering during the summer because, sometimes the shippers best efforts are no effort for a hot delivery truck, or a parcel stuck at the border.
- a note about this- shipping small parcels is not the best for the environment, thus contributing to the downward spiral- if you do order online, order lots to last you a while and maybe order with a couple of friends- less shipping!
- have that same safety zone ready for when you store your chocolate
What if I didn't follow the steps above and my chocolate has melted/bloomed?
Well, unless you want to painstakingly hand temper a little chocolate bar, you're SOL.
Or are you?!
You aren't. I would never.
But without retempering, you won't get that lovely snap back. If the chocolate is melting too fast at room temperature (something moderate, in the low to mid 20s) - you can keep it in the fridge and enjoy it straight from there.
If the chocolate has become crumbly- I'd highly suggest melting it down and storing it the fridge (well sealed, after it has cooled) to be used as baking chocolate.
Or, you could melt it down to use as drinking chocolate. (But why would you do that when we have so many great drinking chocolates already available?!)
The question remains: why does chocolate need all this special treatment to begin with?
Well, as I eluded to above, heat can destroy the temper of a finished product. Chocolate is set 'in temper' after going through a temperature curve to melt/break apart crystals formed by the molecules at very high or very low points of temperature, and then reform them at a proper end temperature. If you have ever eaten crumbly chocolate, or chocolate which melts easily in your hands, this chocolate is a victim of destroyed temper. It has been heated up so that the crystalline structure of the molecules is no longer held tightly together- gets too slippery or too crumbly, depending upon the temperature applied.
Some objects are more temperature sensitive- like ice cream and chocolate. Other objects have a much higher and/or lower temperature tolerance- like socks.
Sometimes, I wish I had started a sock company. Or something else which isn't perishable nor requires temperature control and also has higher margins. It may be too late for that, and that also isn't the point of this post.
Hope that helps! And thanks for reading. If you have any chocolate melting disaster stories, please leave them etc. below!
PS- a note about ice packs. You can take a plastic bottle, clean it out really well, fill it with water, screw the lid back on tight and freeze it- bam. Ice pack!