Love at First Taste: 3 Chocolate Loves of 2016, part 3

By Valerie Beck, “Chocolate Muse,” and CEO/Founder of Chocolate Uplift and Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours

How do you like your drinking chocolate?

The Mayans liked their drinking chocolate hot, the Aztecs liked it cold, Montezuma liked it in golden goblets before visiting his harem, George Washington liked it with cream, Marie Antoinette liked it with orange blossom, the Marquis de Sade liked it as more suited to the seductive arts than Champagne, and I like it raw thanks to my chocolate beverage pick of 2016: Drink Cacoco!

Let me be clear: I’m not generally a fan of raw chocolate due to its often muddy flavors – roasting can bring out and clarifies flavors. 

Yet I love raw cacao, on my grapefruit at breakfast for example, for its delicious and often nutty flavor depending on the cacao, as well as its lively and invigorating properties and nutrients. 

Cacao is a superfood, rich in magnesium, iron, antioxidants, fiber, potassium, more. It lowers heart disease and stroke risk, and lowers blood pressure, while boosting brain function, blood flow, and of course mood!

Drink Cacoco takes raw cacao to a new level – or back to its pre-industrial glory – by retaining its liveliness and blending in herbs the way some of the historical celebrities above did, while on a mission to provide sustainable and nutrient-dense drinking chocolate that honors and protects the rainforest.

Drink Cacoco founders Erick Koon, Liam Blackmon, and Tony Portugal experimented with superfoods like cacao, and have created an outrageously smooth blended drinking chocolate that you mix with water – shaken, not stirred as Erick reminded me (I tried it both ways and it really is better shaken!) – for an incredibly flavorful yet light beverage, all natural with no industrial chemicals or “nasties,” that leaves you feeling uplifted and alive.

The highly-regarded Ecuador cacao is organic and ethically sourced (no child labor in this supply chain of course!), and the cool origami-style packaging uses no glue and is compostable, all in alignment with the founders’ mission to “revive the world through chocolate.”
Sounds like my own mission of “Uplift Through Chocolate” and my #chocolatefreedomproject, doesn’t it! It’s said that “great minds think alike” – and drink chocolate alike? 🙂

Erick sent me the Midnight Mystic and the Fire Walker blends, both of which I adore, after I met him through the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle. To be more precise, I met him when we were both chocolate scouting around town after the festival! 

Meanwhile, the Drink Cacoco kickstarter raised over $73,000, and new blends are coming! Maybe we’ll get some into my Chocolate Uplift craft chocolate subscription boxes!

Cheers to my chocolate beverage pick of 2016, delicious Drink Cacoco!

Click for my 2016 chocolate bar and chocolate bonbon picks, and see my instagram for daily chocolate as we move forward into a delicious and courageous 2017, exploring our themes of taste, health, sustainability, justice for people and planet, and uplift!
Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

Valerie Beck
Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift and Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours

Chocolate services to the trade and the public: Brokering, Consulting, Speaking, Subscriptions, Tours

www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com

Love at First Taste: 3 Chocolate Loves of 2016, Part 2

By Valerie Beck, Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift and Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours, and “chocolate muse”

 â€œWhat’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare

Do you call filled chocolates “bonbons” (technically any filled chocolates), “truffles” (chocolates filled with ganache), or chocolates?

Or do you just call them delicious!

Selecting my favorite chocolate bar, chocolate bonbon, and chocolate beverage of the year is never easy, because I get to taste so many wonderful creations by so many talented and hard working people.

So here we go for bonbons –

My 2016 bonbons (or truffles, or chocolates) of the year are by…

Chocolatasm

I first encountered Chocolatasm on Instagram. The business is run by chef and chocolatier Paul John Kearins, an Englishman in Blue Ridge, Georgia, and it was chocolate love at first chocolate sight.

I was intrigued by Paul’s unique flavor combinations like the blueberry sesame confection (in my photo above), and also by the pristine and well-organized kitchen in which he takes enticing snapshots of his chocolate artistry.

I had to learn more, and reached out to Paul, who proved as kind, generous, and humorous as he is artistic, accomplished, and professional.

When I tasted Paul’s creations, it was even deeper love at first taste, due to unique and thoroughly successful flavor combinations, plus superlative chocolate!

Paul has started collaborating with marvelous Mackenzie Rivers of map chocolate of Oregon (see my photo above), in that he uses custom bean-to-bar chocolate by map as the couverture for his bonbons, instead of using an often very delicious yet more common or commercial type of chefs chocolate. 

This partnership gives his chocolates exciting new dimensions, because his brilliant flavor combinations get to dance with truly unique chocolate. 

Moreover, map chocolate is made with traceable cacao, free of child slave labor in the supply chain. And it contains no soy lecithin, so the taste is more immediate, the texture is richer without slickness, there are no solvents present like hexane or acetone, and the health benefits are uncompromised!

All of this is critically important to Paul of course, who selects his chocolate with great care, and matches it to his flavor combinations with delicious thoughtfulness.

As an example, Chocolatasm’s smoked pear truffle in Peru 45% milk chocolate (photo above) plunges you into layers of rich flavor. The milk chocolate adds a wonderful tang, while graciously sharing the stage with smoked pear. A sommelier client and I selected this bonbon for a Port pairing because the deep flavors of the truffle absolutely sang with a vintage port.

I asked Paul how he thinks up flavor ideas, and he described how he has always had access to a rich cache of olfactory memory. He can remember smells and flavors from the past, and can perceive in his mind how to combine them in new ways. 

Paul was born in London, worked as a chef and chocolatier there and in Amsterdam, and now lives and creates in the US, 90 miles north of Atlanta in a town located within the gorgeous wooded mountain landscape of the Chattahoochee Forest. 

Paul’s history and memories provide such a benefit for us, the chocolate lovers, who get to enjoy Chocolatasm delights such as strawberry balsamic truffles with black pepper, or cranberry cabernet chocolates.

I look forward to writing another photo-filled blog post about Chocolatasm after I visit Paul’s beautifully situated kitchen this spring!

But first, there’s more…

As enthusiastic as I am about Chocolatasm’s bonbons, the chocolate bars are also exciting and innovative!

For example: dark chocolate from Honduran cacao with Ethiopian coffee and lemon, or a white chocolate with muscovado sugar and lime that turns people who think they don’t like white chocolate into people who realize they’d simply never tried the right or real white chocolate!

If you’re in Chicago, you can pick up Chocolatasm bars at Foodease or Beatrix Streeterville – tell them Valerie the Chocolate Lady sent you! : )

Could the bars be part of a forthcoming Chocolate Uplift craft chocolate subscription box

Stay tuned!

In the meantime, here’s to Chocolatasm, my 2016 bonbon love, where craft couverture meets endless imagination, international perspectives, and top chef professionalism, for new journeys into deep deliciousness.

Whether you call chocolates “bonbons,” “truffles,” or “chocolates,” Chocolatasm adds a new word of love to the chocolate lexicon!

Want more chocolate?

Click for my chocolate bar love of 2016,

Click for my chocolate beverage love of 2016 – coming soon, and

Click for my 2015 picks!

Onward and upward into a 2017 filled with love and light, taste and delight!

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

– Let it go to your head: here I am in my Chocolatasm cap! –

Valerie Beck 

Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift and Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours 

Chocolate services to the trade and the public: Brokering, Consulting, Speaking, Subscriptions, Tours

www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com 

chocolateuplift@gmail.com 

@chocolateuplift 

Uplift Through Chocolate!

Love at First Taste: 3 Chocolate Loves of 2016, Part 1

by Valerie Beck, Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift and Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours, and “chocolate muse”

Do you believe in love at first sight?
How about love at first taste?

I’ve experienced both – including in chocolate!

I love it when I read a chocolate bar label that lists a cacao origin, and clean ingredients such as just cacao and sugar.

The cacao origin – such as Ecuador, Guatemala, Belize, Madagascar, etc. – tells me where the cocoa beans came from that made the chocolate, just as a wine labels tells you what vineyard in California or Chile or France grew the grapes.
If the bar doesn’t list a cacao origin, as most commercial big brand chocolate bars do not, where is this mystery cacao from? No mystery: most likely the commercial cacao came from Ivory Coast, where around 70% of the world’s cacao comes from, and where 2.1 million children work in hazardous conditions on cocoa farms instead of going to school. Hence, my #chocolatefreedomproject.

By contrast, when chocolate makers purchase cacao for quality instead of quantity, and pay sometimes 5 times the price of bulk cacao, they are proud to list the cacao origin on their label, and to encourage us to get to know that origin and their particular artistry using those particular cocoa beans.

I love reading a clean label, with no soy lecithin, vanillin, unpronounceables, abbreviations, or dissimulations, such as added “flavors” which whether natural or artificial could be derived from anything and could be processed with unlisted solvents.

And love at first taste!

Isn’t it magical when something tastes so amazing that it seems to stir memories of past and future, while focusing your attention deeply into the present moment, so that all else falls away?

If you want to see hundreds of chocolate items I loved in 2016 – from so much artistry and scrumptiousness I got to sample at trade shows, festivals, competitions, shops, cafes, and my office – please see my Chocolate Uplift instagram of daily chocolate! Applause and gratitude to all of the amazing chocolate makers, entrepreneurs, and professionals who contribute such amazing artistry and are part of the chocolate revolution!

I selected 3 favorites from so many fabulous favorites of 2016, because they tell the story of love at first sight and first taste so precisely; one chocolate bar, one chocolate bonbon, one chocolate beverage. Here’s the first:

1. Chocolate Bar Love: Violet Sky Chocolate

Violet Sky Chocolate impresses me with bold flavors, even when there are no flavors added and the cacao sings solo. When I tasted my first piece of a Violet Sky chocolate bar, I was standing up and had to sit down to experience the power of the chocolate without falling over, and to reflect upon the taste as it opened and developed!

Indeed, Violet Sky Founder and chocolate maker Hans Westerink told me he chose the name Violet Sky because when you eat his chocolate, he wants you to slow down and notice the beauty that surrounds us.
Hans is soft-spoken, empathic, and philosophic, and clearly has fun thinking about and experimenting with unique culinary ideas and tactics. The cacao he selects sings a beautiful song, which Hans crafts, amplifies, and directs in the Violet Sky manufactory in sweet South Bend, Indiana, around 2 hours from Chicago. He lets his chocolate express art and nature, and creativity and purity, sometimes turned to high volume!

For example, his rye barrel aged Haiti 77% chocolate bar with blueberry salt has deep complexity under an initial bold burst. He ages the cacao in a rye barrel from a local distillery, roasts the cacao in a coffee roaster, and the magic of his bean-to-bar chocolate continues underway.

I’ve seen people at one of my tastings fight over who got to take home the rest of one of his maple vanilla bars. Don’t like maple? Don’t worry: the bar tastes like the best pancake brunch in chocolate bar form! And real maple, as we have here, tastes really amazing.

When I shared Violet Sky’s brandy barrel aged Belize red wine salt chocolate bar with a non chocolate lover, she instantly converted into a chocolate lover! And ate the rest of the bar! That’s the power of real chocolate.

I selected Violet Sky for the very first run of my Chocolate Uplift craft chocolate subscription boxes, in November 2016, to enthusiastic feedback. Each box includes 4 chocolate bars, curated by me, and the bars are always sustainable and child-slavery-free, soy-free, small-batch, and scrumptious. Click for my unboxing video featuring a Violet Sky bar!

There was so much deliciousness from so many makers in 2016! Truly, more than ever! How to choose a winner among winners? Delicious and sustainable origins, clean ingredients, and uniquely and distinctively bold and vibrant interpretations make Violet Sky Chocolate my Chocolate Bar Love of 2016!

I’ll share details of my visit to Hans’s magic chocolate manufactory later (sneak peek photo above!) [update: click to see the excursion to Violet Sky on which I took some top Kendall College students!], and I’ll also share the other 2 chocolate loves of 2016 I’m excited to describe for you:

2. Chocolate Bonbon Love – click for my 2016 winner.

3. Chocolate Beverage Love – my 2016 winner is announced here.

Want more now? Check out my selected chocolate loves of 2015!

Meanwhile, I wish you a happy and delicious new year as we start a 2017 filled with as much beauty, truth, and love as we give, create, and perceive!

Thank you for your readership and business, and keep eating real chocolate!

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

– with Hans of Violet Sky –

Valerie Beck

Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift and Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours

Chocolate Services: Brokering, Consulting, Speaking, Subscriptions, Tours

www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com

@chocolateuplift

Uplift Through Chocolate!