Wisconsin event: The Full Chocolate

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Update: here are the slides from my talk on The Full Chocolate: Where Chocolate Comes From and What’s in Your Chocolate, at an exciting and delicious event held August 2, 2019, at amazing Yahara Chocolate in sweet historic Stoughton, Wisconsin! As always, please see the comments section of each slide for the juicy info and video links!

In addition, below are some photos from the event; more are on my Instagram under hashtag #WisconsinAugust2019. Thank you and hope to see you next time!

*****

Hello!

Are you a chocolate lover in the Madison, Wisconsin, area? I’m excited to give a talk on The Full Chocolate — how chocolate goes from bean to bar — with craft chocolate tasting at Yahara Chocolate in Stoughton, WI, Friday 8/2/19 at 7pm, and to host informal tastings there Saturday 8/3/19 from 10am to 3pm!

We’re going to have around 10 different chocolate bars to sample, plus cacao beans, nibs, and pulp! Details are here for Friday, and here for Saturday. Hope to see you there!

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Here is some of the scrumptiousness I’m bringing to Yahara Chocolate for dear Brook, the store owner, who is assembling an amazing collection of craft chocolate, wouldn’t you agree!
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I’m also bringing the outrageously delicious new Mint Brownie bar by Violet Sky Chocolate; Brook selected it at his daughter’s insistence!

Fun side note: my first-year dorm at Harvard College and the town where Yahara Chocolate is located are both called Stoughton! Here are some photos from my return to Stoughton (the dorm) to serve as a Convocation Marshal and welcome the new first-year students last fall (I brought chocolate to that too, for the new students in my old dorm, and for my alumni friends). It’s all connected!

Meanwhile, see you in Stoughton, Wisconsin, if you’re around!

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

Valerie Beck

Founder, Chocolate Uplift

craft chocolate promotion

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/valeriebeck/

Chocolate and Gender

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What a blast to give a talk and craft chocolate tasting for the amazing ladies of my Alumnae-i Network of Harvard Women group, at heavenly Hannah’s Bretzel in Chicago!

The head of the Chicago chapter asked if I could speak on chocolate and gender, and in fact this is a topic with interesting historical aspects. For example, would you be surprised to know that Aztec emperor Montezuma drank chocolate before visiting his wives, or that today much of the work on specialty cacao farms that grow some of the best cacao in the world is done by women?

Click here if you’re curious to see slides I shared during our delicious afternoon (my notes or video links to various relevant YouTube videos are in the comments to each slide)!

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We sampled these wonderful craft chocolate bars by Askinosie Chocolate, Dandelion Chocolate, Gotham Chocolates, Taza Chocolate, and Violet Sky Chocolate, which are all slavery-free, sustainable, soy-free and lecithin-free, small-batch, and scrumptious! We also sampled cacao from Cacao Marquez, and had coffee from Hannah’s Bretzel, our generous venue host where all of these chocolate bars are available (so is the delicious fresh pretzel)!
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With ANHW Chicago Chapter President Litcy Kurisinkal (left)

Need a “sweet speaker” for your group? Click for my speaking engagement info or contact me at chocolateuplift@gmail.com!

Here are my slides again from this presentation, and thank you to all who made the event possible and all who attended!

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

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Valerie Beck

Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift

https://www.linkedin.com/in/valeriebeck/

Belú Cacao: [video] the sweet side of El Salvador

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Bite-sized sunshine: Belú Cacao minis!

When you hear “El Salvador,” what do you think? If you take a look at this wonderful new 1-minute-23-second video from Belú Cacao of El Salvador, on which I was thrilled to do a bit of remote behind-the-scenes consulting, you might think “gorgeous, clean, nature, cacao, chocolate, women in business!”

Belú Cacao is a woman-owned craft chocolate company, and I am thrilled to work with amazing founder Emily de Urías in getting her bars ready for and now successful in the US market! Her chocolate of course meets my 5 Ss of first-class craft chocolate, in that it is

Should we revive the Chocolate Travel Club and visit El Salvador?

 

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I’ve arranged the 3 sizes: “skinny,” full, and mini!
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The chocolate is made from cacao and sugar — all you need! The ingredients are grown in El Salvador, and the chocolate is made in El Salvador; the in-country trend in craft chocolate is very exciting. Click for a video about this special brand made in a beautiful place.

By the way, the business is called Belú because that is founder Emily’s young daughter’s nickname. Emily’s husband Carlos is super supportive of the business, and they are a fabulous family, using their education and professionalism to boost their community and nation and our world. (In case you’re wondering, Emily speaks perfect English, as my Spanish is known to be awful, especially as it gets tangled up with my French, German, and bad Italian!)

Find Belú products at US retailers including:

Avondale Coffee Club, Chicago

Foodease Market, Chicago

Rare Bird Preserves, Oak Park

Spilt Milk Market, Chicago

Totto’s Market, Chicago

Yahara Chocolate, Stoughton, WI

You can often find the brand’s cacao nibs on my grapefruit; I add them to my breakfast for their nutty flavor and healthy deliciousness!

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Enjoy the video!

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

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Here I am with Belú Cacao founder Emily de Urías and her husband Carlos, in Chicago

Valerie Beck

Chocolate Uplift

Craft Chocolate Talks, Tastings, Distribution, Consulting

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

 

 

Chocolate is love: Valentine gift sets

Hello!

Chocolate is love: I’ve assembled a small number of retail Valentine’s Day craft chocolate gift sets, and I’d love to send one to you or your gift recipient if you wish! The chocolate in these sets is, as always,

  • sustainable
  • slaveryfree
  • soy-free and lecithin-free
  • smallbatch and
  • scrumptious!

The sets are $50 each at www.paypal.me/chocolateuplift.

Which bar would you taste first:

♡Hot Pink by Chocolatasm,

♡Love and Happiness by Xocolatl Chocolate,

♡Hacienda Azul by Dandelion Chocolate, or

♡Vanilla Raspberry by Dick Taylor Chocolate?

Happy Valentine’s season!

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

Valerie Beck

Founder and CEO Chocolate Uplift

Craft Chocolate Wholesale and Retail Distribution, Consulting, Talks, Tastings

www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com

Culinary Historians podcast – yours truly talks chocolate!

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Here’s some of the delicious craft chocolate and specialty cacao we tasted at my talk for Culinary Historians – click for the podcast!

Hello!

Need a lift? The awesome group Culinary Historians of Chicago just uploaded the podcast of the upbeat chocolate- and giggle-filled talk I gave for them in September 2017, and here it is!

It’s called “From Cacao to Craft Chocolate: Stories from the Past, Sustainability for the Future,” and I hope you enjoy it! [Note: Podcast ends abruptly during question period due to technical issues.]

Need a talk and tasting for your group? Here are some details!

Your friend and “sweet speaker” in chocolate,

Valerie

www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com

after the talk
After the Culinary Historians talk, with my Kendall College student helpers!

Chocolate Uplift Subscription Box: Journey Through Chocolate

By “chocolate muse” Valerie Beck

Hello!

Do you remember the book of the month club? 

Or the Columbia Records tape of the month club? (A junior high school favorite!)

Are you into the contemporary subscription services, for makeup, or dog toys, or other items?

It’s fun to receive something new that you love, and to take a journey to a new adventure through this new discovery, isn’t it!


I’ve wanted to start a chocolate of the month club for quite some time, and even did for a short time back in 2007 while the 1.0 version of the original chocolate tours I founded in 2005 was running.

The timing has finally proved right, and I recently launched the Chocolate Uplift craft chocolate subscription box, which gives you 4 top-notch chocolate bars per month, always sustainable and child-slavery-free, soy-free, small-batch, and scrumptious! I’ve met and connected with so many innovative chocolate makers over the years, as the chocolate revolution moves forward, and it’s a blast to connect you to their delicious artistry through the box!

In addition to selecting these special and sometimes hard-to-find bars for you, and choosing the packaging and monthly theme, I donate a meal to the children of CREER Africa for every box sold, as the kids are reintegrated into health and life after being trafficked onto the child labor cacao farms in Ivory Coast that supply big chocolate brands. This one-to-one give came about when I asked the CREER founder what she needed for the kids, such as books, toys, or shoes. She said that the rescue center needs food, rice for the kids. So that’s what we give.

The boxes also contain a friendship bracelet from Peru, to honor the heritage of cacao, and to say an extra thanks from me to you.

You can receive boxes quarterly, monthly, or one-and-done, for yourself or a gift, for a journey through chocolate.

Click for my latest unboxing video to see what was inside the March 2017 box and hear me share some backstories about the chocolate, cacao, or chocolate makers. Thank you, and keep eating real chocolate!

Onward and upward!

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

Valerie Beck

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

www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com/subscription

@chocolateuplift

Uplift Through Chocolate!

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”

 “What’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!

Happy Halloween

Have a happy and delicious transparent-trade Halloween!

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At The Peninsula Chicago

Click for Green America’s chocolate child labor scorecard, to see some transparent trade treats:

http://www.greenamerica.org/programs/fairtrade/whatyoucando/Scorecard.cfm

And subscribe to my new chocolate subscription box for top transparent-trade craft chocolate bars:

http://www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com/subscription

Thanks and keep eating real chocolate!

Your friend in chocolate,
Valerie

#chocolatefreedomproject

Who Labors for Chocolate?

Hello there, and happy Labor Day in the USA!

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My picnic this Labor Day weekend included exquisite bean-to-bar chocolate by Dick Taylor, made from direct trade cacao from Belize!

A note on my Chocolate Freedom Project this Labor Day, which brings awareness of and alternatives to child labor on Ivory Coast cacao farms where Big Chocolate buys cocoa beans. Solutions that we can implement as customers include choosing fair trade and direct trade chocolate, which is better for foodie, farmer, family, and field.

Solutions that I recommend to my country clients and cacao farmer clients as a chocolate consultant include making chocolate in-country from sustainably grown cacao, instead of exporting all the cacao.

As this article entitled

Africa produces 75% of cocoa but gets 2% of $100b chocolate market revenue

reminds us: “The formula for the wealth of nations is clear: rich nations add value to exports, poor nations export raw materials.”

The revolution has begun! : )

Have a happy, thoughtful, and delicious Labor Day!

Cocoa
Photo: Ghana Business News article referenced above

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

summer 2016

Valerie Beck

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

www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com

www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com/chocolate-tours

social media: @chocolateuplift