Caribbean Cacao

Hello!

**Update: three wonderful craft chocolate bars made with Caribbean cacao, by 9th & Larkin Chocolate, Crow & Moss Chocolate, and Sirene Chocolate, are in the April 2020 issue of Luckbox Magazine in a clever piece on rum, chocolate, and cigar combinations, along with chocolate tasting notes by yours truly; click for the digital edition and see pp. 36 – 38! Thank you LuckboxMag and TastyTrade! **

chocolate from caribbean cacao
Crow & Moss Chocolate, Sirene Chocolate, Bixby Chocolate, 9th & Larkin Chocolate

What do these chocolate bars have in common?

Yes, they all meet my 5 Ss of first-class craft chocolate in that they are:

  • slavery-free
  • soy-free and additive-free
  • sustainable
  • small-batch and
  • scrumptious!

In addition, they are all made from cacao grown in the Caribbean!

When you think of food and drink of the Caribbean, maybe you think of excellent rum, cane sugar, jerk chicken. Cacao and chocolate also have important and delicious roots in Caribbean soil.

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Cacao from Guatemala…
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…in a small-batch grinder for 72 hours, to become chocolate.

The Caribbean islands became a major part of the cacao industry in the 1500s, after European colonizers brought cacao from native lands in South America to the islands for cultivation and export to Europe. Spain controlled most of the trans-Atlantic cacao trade from South America, so by growing cacao in the Caribbean, the English — and Dutch pirates — were able to compete. Slave labor was often used, and when slavery was abolished in Puerto Rico in 1873, profits went down, and commercial cacao-growing in the Caribbean became less important to Europe, especially as West African farms were being exploited and people there were finding themselves slave laborers.

Today, 2.1 million children work on cacao farms in Cote d’Ivoire, most in slavery or hazardous conditions, generally without schooling and often away from their family homes, so that we can have cheap chocolate in the west. The big brands are complicit, as articles and more articles reveal.

Good news: the rise of artisanal bean-to-bar chocolate made from ethical, traceable, single-origin cacao, provides a new opportunity for growing cacao in the Caribbean, in a way that supports people and planet.

crow and moss zorzal

For example, Reserva Zorzal in the Dominican Republic is a sustainable cacao farm plus bird sanctuary, where plants and animals live in a mutually beneficial ecosystem. The cacao is grown for quality, not quantity, and you can taste this in a chocolate bar like the one made by Crow & Moss Chocolate of Northern Michigan. The chocolate bar contains just 2 ingredients: cacao and sugar — all you need to make chocolate! My tasting notes:

Deep notes of cherry, caramel, and cinnamon, opening into earthy fudginess, and coming up to conclude on a lightly grape-meets-fennel finish. Long finish. Some complexity, yet relatively straightforward, with clarity, without muddiness. True to the bean. No bitterness. Ultimately interesting, balanced, accessible.

Those flavors are all from the cacao, and from how Mike Davies, founder of Crow & Moss and a professional baker and hobby farmer, roasts and grinds the cacao into chocolate in his 2,000 square foot manufactory.

crow and moss ingredients

crow and moss back

crow and moss pieces

Tasting the Caribbean through chocolate is exciting, and let me know if you’d like to travel with me to the source, as I am talking with Zorzal founder Chuck Kerchner, a PhD in forestry, about special upscale agri-tours to his cacao estate in the Dominican Republic.

caribbean cacao to chocolate
My brief tasting notes on these bars: *Crow & Moss Chocolate, Zorzal Dominican Republic 70% — fruity, rich, complex, fudgey. *Sirene Chocolate, Lachua Guatemala 73% — fruit notes open to herbal, gentle spice, and caramel notes; a very sophisticated bar. *Bixby Chocolate, Guatemala 70% — grape and raisin notes, deep, solid feel. *9th & Larkin, Dominican Republic Oko-Caribe 72% — bright notes, subtle, precision-focused.

In the meantime, you can find selections of the four brands featured here at stores like these:

9th & Larkin — The Grail Cafe, Totto’s Market

Bixby Chocolate — Beacon Hill Chocolates, Honeycreeper Chocolate, Rare Bird Preserves, Spilt Milk Pastry, Yahara Chocolate

Crow & Moss Chocolate — The Grail Cafe, Totto’s Market

Sirene Chocolate — Brew Brew Coffee and Tea, Cocoa + Co., Honeycreeper Chocolate, Totto’s Market, Yahara Chocolate

Keep eating craft chocolate — onward and upward!

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

valerie and kate
Here I am (left) with Chef Kate McAleer of Bixby Chocolate, at last year’s Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago. My dress just happens to match the brand. Kate matches on purpose.

Valerie Beck

Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift

Craft Chocolate Brokering, Consulting, Distribution

http://www.chocolateuplift.com

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

Insta: @chocolateuplift

 

Repost: Healthy Dark Chocolate, How to Choose and Buy the Best

Hello!

good king peace
Before bean to bar: chocolate comes from cacao, which is full of health benefits and which makes chocolate healthy — if done right. Good King makes spiced snacking cacao, in a variety of flavors from sweet to savory to spicy, to eat like any other nuts or as trail mix, and it is healthy and delicious!

Is all dark chocolate created equal?

Does all dark chocolate provide health benefits?

Find the answers to these questions and more in the excellent new blog post “Healthy Dark Chocolate” by dear Kim Wilson of Good King, a woman-powered social enterprise that makes delicious trail mix-style snacking cacao!

For example, see myth #3 in the article to find out why a higher cacao percentage doesn’t automatically mean more antioxidants, which popular or so-called premium brands are made in a way that decreases antioxidants by nearly 80%, and which brands will give you the health benefits you’re looking for.

Thank you, Kim, for busting myths and sharing facts, because knowledge is power!

The blog article is here, and you can buy delicious Good King snacking cacao online at the link here, or at Totto’s Market in Chicago.

Enjoy!

good king at tottos
Good Food Award-winning Good King snacking cacao, at glorious Totto’s Market, in sweet home Chicago!

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

valerie and kim
With amazing Good King founder Kim Wilson (right) in sweet Seattle, where she is based, during the Northwest Chocolate Festival. And yes: we match!

 

Valerie Beck

Founder, Chocolate Uplift — Chocolate Activism, Brokering, Consulting, Distribution

www.chocolateuplift.com

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

Instagram @chocolateuplift

good kinggood king good food award

Article: 5 Ethically-Sourced Chocolates to Buy This Chocolate Season, by Simran Sethi for Epicurious

Happy Valentine’s Day season!

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Ethical chocolate: good for people and planet!

Click for a wonderful and timely article by dear Simran Sethi (whom I first met on a cacao farm in Ecuador!) for Epicurious titled “5 Ethically-Sourced Chocolates to Buy This Chocolate Season.”

Her article gives information about the terrible human rights and planetary problems in the chocolate industry, such as child labor and deforestation — Ivory Coast has lost 90% of its forests due to bulk cacao cultivation using environmentally harmful methods — which we see in the commoditized cacao supply chains used by big chocolate brands that are found in grocery stores and other large outlets.

Happily, the article doesn’t stop at the problem as some other stories on these grave topics do; Simran shares some exciting solutions or alternatives in the form of slavery-free, sustainable chocolate options for Valentine’s Day and beyond, made from ethically-sourced specialty cacao that so many of us rave about (and that I love to put on my grapefruit : ) . 

kokoa kamili cacao nibs and xocolatl chocolate on grapefruit
I put Kokoa Kamili cacao nibs (this ethical Tanzania cacao supplier with a zero-tolerance child labor policy is featured in the new Epicurious article) and Xocolatl Madagascar 2-ingredient chocolate onto organic grapefruit, for a glorious superfood breakfast! These Kokoa Kamili cacao nibs, pure and sugar-free and packed with health benefits, were sourced and roasted by Dandelion Chocolate.

For example, the article highlights the delicious Dick Taylor drinking chocolate in my photo at the top of this post — made from just 2 ingredients: organic cacao and organic sugar, all you need! — plus other choices by chocolate makers I’m also honored to call clients or friends!

You know that all of the craft chocolate brands I represent as a broker, consultant, or distributor meet my 5 Ss:

  • slavery-free
  • sustainable
  • soy-free and lecithin-free
  • small-batch
  • scrumptious!

Enjoy Simran’s excellent article. Chocolate is love!

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

valerie at aster hall

Valerie Beck

http://www.chocolateuplift.com

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

Instagram @chocolateuplift

kokoakamilix3
Ethical chocolate bars come from ethical cacao: these delicious bars are by 9th & Larkin of San Francisco and Manoa Chocolate of Hawaii, using Kokoa Kamili cacao. 

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

 

 

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!

Child labor in cacao: scale of efforts to solve problem nowhere near scale of problem

The Cocoa Barometer 2018 report is out, and it reminds us that 2.1 million children work on cacao farms in West Africa, so that shelves in the US and Europe and elsewhere can stay stocked with cheap chocolate.

The report also points out that

“not a single company or government is anywhere near the sector-wide objective to eliminate child labour. It is high time for efforts to be increased. In that light, it is important to stress that child labour is a symptom of deeper problems; without tackling systemic poverty and a lack of local infrastructures, child labour will not be eradicated.”

Click through this article for the report, or download the report here.

Solutions, on my Instagram:

Social justice Sunday / sustainability Sunday! Reports show 2.1 million children work on cacao farms in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, so shelves in the US and Europe and elsewhere can stay stocked with cheap chocolate from big brands.
🌟
The Cacao Barometer 2018 report has been released, and reminds us that the cause of child labor is poverty. The authors emphasize that “not a single company or government is anywhere near reaching the sector-wide objective of the elimination of child labour, and not even near their commitments of a 70% reduction of child labour by 2020.” You can see the report on my blog at http://www.chocolateuplift.com.
🌟
Do you agree we can vote with our $, €, voices, and ethics? Companies will act when we demand it. We are empowered:
We can tell Hershey/Nestle/Mars/Mondelez/Ferrero(Nutella)/Callebaut and other big brands – and the retailers who carry them – that we want farmers to be paid a living wage instead of 50 cents per day, and that we want the brands to use #slaveryfree cacao and let kids go to school.
🌟
As I highlight in my talks, we can also buy craft chocolate and can read labels to make sure we see:
1. the cacao country of origin, just as a bottle of wine tells you where the grapes are from; if a brand has no transparency on who grew the cacao, ask what they’re hiding,
2. a small-batch brand that cares about human rights and sustainability in cacao, which also leads to better flavor through better agricultural practices and fair payments, and
3. a soy-free brand / clean ingredients, as chemical additives often go with low-quality cacao from non-sustainable sources in industrial processing.
🌟 Empathy ends poverty.
That’s my #chocolatefreedomproject; join me!
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

You can also check out CREER Africa, a nonprofit children’s rescue center in Ivory Coast, which helps kids who escaped from cacao slavery or other trafficking and which I support by donating meals to the kids at the center, as a way to make a difference.

Onward and upward!

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

Valerie Beck

Founder, Chocolate Uplift

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

www.instagram.com/chocolateuplift

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”

 “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!

Who Labors for Chocolate?

Hello there, and happy Labor Day in the USA!

picnic
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