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.
Your friend in chocolate,
Founder, Chocolate Uplift — Chocolate Activism, Brokering, Consulting, Distribution
Summer and fall seem to be dancing together today in Chicago, as warm sunshine mingles with crisp air. As we enter a new season filled with new abundance, two dear craft chocolate maker clients are new at Totto’s Market (which is also new), and, they are in the news!
Gotham Chocolates is a sophisticated bean-to-bar brand by acclaimed chef Ron Paprocki of Michelin-starred Gotham Bar and Grill in New York City. Chef Ron converted a corner of his pastry kitchen into a chocolate manufactory to make pure, clean, flavorful craft chocolate for bars, bonbons, and desserts. Click here to read about Chef Ron’s background and vision; what a coincidence that he and I each lived in Germany for some years. When I first met Ron and tasted his chocolates in NYC a few years ago, I was thrilled with the exquisite precision and beauty of his work, and I’m thrilled with the new Artisan line that he has launched since, using a variety of specialty cacaos!
ÓBOLO Chocolate (the name means gift or small contribution in Spanish) is an inventive bean-to-bar brand by Midwesterner Mark Gerrits who moved to Chile for adventure after college and is still there. He founded his chocolate company in 2013, and ÓBOLO has gained B-Corporation status reflecting standards for social and environmental justice. I tasted the chocolate for the first time last year, and loved its lively use of Peru cacao. This year Mark updated his packaging, bar thickness and mould, and added a new Flavors of Chile line of bars, sharing a confident and unique new presentation in the world of craft chocolate. Click here for a story on the brand’s use of biodynamic Chilean inclusions such as herbs that grow in the Atacama desert or berries from Patagonia.
Congratulations to these two elegant and artistic craft chocolate brands as autumn begins in the Northern Hemisphere including in New York for Gotham and here in Chicago, and as spring begins in the Southern Hemisphere including in Santiago for ÓBOLO!
Wishing you a delicious season, whichever one is blowing in where you are,
Happy Valentine’s Day season! To celebrate, I’m holding seated chocolate tastings, and I hope you’ll join me!
Details for Chicago chocolate tastings:
What: This Valentine’s Day season, tour the world of chocolate without leaving your seat, during this 90-minute chocolate tasting led by chocolate expert and original chocolate tours founder Valerie Beck. Why is chocolate associated with love? Why does it lift our mood? We’ll focus on the answers, and on sustainable bean-to-bar chocolate. And we’ll taste a lot of top craft chocolate brands at this fun, fascinating, and delicious seated chocolate tasting! Great for couples, singles, or girls’ day out!
When: Friday and Saturday, February 1 and 2, 2019, 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm.
Cost: $45 per person, or $35 per student or senior. Includes chocolate samples. You can purchase tickets for the chocolate tastings directly through Valerie’s PayPal link.
Details for Los Angeles chocolate tasting, including Letterpress Chocolate micro-factory tour:
What: This Valentine’s Day, explore the world of chocolate at LA’s local small-batch artisan chocolate manufactory, Letterpress Chocolate, during this 90-minute chocolate tasting event led by chocolate expert and original chocolate tours founder Valerie Beck. Why is chocolate associated with love? Why does it lift our mood? We’ll focus on the answers, and on sustainable bean-to-bar chocolate made onsite. And we’ll taste a lot of luscious Letterpress Chocolate at this fun, fascinating, and delicious chocolate tasting and factory tour! Great for couples, singles, or girls’ night out!
High school and college students can learn about business and entrepreneurship from the inside, and can build their professional networks, by touring successful large, small, and start-up businesses and meeting the owners or managers, through my immersive educational excursion program.
This combines my love of educating and of entrepreneurship. And of course there will be chocolate!
First new session: June 25 – 29, 2018, in Chicago.
“5 days, 5 field trips to businesses.
Meet successful entrepreneurs and managers, tour their companies, and learn their secrets, habits, and techniques.
Program created and led by entrepreneur, award winning instructor, and former Harvard lawyer Valerie Beck, who will share her business success roadmap involving networking, mentoring, and volunteering.
$900 per student, includes materials and lunches. Limited to 10 students, in high school or college. 10 am – 4 pm each day, except for 1 longer day with a longer field trip.
Apply by email to firstname.lastname@example.org with name, school, age, email address, why you want to participate in the program, and why you are interested in business.
Payment due upon acceptance, to hold your spot. Email with any questions.
A fun and educational week awaits our A-List Student Excursion participants!”
Click for the full webpage, which includes reviews from students.
by Valerie Beck, Chocolate Expert and Chocolate Broker
As soon as I saw the chocolates by Chocolatasm on Instagram, I knew they were something special. When I tasted them, I was impressed with their exquisite subtlety and delicate yet impactful flavor combinations. And when I spoke with the chocolatier behind the brand, I knew he was a true professional.
Chef/chocolatier Paul Kearins was born in London, worked as a pastry chef and chocolatier in Amsterdam, and now lives and creates in Blue Ridge, Georgia.
When I asked him how he develops his unique flavor combinations such as white chocolate with lime and muscovado sugar, or milk chocolate with honey and blueberries, or dark chocolate with lemon and Ethopian coffee, he told me that ever since childhood he’s had the ability to remember smells and to combine them in his mind with other smells.
His olfactory creativity plus his skills as a professional chef and chocolatier come together magnificently in his brand Chocolatasm.
To taste Chef Paul’s delicious creations is to experience a gentle and pure poetry of chocolate and other flavors. His chocolate doesn’t overwhelm, it delights. Chocolatasm is available at beloved upscale lunch spot and market Foodease inside Chicago’s Water Tower Place (a popular Chicago Chocolate Tours spot back when I operated the original Chocolate Tours as founder/CEO), and I’m thrilled to have brokered the relationship between such a special brand of artisan chocolate, and such a fabulous seller of artisan foods.
For a peek behind the scenes, enjoy this Chocolatasm video.
Keep eating chocolate!
Come see me on Instagram too! Your friend in chocolate,
When people ask me where to find bean-to-bar chocolate, or slavery-free / ethical chocolate, there’s a new store I now add to the list: Cocoa + Co. in Chicago.
People also often ask me for a good chocolate cafe or coffee shop in Chicago, and I add Cocoa + Co. to that list too.
And, when people ask me how to tell if a chocolate bar comes from ethical sources, I give them the answer – below.
But first, imagine a chocolate shop where you can support the community of fair trade and direct trade cacao growers, support the community of artisan chocolate makers and chefs, and enjoy your own community of friends while enjoying some of the finest chocolate brands in the world. Such are the glories at Cocoa + Co.!
Store owner Kim Hack carries some of my favorite bean-to-bar chocolate brands, such as Dick Taylor and Original Beans. I’ve also found new favorites through her, such as Marou and Omnom, which I’d followed on Instagram and finally tasted and fell in love with after buying them at Kim’s shop!
Kim also brings in fresh local pastry and bonbons, has space for private chocolate tasting parties, serves luscious drinking chocolate, and has a well-curated chocolate grocery and cookbook selection.
These are wonderful components of the community of chocolate, wouldn’t you agree!
Back to our question of how to tell if the chocolate bar in your hand comes from ethical sources: read the label for what it says, and for what it doesn’t say.
That is: look first for the origin. If you see a country or an estate of origin listed, chances are already high you’re holding a bar of ethical chocolate. Just as a bottle of wine or bag of coffee tells you what country or estate the product comes from, an ethical chocolate bar will tell you that too. The label might say Peru, or Madagascar, or the Camino Verde Estate in Ecuador which I visited last year, or another location, so that you’ll know the source of the cacao that went into making the chocolate.
You can also look for a fair trade symbol, but there are multiple certifications and an ethical cacao farm may or may not have them.
Now look for what the label doesn’t say: if no origin is listed, you can be relatively sure the cocoa beans came from West Africa, which produces over 60% of the world’s chocolate, and which does so with a scarred supply chain often involving diseased cacao trees, poor flavor bulk cacao, and even child slave labor. This is the supply chain of the big chocolate manufacturers who sell in grocery stores and advertise on TV. And this is why I’m organizing a Chocolate Freedom Walk, to raise awareness of where our chocolate comes from, and to promote ethical chocolate with fun tastings and giveaways at my speaking engagements and along the route.
Ethical cacao is not only ethical, it tastes infinitely better, gives you various flavors such as earthy or fruity based on the soil (terroir) and the art of the chocolate maker, needs no artificial ingredients, and gives you the health benefits that you’ve heard about. And it includes you in the sweet chocolate community of growers, makers, and enjoyers, which you can also join at Cocoa + Co.
The first time I had French pastries in France was as a 19-year-old Harvard College senior studying abroad in Paris.
That trip put me on a mission to spread fine chocolate and pastry, led to my founding of the original Chocolate Tours in Chicago and beyond, and – after closing the chocolate tours earlier this year – still continues to inspire me as I speak and consult about chocolate.
Chef Peter Rios has opened a little bit of Paris in Chicago, with his new Alliance Patisserie. Pastry followers worldwide may know Chef Peter as the owner of Alliance Bakery, also in Chicago, known for innovative specialty cakes and more, or may know him through one of his many incarnations as pastry chef superstar.
Chef Peter told me it has always been his dream to open a shop focusing on French pastry, ever since he graduated from Kendall College and later studied with pastry giants such as the great Pierre Herme in Paris.
His dream came true, and Alliance Patisserie now helps the dreams of others come true, whether by sharing some of the best macarons or classic French pastries outside of Paris, or by serving as the romantic site of a marriage proposal, which I was thrilled and honored to facilitate for a lovely couple after a chocolate tasting I led for them in the shop!
Picture chocolate, pastry, fashion, jewelry, and more, under one roof.
Picture that roof over my favorite building in Chicago, the Chicago Cultural Center (which was the main branch of the Chicago Public Library when I was a little girl).
That was the scene for the April edition of Dose Market, a dynamic marketplace that showcases chefs, designers, and makers of all stripes. The market was co-sponsored in April 2015 by the Lake FX conference for artists and entrepreneurs, which added an extra touch of excitement.
Add the fact that among the makers showcased were longtime chocolate friends, and soon-to-be-made chocolate friends, and of course I attended. I attended, I chocolate scouted, and I enjoyed.
What exactly is chocolate scouting? That’s my term for exploring the world and finding delicious chocolate and pastry. It’s something I’ve always done: on any trip to a new city, even as a child, I always wanted to find the best chocolate. That hasn’t changed, and I chocolate scout where I live and where I travel, for business and for pleasure.
Dose Market at the Chicago Cultural Center featured some exquisite and creative chocolate and pastry offerings from old friends…
by Valerie Beck, chocolate expert and Kendall College Adjunct Professor
In addition to being an entrepreneur, founding the original chocolate tours years ago, and today doing speaking engagements about chocolate, and consulting in the chocolate space, I love teaching at Kendall College because I can contribute to the amazing and energizing students, and because I can create applied learning experiences – not just lectures but activities and excursions for real-world learning.
I had the opportunity over spring break this year to create a series of 8 excursions for a cohort of French business majors studying abroad in Chicago from their school in Paris, the ESCE. Our theme was American Business Explorations, our classroom was the city of Chicago and beyond, and our focus was on networking, volunteering, and mentoring as crucial to success in American business success.
My friends and contacts opened their doors to welcome us and speak to us. We toured companies such as Google, had a private tour of a gallery with an international light artist, participated in a speed-mentoring event held by Business Journals, and heard from speakers ranging from entrepreneurs to non-profit founders to executives to yours truly (chocolate supply chain and chocolate tasting!).
The experiences were meaningful to the students, who wrote blog posts at www.parischicagosafari.blogspot.com. The experiences were also meaningful to me in ways I hadn’t expected: I connected more deeply with some of my friends and contacts, thought more intently about the themes I built the course around, and got to see Chicago and American business through the eyes of my bright and perceptive students. See our posts online, including my tie-it-all-together post at the top showing the theme of each excursion, where we went, and links to our hosts.
As the saying goes: “school is never out for the pro.”