[Update: event photos are at the bottom of this email! Slides are still in the middle; info in comments to slides!]
Preview of some of what we’ll sample at my tasting! Does this remind you of our #chocolateandcherryblossoms events back in the old chocolate tour days?
What’s In Your Chocolate: Explaining Labels, Exploding Myths, Exploring History, Experiencing Flavor: Learn how to decipher chocolate bar labels while we taste our way through chocolate history to the cutting edge of craft chocolate, in this upbeat talk and tasting presented by chocolate expert Valerie Beck.
Click for my slides, which are mainly a resource; see the notes section of the slides for information and links pertaining to what will be mainly a spoken presentation with plenty of chocolate and a few theatrics! : )
📅 Mark your calendar: Saturday, April 29, 2023 ⏰ Time: 10:30am – 5:30pm ET 📍 Location: La Maison Française, Embassy of France in the U.S., Washington, DC, 4101 Reservoir Rd NW 20007 🍫Hosted by: The Chocolate House — @dcchocolatefestival 🎟️ Get your tickets now at www.DCChocolateFestival.com (Charming emoji-filled listing adapted from Glenn of @chocotastery)
Onward and upward!
Your friend in chocolate — and cherry blossoms,
With a detail of my favorite sculpture, the monumental Calder (Untitled, 1976), at the National Gallery in Washington, DC
I hope you are well and eating great craft chocolate!
An excellent new documentary about child slave labor in cacao is out. It’s called The Chocolate War, and it features my friend Terry Collingsworth, the human rights lawyer fighting Nestle and Cargill in court on behalf of children who were trafficked and enslaved on cocoa farms that provide cocoa beans to those corporations.
I watched this well-made film last night, created by our filmmaker friend Miki Mistrati; as a formerly practicing lawyer, I love seeing law in action for fairness! Watch for yourself and see the appalling, heartbreaking, and solvable situation some of us have been talking about for years.
Big brands say what happens on cacao farms in Cote d’Ivoire is out of their control; we say it’s completely within their control: pay farmers a fair price and kids won’t be vulnerable to trafficking and enslavement and can go to school instead of the fields.
So, almost all of the brands in the grocery store and other mass outlets are tainted. That’s why the bars cost $5, $2, or $1: child slaves earned no money for harvesting the cacao in those chocolate bars.
Do you think grocery stores and other sellers like Walmart and Amazon should also be held accountable for selling products made with child slave labor? I do.
2. Cacao country of origin listed = things are looking up!
If you saw a bottle of wine with no origin listed, no picture of an estate in France, or no reference to a vineyard in California or the like, you might have some questions about that wine.
Yet chocolate brands get away with not telling us where their cacao was grown. Have you ever seen an origin indication on industrial chocolate? After all, cacao is not grown in Belgium, Switzerland, Hershey Pennsylvania, or a Snickers factory! What are the corporate brands hiding? Child kidnapping and slavery; see 1. above.
So, if you see a small craft chocolate brand with the cacao country of origin listed on the label —
such as Ecuador, Madagascar, Tanzania, or other countries —
or if you see the cacao collective listed —
such as our friends at Zorzal of the Dominican Republic, Pangoa of Peru, Semuliki Forest of Uganda, or other origins —
this origin information generally indicates that the chocolate maker bought through one of our direct trade transparent supply chains, so that you know where the cacao came from and can trace it back to the specific source to see that farmers earned proper money and kids were not exploited.
A statement of origin generally means the chocolate makers bought traceable cacao and did not buy cacao through the non-transparent bulk supply chain, where cacao from thousands of farms is mixed together and at least some of the cacao is certainly tainted with child labor as is standard in bulk cacao.
In other words: traceability is a good sign!
3. Clean ingredients list = another sign of quality and care!
If you are buying quality cacao, you wouldn’t want to diminish it with non-quality additives.
What do you need to make chocolate? As my students have heard me say so many times: cacao and sugar, all you need!
If you see a chocolate bar ingredients list with lecithin, natural or artificial flavors (and we know that natural flavors are really artificial flavors), or any other synthetics or lab-processed chemicals that harm people and planet, this is a sign that the cacao might also be from a non-clean source, especially if no cacao country of origin is listed.
If you see a chocolate bar ingredients list with just traceable cacao and organic cane sugar, plus any real ingredients, this is a good sign, as cacao country of origin + clean ingredients = a traceable clean bar!
Examples of chocolate bars made from traceable cacao and clean ingredients only:
Crackle & Crunch quinoa and almond milk chocolate bar from Xocolatl Small Batch Chocolate of Atlanta, made with Nicaragua cacao; I gifted this and other Xocolatl bars recently to a dear family who loved everything! (The link in this bullet point also shows a bar made by VAICACAO with Nicaragua chocolate plus organic sugar; all you need! : )
Bouquet Vert Lime chocolate bar by Askanya Chocolate of Haiti, made with Haiti cacao, Haiti artisanal sugar, and Haiti limes; this bar and other treats from Askanya were a hit at a Valentine’s Day party I held for my mom’s neighbors last month!
Welcome to Chocolate Uplift craft chocolate brokering, consulting, and wholesale distribution!
Here are the links to the CocoaTown webinar I was honored to hold on How to Work with a Distributor: Webinar and About Valerie Beck [videos]
How to Work with a Distributor — webinar as part of the CocoaTown series:
Join Valerie Beck, Founder of Chocolate Uplift, called the Chocolate Auntie, as she takes us through the ins and outs of finding the right distributor and building a relationship that works for you and your business. She will guide us through the processes step by step.
Date: Saturday, September 11, 2021 Time: 10:00 am – 12 Noon Atlanta time (-4 GMT) Topic: Working With a Distributor Presenter: Valerie Beck, Founder of Chocolate Uplift, called the Chocolate Auntie
Update —here are the slides from my webinar! I placed a great deal of information into the notes sections, so be sure to click Show Speaker Notes under View if you want to see everything!
Please contact me at email@example.com with any questions or for the latest prices, and scroll down for more details, photos, testimonials, and ideas. Thank you!
As a chocolate distributor and broker and all-around chocolate collaborator, I help bean-to-bar chocolate brands get onto shelves. Before that, if needed, I help them get ready to get onto shelves.
I sell wholesale, and arrange for upscale retailers, coffee shops, and chefs to purchase wholesale and to carry top ethical craft chocolate brands made in the US or elsewhere.
Here are my bios, in case you’d like to know about my background, Harvard education, past career as a lawyer, and how I came to be a chocolate services professional such as by founding Chicago Chocolate Tours [video montage!] and more over 15 years ago! I have loved and studied chocolate all my life.
If you are a craft chocolate maker, depending on your goals,
I can help you get your chocolate into the right shops and boutiques or onto the right websites for online sales.
I can also help you get ready for distribution or for access to stores that match your ethos, with my consulting services such as
writing and proofreading,
US import assistance, or
It’s important that you know where your chocolate goes, and that we have a fit on all sides. My work is not transaction-based but relationship-focused.
This relationship approach is why some makers call me “the chocolate Auntie” : ) and I feel very honored that they do!
“We love working with Valerie and Chocolate Uplift as distributor and representative of everything OBOLO in the market. We have shared people-centered values focusing on highest quality chocolate, fairness and sustainability. Valerie goes the extra mile to make sure our chocolate is in the best retail locations and well represented.”
“Valerie’s advisory has been of tremendous value for us! Her work ethics, moral values and broad knowledge + expertise on many and diverse aspects ranging from specialty cacao and fine-chocolate, to marketing and content creations, as well as her great understanding of the bureaucracy and regulations to import chocolates to the USA, and not least her awesome distribution network, makes her a great candidate for anyone seeking help from a consultant on these matters! We feel very fortunate to count with her as an active special advisor on our team!”
“Valerie is an exceptional human being that has taken the endeavor of promoting the chocolate craft movement based on her 5 S principles, Slavery free, Soy free, Sustainable, Small batch and Scrumptious! Her vast experience in the field of bean-to-bar movement and her personal charm has helped many small batch producers from small countries, like myself (El Salvador), improve and reach global quality.”
If you are a retailer, whether brick-and-mortar, online, or both,
I’ll create and maintain your chocolate program, or
provide multiple brands or just a brand or two if that’s what you need,
for your specialty market, cafe, wine shop, coffee shop, or other retail concept, or your hotel or other hospitality venture.
You’ll have products by top chocolate makers, that align with your brand, and that your customers or guests will feel uplifted to discover!
New: if you’re in Chicago or the area, you can pick up certain orders from me through free “curbside pickup” and receive additional free samples as a thanks for coming by, plus any of my Golden Age cookies I may have baked that day : ) Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange.
“Valerie provides everything that I could ask for from a broker/distributor. Her customer service is exceptional and I greatly appreciate her alerts to new brands and products that she knows I may like based on my quality standards and items that sell well with my customers, plus she wholeheartedly understands and respects my quality standards. Her response time to questions is quick and her responses are very thorough. I always gain insightful information when talking with Valerie and working with her is a pleasure.“
“Valerie is amazing for her dedication to discovering world class chocolate from all over the world while maintaining the highest ethical standards for economic empowerment, sustainability, and health.“
Special packages or promotional opportunities include:
Displays for Holiday, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day (the “Big 3” times of year for artisan chocolate!) —
Chocolate from specific places, or made from cacao from specific countries such as Ecuador, Mexico, or Peru, or regional displays like this Midwest Moments selection —
Woman chocolate maker displays —
New product launches, or promotions to support places like Haiti or a specific cause —
Retailer and brand promotions —
Seasonal or color-themed displays —
Recipe ideas —
The brands I work with meet my 5 Ss of first-class craft chocolate:
I represent award-winning or otherwise high-reputation small-batch brands including those pictured here and more, at the same price to you as buying direct, but with my troubleshooting, recommendations, streamlined ordering of multiple brands, new product introductions, and social media support to provide exposure and drive demand.
Contact me for more information or the full Chocolate Uplift portfolio and price lists.
If I don’t love the quality, sustainability, or ingredients of a brand, I don’t represent it or recommend it. I share with you only what I love and trust in terms of flavor and source, so that you and your customers can love and trust it too.
Backstory if you’re curious: my distribution and brokering started very organically. Running the original chocolate tours in cities across the US [video!], I started getting asked by chocolate shop and cafe owners on my tour routes to let them know of any interesting chocolate brands I came across that might be a good fit for their stores.
I also started meeting more and more chocolate makers who had an excellent product and needed introductions to top retailers, plus wholesaling, consulting, storage, and delivery.
By connecting retailers and makers, and driving demand with social media and email marketing, Chocolate Uplift brokering and wholesale distribution contains elements of consulting, to make sure the right bars are on the right shelves, to delight your customers, meet your goals, and enhance your brand, always with mutual respect and a win-win attitude.
I look forward to discussing what I can do for you!
I’m honored to serve on the board of Imerman Angels, a nonprofit started by my dear friend Jonny Imerman, where the mission is “to provide comfort and understanding for all cancer fighters, survivors, previvors and caregivers through a personalized, one-on-one connection with someone who has been there.”
Essentially, that means one-on-one mentorship for anyone affected by cancer, free of charge. I love the uplifting human-to-human work that Jonny and his team do, around the world.
And, I’m honored to support the Imerman Angels Spirit Week 2021 Gala, a series of free online events in May, by holding a special chocolate tasting on Tuesday, May 25, at 7:00 pm CT! Having founded the world’s first chocolate tours years ago from an idea I had when I was 19, having grown the business to 50 team members in 4 cities, and now focusing on craft chocolate distribution, consulting, and tastings, what a joy it is for me to put together this virtual chocolate tasting. (Click if you’re curious about my bio or “sizzle reel” [video])!
Our topic will be: How to Identify Sustainable Craft Chocolate, and we will have a fun, fascinating, and delicious time! Cacao has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as being an immune-boosting superfood, so a chocolate tasting to support a cancer mentorship organization just makes sense, beyond the fact that chocolate always makes sense, right! : )
You can register for the chocolate tasting and any of the other events at imermanangels.org/gala, and if you’d like to purchase chocolate to enjoy during the tasting, with proceeds going to Imerman Angels, you may do so by sending $50 to me via PayPal at email@example.com or paypal.me/chocolateuplift. The price includes US shipping. Please include your mailing address.
Here is the chocolate I’ve selected for our tasting — all made by wonderful clients of my craft chocolate distribution business, Chocolate Uplift — while quantities last:
Crow & Moss Chocolate of Petoskey, Michigan: India Anamalai 70%. This delicious dairy-free chocolate bar is made from just 2 ingredients — cacao and sugar, all you need! The cacao is grown on a family-owned farm in India, and the chocolate bar gives notes of mango, lime, and honey, all from the cacao. This exciting new brand, created by a young couple in Northern Michigan — chef-turned-chocolate-maker Mike Davies and graphic designer Danielle Davies — just had to be in my line-up because Jonny Imerman, founder of Imerman Angels, is a University of Michgan alum, as are several of the team members and board members. (My mother grew up on a small family farm in Michigan, so it’s all connected!)
Dick Taylor Chocolate of Eureka, California: Hazelnut Milk Chocolate 55%. Made from single-origin Brazil cacao, Oregon hazelnuts, and old-fashioned A2/A2 milk from a local Northern California family farm, this is a sophisticated, non-sweet, and truly sumptuous milk chocolate bar that dark chocolate lovers love too. Founders Dustin Taylor and Adam Dick chose A2/A2 milk because it contains enzymes that are said to be more digestible. Like most of the brands and bars I work with, this chocolate bar is organic, so it contains no GMOs, no herbicides or pesticides, and cane sugar instead of refined sugar. Plus, it is just so tasty, it is one of those can’t-stop-eating-it bars!
Gotham Chocolates of New York City: Independent 70%. Award-winning pastry chef Ron Paprocki started this craft chocolate brand in the kitchen of Michelin-starred Gotham Bar & Grill, in order to have just the chocolate he wanted for desserts in the restaurant. Now the chocolate has taken on a life of its own — or taken over some lives, as chocolate will do, I’m happy to confirm! — and Chef Ron with Gotham owner Bret Csencsitz have created a precision-focused brand, wrapped in art inspired by Ellsworth Kelly, one of whose works hung near the restaurant kitchen. This 2-ingredient bar (remember — cacao and sugar: all you need!) is made from a blend of 2 cacaos, estate-grown in Ecuador and wild in Bolivia, and gives complex notes of whisky and wine; you may want to pair this bar with the wines in the wine tasting event that will also be part of Spirit Week, for a like-with-like tasting experience!
Xocolatl Chocolate of Atlanta: Dark & Salty 80%. Are you concerned that an 80% dark chocolate bar might be bitter or dry? This bar shows that 80% can be smooth, silky, and flavorful, with quality cacao, and quality chocolate-making! The cacao in this bar was grown in Uganda by the Semuliki Forest collective of around 1,000 family farmers, and I love the warm rich notes of cinnamon and fig on a core note of straight-ahead chocolate — all from the cacao and how it is turned into chocolate. The chocolate itself is made from — you guessed it, cacao and sugar: all you need! — and Xocolatl wife-husband owners Elaine Read and Matt Weyandt and team add some vanilla bean-infused sea salt for a bright dash of zing. This is Team Xocolatl’s newest and current favorite bar, and I also just had to choose it because our Jonny Imerman is a fan of 100% chocolate bars (= no sugar, just cacao), and this easy-to-love 80% bar was as close as I thought I could get to 100% and still have absolutely everyone love it (100% bars are totally loveable too, just perhaps more of an acquired taste! : )
What exactly do these bars have in common? They are all created by incredibly kind people I’m honored to call friends and clients, and they all meet my 5 Ss of first-class craft chocolate:
We’ll talk more at our virtual event about how to identify ethical craft chocolate bars like these. Whether you purchase the chocolate kit (or would rather just watch me eating it haha!) I hope you’ll join the Imerman Angels Spirit Week 2021 Gala!
By the way, someone asked me how long I’ve known Jonny Imerman; I just joined the board this past year, but Jonny and I have been friends for more than a decade, and have always admired each other’s work, and here’s an old photo (of a photo) of us from 2007!
What do these craft chocolate bars have in common? They are the beautiful and delicious bars in a special set I’m assembling to celebrate my birthday on December 10!
Be among the first to purchase the set, and I’ll invite you to join a Google Meet birthday party with me that weekend, to talk about the chocolate bars and more! (Party hats optional!)
The sets will ship the week of my birthday, and you can shop now, for yourself or for gifts, by sending $51 (why that number? Haha! : ) to me via PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org or paypal.me/chocolateuplift. The price includes US shipping. Please let me know where to send the chocolate.
For my birthday set, I’ve selected four bars that I love and that have special meaning for me:
@crowandmosschocolate Bolivian Rose Salt chocolate bar, made from Colombian cacao plus cane sugar, with a gentle sprinkling of Bolivian pink salt. This fruit-forward bar reminds me of childhood visits to Michigan, where my mom spent part of her childhood on a small family farm!
@dandelionchocolate Costa Esmeraldas, Ecuador 70%, made in San Francisco from just 2 ingredients — cacao and sugar, all you need! — and with a precision-focus on flavor. Ecuador is the first place I visited cacao farms, and I also love that the bars are wrapped in upcycled Indian cotton!
@dicktaylorchocolate Brazil, made in Eureka, California, is sophisticated and rich, and reminds me of the years I lived in Europe, where the idea to create the world’s first chocolate tours came to me, as a chocolate-obsessed exchange student in Paris in 1989!
@xocolatlchocolate Kissed Mermaids, made in Atlanta, is light, bright, and topped with cacao nibs, and you know how excited I get about cacao nibs, and about blue and white! A cheerful bar! Plus, this is the first batch on Uganda cacao (instead of Costa Rica), grown by the Semuliki Forest collective of around 1,000 family farmers, and I love the rich notes of warm spice on a core note of straight-ahead chocolate!
What else do these bars have in common? They are all vegan, US-made, created by incredibly kind people I’m honored to call friends and clients, and of course they meet my 5 Ss of first-class craft chocolate:
For every set sold, I’ll donate a meal to CREER, a rescue center in Cote d’Ivoire for formerly trafficked kids including those trafficked onto cacao farms that supply Big Chocolate brands that rely on forced labor.
If you choose my birthday set, thank you! Let’s have some fun! Onward and upward!
*****New: Virtual Chocolate Tastings! I’ll be the “sweet speaker” at your next corporate or other event, even if it’s via Zoom, by bringing my chocolate and presentation expertise to you via a virtual chocolate tasting!
In-person events are also available!
Here’s how it works:
Choose your chocolate theme for my presentation, such as
History and Health Benefits of Chocolate,
Women in Chocolate, or
What’s In Your Chocolate: Making Conscious Chocolate Choices.
I’ll send our agreed chocolate for the tasting to your location or to each participant prior to the event, so that participants can taste the chocolate live during the presentation. Or, if you prefer to have participants order chocolate individually, I can add a special chocolate set to my online boutique for your group to select, or guests can choose from what’s available.
I’ll hold the presentation live on your Zoom or other platform, and we’ll have a blast! You can record it if you wish, to share with others in your organization.
The cost is the retail cost of the chocolate plus tax and shipping, plus a $30/person event fee. Or, we can arrange a flat fee; contact me at email@example.com to discuss.
Plus, you can choose from a rotating selection of fun Chocolate Uplift mugs and tees and the like from my merchandise store, with or without booking a virtual tasting. Custom merchandise is also available, such as with your logo and mine, or with a special message for your event participants!
Click here for my “sizzle reel” to get a sense of my presentation style through a montage of tv news clips, and click here for a recent podcast I did for the Chicago Bar Association Foundation on tasting chocolate and changing careers.
And, see below for my speakers one-sheet along with additional information, videos, bio, partial list of presentations and keynotes given, and testimonials like this one from Thanksgiving week 2020:
The chocolate tasting was far beyond my expectations – thank you so much!! The chocolate selections were incredible and I’m so glad that everyone (especially the kids) got a better understanding of what goes into commercial vs. craft chocolate. You led us through everything so skillfully and we loved learning about the history and health benefits of chocolate. It was such a remarkable experience. I so appreciate your making it possible to experience it with my beloved sisters.
With admiration, Laurie
Thank you, and I hope to see you or Zoom with you soon!
Request Chocolate Uplift founder and “sweet speaker” Valerie Beck as the speaker at your next convention, meeting, association conference, networking event, or other gathering, by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ethical Chocolate: Sustainability Challenges and Solutions
Chocolate: History, Health Benefits, Myths, Magnificence
ABCs of Success: Attitude, Belief, Commitment
How to use these simple concepts for success in any business or endeavor
Sweet Life: How to Follow Your Heart and Take Your Brain With You
Start discovering or keep refining your heart’s desire, and be a “practical dreamer”
Alternative Careers for Lawyers
Sweet Startup: What Every Entrepreneur Should Know About Passion, Profit, and Persistence
Social Media Marketing
Chocolate 2032: Trends in the World of Chocolate
Topics are customizable for your group. And presentations come with chocolate!
Client categories include:
Conventions and association meetings
Law firms – particularly law firm women’s initiatives
Corporate wellness days
Corporate motivational days
Valerie has spoken at organizations including:
other corporations ranging from small and mid-sized to Fortune 500
other large, mid-sized, and small non-profits
the Chicago Bar Association
The Law Bulletin
the U.S. Department of Education’s Council on Legal Education Opportunity
Northwestern Law School
her alma mater Harvard Law School
her alma mater Harvard College
University of Chicago
the Coleman Center for Entrepreneurship
DePaul University School of Hospitality
National Association for Catering and Events
National Customer Service Association
Illinois Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with World Chicago and the US Department of State
Illinois Diversity Council
Chicago City Treasurer business education sessions
Culinary Historians of Chicago
Women’s Innovation Network – WIN
Geneva Women in Business
Professional Women’s Network
Daily Herald Business Ledger
“If you ever want to get fully enrobed in everything chocolate, then seek out Valerie Beck. She leaves no cacao bean unturned as she takes aficionados on a magic chocolate ride where one is dipped into artisanal producing, social awareness, and luscious tasting.”
Culinary Historians of Chicago
“Valerie is an exuberant and extraordinary speaker who superbly involves the audience as she presents such interesting facts about chocolate and wellness. She is very friendly and personable, yet a cylinder of dynamite showering listeners with delightful energy! The manner in which she shares her heart, soul, lively humor and vast knowledge makes her presentations quite enjoyable. Valerie is highly recommended as a speaker to your group!”
Co-chair of ladies organization, Springfield, IL
“Valerie is an enthusiastic and engaging speaker who is passionate and knowledgeable about her topic. Her comprehensive, informative and fun presentation was well received by our audience of professional and executive women.”
Co-chair, STRIDES, Advancing Women in Business
“Valerie’s positive energy is contagious and her delivery is vivacious and engaging. Every entrepreneur and professional can benefit from her uplifting messages and sensible business advice. Listening to Valerie’s stories and expertise is guaranteed to be an inspiring and invigorating experience.”
Co-Founder, Sandpiper Imports Inc.
“Valerie is charming, graceful and feminine. At the same time she is powerful, captivating and persuasive. She is knowledgeable about her subject matter and makes an excellent and very professional presentation. I’m looking forward to inviting her to speak to my group again..and again.”
“Valerie Beck is an established speaker who is confident, well prepared and full of energy. She presents with enthusiasm, knowledge, and engagement. Her sunny perspective and will light up any room and is well loved by all. This bubbly professional is born to speak as getting in front of an audience comes naturally. I highly recommend Valerie for your next speaking function.”
Send Out Cards
“Valerie is energetic and welcoming. As a speaker, her passion for others, supporting individuals in their personal and professional growth and for making a difference in people’s lives comes through. She is sincere, believable and engaging. I wouldn’t hesitate to invite her to share fables, enthusiasm and inspiration as a speaker.”
Executive Director, National Runaway Safeline
“Since I saw Valerie present over three years ago, I can’t say enough about her endless charisma, business intelligence, passion, and professionalism. Valerie is not only a successful business owner, but a leader and an effective speaker in the business community. I highly value her expertise and would recommend her presentations to colleagues of any level.”
Michael Moody, Author and Personal Trainer in Chicago (www.michaelmoodyfitness.com)
[In person:] Generally $1,500 for nonprofit organizations, or $5,000 for law firms and corporations, plus travel and accommodations. Negotiable.
Please click to watch my 3-minute “sizzle reel” video montage of TV segments, click here for my speaker’s one-sheet, and see below for my short and long bios. Thank you!
Chocolate expert and Harvard grad Valerie Beck is a chocolate industry entrepreneur, pioneer, and activist. Creator of the original chocolate tours — which she expanded to cities across the US while building a team of 50, creating first Chicago Chocolate Tours, then Philadelphia Chocolate Tours and Boston Chocolate Walking Tours, and more — she is also a chocolate consultant, broker, and speaker, as well as a cheerful and engaging media personality.
She founded Chocolate Uplift to provide chocolate services to the trade, to the public, and to cacao growing nations, such as wholesale distribution of bean-to-bar chocolate, consulting to craft chocolate makers, and speaking engagements for groups and organizations of all kinds.
Chocolate expert Valerie Beck is a pioneering entrepreneur in chocolate and hospitality.
Valerie created the original Chicago Chocolate Tours, which she expanded to 4 cities across the US, opening Philadelphia Chocolate Tours, Boston Chocolate Walking Tours, and Beverly Hills Bakery Tours. She grew the business to 50 employees and ran it for 10 years; she and her team educated and entertained tens of thousands of people about the history, health benefits, production, and selection of first-class chocolate.
Valerie’s business Chocolate Uplift currently provides delicious speaking engagements plus chocolate tastings, also brokers bean-to-bar chocolate made by craft artisan chocolate makers, and provides consulting services to cacao growers and chocolate makers, always with a focus on ethical chocolate and sustainability. In fact, her 5 Ss of first-class craft chocolate are: slavery-free, soy-free and industrial additive-free, sustainable, small-batch, and scrumptious!
A Chicago native, Valerie graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. After practicing law in Europe and the US, she founded the chocolate tours and Chocolate Uplift, and is a popular speaker, writer, chocolate show judge, and media personality.
She started the Chocolate Freedom Project to end child slave labor on the cacao farms that produce cocoa beans for big chocolate brands, and supports formerly trafficked kids at a West African rescue center. She has also taught as an adjunct professor at Kendall College in Chicago and UCLA Extension in Los Angeles, spreading chocolate knowledge to new generations, and continues to work with students through her virtual tutoring business ProfessorValerieBeck.com.
Valerie’s mission is Uplift Through Chocolate, because chocolate can improve our mood and the world!
Valerie Beck, founder of Chocolate Uplift bean-to-bar chocolate tastings, brokering, and consulting, and of the original Chicago Chocolate Tours, Philadelphia Chocolate Tours, and more, later known as Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours, is a cheerful chocolate expert on TV and radio and in print. Valerie has been profiled in multiple media outlets such as NBC, ABC, WGN TV, WGN Radio, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, Crain’s Chicago Business, and The Philadelphia Inquirer.
She is an upbeat and engaging speaker and blogger on all things chocolate. She speaks frequently on topics such as the history and health benefits of chocolate, such as in her presentation “What’s in Your Chocolate: Making Conscious Chocolate Choices,” where she teaches how to interpret labels to discern what’s really in your chocolate bar, and discusses her 5 Ss of first-class craft chocolate, which are: slavery-free, soy-free and industrial additive-free, sustainable, small-batch, and scrumptious! She also speaks on business and motivational topics, with a chocolate twist, such as in her presentation on “The ABCs of Sweet Success: Attitude, Belief, Commitment.”
Her chocolate consulting work ranges from helping brands create and launch new chocolate bars, to helping cacao growing nations promote their products.
Valerie is also a popular judge at chocolate competitions such as the annual World of Chocolate event in Chicago, and at business plan and innovation competitions.
Valerie is a pioneer in the business of chocolate tourism and other chocolate services to the public, to the trade, and to cocoa growing nations. Chocolate Uplift is the umbrella for all of these offerings. Chocolate Uplift provides entertaining and educational services to the public including trips to chocolate festivals around the world, and chocolate wellness seminars. Chocolate Uplift also provides valuable services to the chocolate industry, such as consulting to chocolate brands particularly in the small-batch and fine chocolate categories, brokering bean-to-bar chocolate for distribution from makers to retailers, importing fair trade cocoa beans and chocolate baking discs directly from ethical sources, and arranging origin trips to cocoa farms for bean-to-bar chocolate makers and others. In addition, Valerie consults for cocoa growing nations such as Ecuador, to promote their ethical cacao and chocolate.
A Chicago native, Valerie created the first chocolate tours when she founded Chicago Chocolate Tours in 2005, to introduce chocolate lovers to small-batch chocolate shops and bakeries. With her team of “Choc Stars” she grew the business to become a well-known and award-winning tour company serving tens of thousands of chocolate lovers, with 50 employees, which opened in Philadelphia and Boston in 2009, and developed footprints in additional cities such as Los Angeles by opening Beverly Hills Bakery Tours, and Washington DC by offering Chocolate and Cherry Blossom events. In 2016, Valerie relaunched the business as Valerie’s Original Chocolate Tours, with renewed focus on sustainable cacao and artisan chocolate.
Valerie invented the concept of the chocolate tour years earlier, when she was a 19-year-old Harvard College senior studying abroad at the Sorbonne in Paris. She had been focused on chocolate since announcing at age 4 that she would drink milk only if it contained chocolate. In Paris she fell in love with fine artisanal chocolate, and started taking her friends on informal excursions she developed to her favorite chocolate and pastry locations there and in Belgium.
Later, after graduating from Harvard Law School, Valerie practiced law in Chicago and Europe, and took the opportunity during her years in Europe to deepen her knowledge of chocolate and pastry.
Her awards include Influential Woman in Business from the Daily Herald Business Ledger, and Top 100 Woman Owned Businesses from the Philadelphia Business Journal. She has mentored many other entrepreneurs through Women’s Innovation Network – WIN, the Chicago City Treasurer’s small business program, and through private consulting.
Valerie has always believed that good chocolate can do good. Her philanthropy of choice for the chocolate tours was CARE, which helps women and families around the world exit poverty through entrepreneurship. She started the Chocolate Freedom Project to end child slave labor on the cacao farms that produce cocoa beans for big chocolate brands, and supports formerly trafficked kids at a West African rescue center. She has also taught as an adjunct professor at Kendall College in Chicago and UCLA Extension in Los Angeles, spreading chocolate knowledge to new generations. Valerie continues to work with students through her virtual tutoring business ProfessorValerieBeck.com.
Valerie’s mission is Uplift Through Chocolate, because chocolate can change everything from our mood, to the world!
Hello! Happy solstice, a day to mark planetary shifts!
Below are a couple of my social media posts on two other big days in June — Loving Day, and Juneteenth — plus chocolate to go with them!
Valerie Beck is in Chicago, Illinois. June 11 at 2:19 PM ·
Happy Loving Day tomorrow, June 12!
No, it’s not another Valentine’s Day, though it could be! Loving Day celebrates interracial marriage, by marking the anniversary of the unanimous US Supreme Court decision in 1967 in the case of Loving v Virginia, which said no state can make interracial marriage illegal, and that blacks and whites and anybody else can legally marry each other or anyone of any background. This recognition of freedom to marry who you choose also underpins the later 2015 US decision recognizing same-sex marriage, so happy Pride Month too!
It always seemed like common sense or basic human rights to me, to live as you choose and love whom you choose, without interference from government, oligarchs, vigilantes, or anyone else. Maybe that’s in part because as you may know, I come from a mixed race and mixed religion family! In case you’re curious, this post in another one of my blogs, Diary of My Disastrous Law Career, gives you a bit of background on my family, plus fun vintage photos!
So, I’ve gathered here today some delicious craft chocolate that explicitly represents love — Chocolatasm‘s Hawaii salt chocolate hearts, the Xocolatl Small Batch Chocolate Love & Happiness raspberry orange olive oil chocolate bar, and the Violet Sky Onward & Upward Love rose and pistachio chocolate bar on which I collaborated, plus Love-themed snacking cacao by Good King Cacao — to say happy Loving Day, and here’s to our human birthright of love, liberty, and unity! May we deepen and expand these elements in our hearts and in our world, for the Golden Age of empathy and equality!
Valerie Beck is in Chicago, Illinois. Yesterday at 1:10 PM ·
Hello! Happy #Juneteenth!
This date [June 19] marks the ending of (1st-wave) slavery in the United States. President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, during the Civil War over slavery, yet enslaved people achieved liberation over an elongated period of time, culminating on June 19, 1865, in Texas.
But wait, you or people of the future may ask: aren’t all people born free, as expressions of the One Great Soul, and isn’t it true that no political or social (or tech-med) structure shall violate the fundamental principles that people are to care for people (e.g. love thy neighbor) and exercise their own liberty and free will while respecting that of others?
To celebrate eternal inviolable liberty, how about a delicious liberation brunch of Crow & Moss Chocolate of Michigan, and Xocolatl Chocolate cacao nibs, on cinnamon toast with berries, all organic?
But wait, you may ask: what makes this a liberation brunch? Here comes one of my it’s-all-connected stories : )
My mother often made cinnamon toast for us kids when we were growing up, so I always think of her when I make it! She spent part of her childhood in Michigan, on a small family farm in a township that had been illegally racially integrated since its founding in the 1860s. That’s not a typo: racial mixing was illegal in the US, mixing of the One Human Family, in the North too. But people in Mom’s area did it anyway because it was ethical and practical, sending their black children and their white children to the same school for example. When my mother spent a summer with relatives in the South as a little girl in the 1950s (the time of 2nd-wave slavery: brutal “Jim Crow” apartheid), she was horrified by the abuses against black people. Now the laws have changed, and segregation is illegal, yet it happens in many ways including incarceration where prisoners work for the state or corporations for little or no pay (part of 3rd-wave slavery), or consider West Africa where over 2 million black kids work in hazardous or slavery conditions on cacao farms so corporations can sell cheap chocolate.
Mom never bought Aunt Jemima “slavery syrup,” and doesn’t buy slavery chocolate. Voilà! @ Chicago, Illinois
Your friend in chocolate,
Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift
Craft Chocolate Activism, Brokering, Consulting, Distribution
What a blast to give a zoom presentation for an amazing group of my Harvard College women classmates today about *Women Entrepreneurs Making Social Impact,* and to share my journey and mission of Uplift Through Chocolate!
Here is the link to my slides; be sure to open them all the way to see the information and links in the Notes sections! Enjoy, and scroll down this page for online shopping links to woman-owned retailers and woman-owned or -led brands!
We are celebrating the 100-year anniversary of women’s right to vote here in the US, and I applaud my classmates who organized a video chat series for us featuring stories of women’s activism! Our college reunion next month was canceled due to the coronavirus situation (stay well, and keep perspective: 11 million people die each year from poor diet — including from heart disease, cancer, and diabetes caused by eating industrial Big Food — that’s 1 in 5 deaths globally and that’s 50 times more than have died from covid-19, so why haven’t we shut down Big Food and the outlets like Amazon that sell it?), and we are moving forward with our own events, virtually!
I gathered beautiful and delicious craft chocolate bars shown here from woman-owned or -led brands, to wave around on-screen, along with the fascinating book 1491 (click for a related article by the book’s author in The Atlantic) about life in the Americas before Columbus — we can learn a lot from the societies of indigenous people, like the one that had a grandmothers council of wise women to approve or reject political plans — which includes information about the role of cacao and chocolate.
Good King snacking cacao of Honduras and Indonesia by way of Seattle
Most of the women chocolate makers and retailers I spoke with the other day in preparation for my presentation basically said the same thing: any income still coming in goes to their employees during these days of virus pandemonium. So whether you shop with a retailer or directly with a brand, you are helping their (mostly women) employees!
As you may know, my business Chocolate Uplift generally doesn’t sell chocolate to the public since closing the subscription box part of the business; instead, I sell and distribute craft chocolate bars like the ones listed above wholesale to retailers like the ones listed above, and also provide consulting services to chocolate makers and cacao farm owners, and speaking engagements to the public and for meetings and events.
I also operate a free “chocolate-finder” service: if there’s a type of chocolate or a flavor or a brand you want, and you don’t know where to order it, ask me and I’ll find out and tell you!
Thank you, and keep eating real chocolate!
Onward and upward!
Your friend in chocolate, Valerie
Founder/CEO Chocolate Uplift
Craft Chocolate Brokering, Consulting, Distribution